During the ISAGA 2017 conference in Delft I conducted a design workshop for inclusive simulation games. To give you a quick introduction: Inclusion in educational environments is an approach to educate students with special needs. Latest since the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which calls on to ensure an inclusive education system at all levels, inclusion became an emerging field in schools, universities as well as in vocational education and training.
Inclusion, in contrast to other approaches like integration, rejects the use of special schools or classrooms to separate students with disabilities from students without disabilities. Hence, students with special needs spend most or all their time with non-special needs students.
Within my research I already investigated the status of inclusion especially in the field of construction (ref. Inclusion in Apprenticeship (IncluAp) and the presentation at the conference Hochschultage Berufliche Bildung 2017). Due to the fact, that students should work and learn together in a common, joint community, it would be meaningful, to combine inclusion with games as experiential learning activity in an innovative instructional practices in inclusive classrooms. This should lead to multiple benefits:
- Encouraging the understanding for the needs of the classmates.
- Building a benevolent community that supports collaboration within the class.
- Promote positive behavior support mechanisms.
- Improving peer-relationships by structuring learning around cooperative activities.
- Motivating students with and without special needs.
- Increasing engagement and practice to review and to demonstrate their learning results.
Depending on the purpose the action orientation of a game can address also different learning styles of the students within a variety of instructional activities.
During the workshop the participants worked interactively on the design of a concept for an inclusion game which could be implemented as a card game, a board game, a classroom game etc. within their own professional setting (the workshop took 180 minutes). The overall concept of the workshop was embedded in a 6-step (rapid) design thinking process:
- Empathize (developing an understanding about inclusion and the involved parties),
- Define (summarizing own experiences and expectations),
- Ideate (generation of a range of creative ideas),
- Prototype (building a conceptional model of an inclusion game),
- Test (prototypical application),
- Implementation (full use in own teaching/ learning context).
During the conference we worked on the first 4 steps.
In phase 1, the beginning of the workshop, I gave a brief introduction about inclusion and gaming. After this in phase 2, the participants had to use the beginning of the sentence "I remember that ..." as a basis to talk about their own experiences and expectations as a fundamental basis for the following interaction in phase 3.
To support the generation of ideas, I introduced in general some creativity techniques (e.g. brain storming, lateral thinking, six thinking hats, 5 Whys). To achieve a fast creativity process we used the 3-12-3 method to generate a pool of aspects (3 min. individual action), develop basic concepts (12 min. group action) and to present resp. to discuss them (3 min. with the whole group).
During phase 4, we worked all together interactively on a joint concept. I introduced different aspects like purpose of the game (new learning, practice, behavior, review or assessment), addressee of the game (students, teachers), learning styles (visual, auditory, tactile and kinesthetic), instructional activity (whole group activities, partner or small group activities or individual activities) etc.
Furthermore, technology is becoming an additional factor which is currently in discussion within inclusive education. Especially for learners with special needs technology can provide further access to the curriculum through computer, iPad, audio/visual equipment or assistive devices. Therefore, technology can play various roles in inclusive classrooms, too. Nevertheless, the group decided to develop a card based game which will be easy to use and to reproduce. Addresses are 10-12 year old pupils. Interesting was the fact, that the participants decided to use the topic of "foods" as a substitute and first point of contact with cultural differences. The card game should be an opener for further discussion with the aim of not forgetting the variation in understanding immigrants.
The game process was defined that way, that every child should draw a card with a specific food on it and sorts it to one of the following three stacks: a) I like it, b) I don´t like it, c) I don´t know. Afterwards they have to explain and to discuss their decision. After some rounds the facilitator should transfer in the debriefing of the game the food related discussion to the cultural level. At the end of the interaction in phase 4 the concept was presented and discussed. After the workshop I invited the participants to customize the concept to their needs and to test it in their profession as a prototypical application (phase 5).
Based on experiences in my own studies and also on discussions with professionals from the field and other experts (e.g. had the chance to work in a workshop with Frederik Pferdt, Chief Innovation Evangelist from Google who visited our university) I have seen, that there is (still!) a strong need for increasing creativity especially in engineering education. This is something, that is quite often a more or less “soft” topic and educators are not willing to invest time in this. They are mostly focused on professional/ technical issues. In most of the cases hopefully due to time restrictions (?). To close this gap, I decided to design an interactive and experiential course aimed to increase creativity in technical education focused on construction content. Parts of the catalog of methods that I collected I am testing in my game design workshops. And it is just amazing how enthusiastic and dynamic the participants – especially those who had obviously reservations at the beginning – work on new concepts and what results we get after workshops that last only 90 or 180 minutes.