Game-based learning at a local South African School…

This is a guest post from Hawa Patel. Hawa is an educator  and ICT Co-ordinator at Roshnee Islamic School. She is a programmer and the District Teacher Moderator for GDE(D7). She is also the GDE CAPS Lead Trainer. Hawa  was a Microsoft Innovative teacher finalist in 2011. Her school in Vereeniging is involved in an interesting project relating to games in education , so I asked her if she would write a guest post for the blog about it.

Hawa says:
” The Roshnee Islamic Primary School along with a few other government schools which include: Apex Primary (Lenasia), Impala Primary (Lenasia), Tisetso (Vlakfontein), Jiswa (Lenasia)and Bilala Combined School (Lenasia), are part of a pilot project introducing a software that integrates all learning areas into a 3D computer game.

This software will assist the learners to grasp and understand concepts with play by means of Avatars . The software is currently designed for Grade 4 learners and will be modified to incorporate the Grade 5-7 learning areas.This research into games is spearheaded by Denise Wood from Australia and her team .


Denise Wood from Australia

Denise is Associate Head of School: Teaching and Learning, in the School of Communication, International Studies and Languages in the Division of Education, Arts and Social Sciences at the University of South Australia. She is also an Extraordinary Professor in the Faculty of Education at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa.

Learning through a 3D Environment
Denise’s research explore 3D virtual learning environments to enhance the educational and social participation of young people .Her research involves collaboration with non-profitable community organisations such as Siyafunda (SA),SANZAF(SA) Denise also receive funding from the Limpopo Provincial Government, the South African Zakah Fund, and a research grant is provided by the University of South Australia to support this research.

Denise has recently completed the design and development of an open source accessible 3D virtual learning environment, as well as the development of pedagogical guidelines for teaching in virtual worlds, ethical guidelines and guidelines regarding intellectual property issues relating to teaching in 3D virtual learning environments. This project received national recognition and proceeds from her award are being used to further research in this area. The research involves a longitudinal study in which the team are investigating the impact of 3D virtual learning on student motivation, self-esteem and creativity, as well at learning outcomes and retention of the 130 grade four learners participating in the study.

This research into the design and development of accessible virtual learning environments led to an invitation by both the Gauteng and the Limpopo Provincial Governments in South Africa to implement ICT solutions in basic primary and special schools in South Africa.

How was this project instituted?
In 2011, a champion was appointed from selected schools in South Africa to meet on a regular basis to provide learning content for the 3D game by educators from the respective schools. Contents were formulated with requirements of new scenarios eg. sports field, office, classroom and circus collaborating all learning areas especially Natural Sciences , Maths, LO, English and EMS.

Here are some of the collaboration ideas that were brainstormed by the different educators and then included in the game:

1) The Vegetable Garden Scenario should cover the following:
· Photosynthesis , water cycle
· Measurement of bed to plant in the vegetable garden
· Measurement for area and perimeter of fencing in the garden and include volume

2) The Supermarket Scenario should cover the following:
· Virtual bank
· Costing of goods for Entrepreneurs Day ,budgets, data handling (measure plants)
· Advertising, choosing and forming a health meal

3) The Sports Field should cover the following:
· Rules of sports game
· cross cultural tolerance
· exercise

It was a great task for the champions to meet after school to brainstorm and put together the contents and submit the curriculum based contents to the task team (Denise and Charles) in order to program the 3D game.

In the meanwhile, Mr Jay Nadan (GDE) , Mr Hoosain Essop (SANZAF), Mr Ismail (Siyafunda) , Mr Naazim Adam (principal of Impala Primary School), Rashid (Bilaal Combined school) and Gian (Ingenious) ensured that the communication between the Champions of each school and the 3D task team was taking place effectively and successfully .

Mr Nadan ensured that all the computer hardware and software was up and running in each of the testing school.

Working with the game

Denise revisited South Africa to give training to the champions on using the game and adding additional contents to the game.

Before Denise ‘s visit in July 2013 to South Africa , a Skype group was set up so that all key players could meet every Monday morning to discuss progress of the research. Denise revisited South Africa during the 2013 July holidays with Charles Morris from Texas and all teething problems were ironed out.


Our observations

We at Roshnee Islamic School can see the enthusiasm of learners learning through play . Children are familiar playing 3D games at home using avatars , so learning the contents via a 3D world is very exciting for them . The games helps to re-enforce learning in the classroom. The potential of games to increase motivation and to improve learning was recognised by the computer teacher. I believe that learning through gaming is the way to go! 

Next steps

Denise will be returning to South Africa to give a live workshop on how to integrate CAPs into 3DVLE on Feb 3 and 4 in 2014. The local team is very excited about that. In the meantime the team is communicating regularly via Skype. “

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