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5 March 2013

Mobile Educational Games: Much More Fun and Just as Effective as Traditional Board Games

Keywords: experiment, games, learning, mobile, survey, Western Europe, interactive media, kids, media, mobile phone, technology,

Educational game apps pop up like daisies in Google’s Play and Apple’s App Store. The question is, are mobile educational games just as successful in transmitting knowledge as the educational board games we used to be familiar with? A Spanish study in Computers and Education shows they are.

Take aways

  • Mobile educational games using augmented reality (AR) are just as effective as traditional educational board games in increasing children’s knowledge. 
  • However, children experience educational iPhone-games as much more fun and even as more informative.
  • Therefore, they prefer playing mobile educational games over traditional educational board games. 
  • Game developers and teachers should be aware of the enthusiasm children experience while playing mobile educational games. Children’s willingness to learn via mobile devices can open doors to successful learning. 

Study information

  • The question?

    Do children learn more (or less) by playing an educational mobile game than by playing a traditional educational board game?

  • Who?

    84 8-to 10-year olds (45% of the children were boys; 28% was 8 years old, 50% 9 years old, and 22% 10 years old)

  • Where?

    Spain, Valencia

  • How?

    The researchers developed an educational game that taught children about the world’s three poorest continents: Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. The mission of the game was to collect food from these continents to share it among the poor people. While playing, children learned about the food, animals, and climate of these continents. The game also aims to promote respect for other people of different cultures.

    To test whether children learned more by an iPhone game than by a traditional board game, two different educational game versions were developed. The iPhone game was developed with an ‘augmented reality’ (AR) function. This function combined real and virtual objects. For instance, children had to explore a virtual room on their iPhone, by focusing the iPhone camera on different markers placed in the ‘offline’ room.

    Each child played both of the game versions, however children were divided into two different groups: (1) children who played the iPhone game version first and then the traditional board game, and (2) children who played the traditional board game first and then the iPhone game. When children completed the first version of the game, their degree of knowledge was evaluated via a survey. Afterwards they answered questions about their version preferences.

Facts and findings

  • The children who played the iPhone version of the educational game had similar learning outcomes (in terms of knowledge of the food, animals, and climate that is typical for the continent of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America) as the children who played the traditional board game. 
  • All children who played the iPhone game believed they had actually learned something from the educational game, against 93% of the children who finished the board game. 
  • The vast majority of the children (90%) preferred the iPhone game over the traditional board game and almost all children (96%) indicated they would like to play the iPhone game again. 
  • With regard to augmented reality, 91% of the children indicated that they would like to use it as a learning tool in their classroom. 
  • Only 3% of the children thought the iPhone game was not that easy to play with, meaning that the vast majority had no problems with using the augmented reality function. It must be mentioned though, that the iPhone version of the game contained a tutorial part. 
  • Critical note: Children’s knowledge about the different continents was not examined before game play. Therefore it’s difficult to discuss the learning outcomes of the game in terms of gained knowledge.