I N T RO D U C T I ON
Extension educators looking for innovative ways to teach content to diverse audiences may consider using educational games. This interactive media has the potential to create meaningful learning experiences for a wide range of subjects and ages (Hsiao, Tsai, and Hsu, 2020; Trujillo et al., 2016; Ulery et al., 2020). Research overwhelmingly indicates that interactive multimedia learning tools can help audiences understand concepts better than traditional education practices can, and they are powerful mechanisms to create behavioral change (Dede, 2009; Gee, 2003). Empirical research also shows the effectiveness of multimedia game-based learning (Plass, Mayer, and Homer, 2019). Multimedia helps to visualize and engage users with specific content that is hard to convey with photos or video. These interfaces offer users multiple learning paths and conceptual reinforcement, providing opportunities for cognitive enhancement. The multimedia learning theory suggests that people learn better when words and images are used together (multimodal) (Mayer, 2009; Clark and Lyons, 2011). New Mexico State University (NMSU)’s team has been refining their educational media development process for over 30 years to meet the specialized needs of education and research projects. Their approach has similarities to the backward design approach outlined in Understanding by Design (UbD), including a focus on what intended groups need to know and an emphasis on practice that encourages adoption of new ideas, using key design questions to define the expected outcomes (Wiggins & McTighe, 2005). Game design can be a lengthy process. Extension educators may have tremendous interest in using games for their educational outreach, but may find the cost or time commitments prohibitive. This publication provides ways educators can engage in game design, without the barriers of a full-length project. It describes game prototyping where developers, content experts, and researchers from the Learning Games Lab at NMSU and the University of Connecticut (UConn) Extension collaborated to teach consumers about non-GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) foods and labels. A content publication from this project on food marketing labels is available online (Stearns et al., 2021). Traditionally, a game jam is a two- or three-day rapid prototyping challenge used by teams of students or game developers to develop skills, explore several aspects of development at a cursory level, and create a working game. This team modified the traditional game jam model to include the instructional design of the content for the game, to expand the activity to a week, and to then include two weeks of follow-up development to polish the prototype and respond to feedback. The experience was a budget-friendly approach for designing a preliminary structure for the game, assessing needs and related issues, to then be able to propose a full game on the content and seek funding for development. This publication’s primary purpose is to share this modified gam jam process with content experts and other Extension educators who are interested in designing and researching educational games. It includes specifics on how the team used the model — including process, time, and budget — and provides recommendations on how the game jam structure can be used by others who want to explore game design without the full commitment of a complete game build. The team created a simple prototype of the game “Unpeeled: The Case Files of Maya McCluen,” and then used it in a pilot study with focus groups. The team is using feedback from that testing to refine their recommendations for future research and development of a full game. In addition, the project resulted in a process for the rapid prototyping of future games through the collaboration between developers and content experts. Extension educators can use the same process as a way to explore the outcomes they want for a potential game and brainstorm activities prompted by the game prototype. They can work through a game design, particularly if they have a small budget, as a way to understand what they want a game to accomplish and gather input from stakeholders. They will then have a clearer idea of what the finished game needs to be , be able to pitch their idea to funders, and be able to work with a professional development team to produce it. Game jams are a project accelerator that allows Extension educators to rapidly address audience needs
Who can benefit from this study?
The primary audience for this publication is content experts in Extension, those who are looking for new approaches to bring content to their clientele. This publication will allow Extension educators to
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