A tangible digital installation in the classroom: Role Play and autistic Children

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This paper describes a three weeks study involving 15 children affected by autism spectrum disorders (9-12 years old) in a primary Danish school. The aim of the study was to support the class teachers in assessing the benefits of game-based learning with respect to their main two challenges: facilitating the emergence of imagination and conceptual thinking, and managing the interplay between cooperation and competition. This cooperation originates from one of the teachers’ interest in MicroCulture, a digital and tangible installation earlier created by the authors and aimed at bridging history learning across museums and schools. The design of MicroCulture focused on urban development seen as a social process; in order to cover children’s multiple play modalities and support their interaction with guides and teachers, MicroCulture offers exploratory gameplay, with no predefined final goal and no score. At Aadal school the teachers introduced MicroCulture to the children and used it to discuss specific aspects of the life of the Vikings, and allowing them to play in small groups. The data were gathered through ethnographic observations, interaction analysis of video recordings and interviews with some of the school’s teachers. We found that through mediated play and teacher's facilitation, children occasionally engaged in interactions leading to conceptual thinking, cooperation, and forms of role play. According to the teachers such occurrences represented a valuable achievement in the development of her classes, offering opportunities to discuss and explore with the children different forms of social interaction. Difficulties were encountered as the teachers had to find ways of supporting the children, strategically shifting between guidance and responsibility transfer, moderate children interaction towards cooperation while it often could resulted in conflicts. These results are contrasted against early findings concerning MicroCulture and museum-going pupils without autism. Our findings also show that MicroCulture will require further redesign, to better accommodate teachers and autistic children’s needs.
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 9th European Conference on Games Based Learning
EditorsRobin Munkvold, Line Kolås
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International
Publication date2015
ISBN (Print)978-1-910810-58-3
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-910810-59-0, 978-1-910810-60-6
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Event9th European Conference on Games Based Learning - Steinkjer, Nord-Trøndelag University College, Norway
Duration: 8 Oct 20159 Oct 2015


Conference9th European Conference on Games Based Learning
ByNord-Trøndelag University College