Casual Games and Casual Learning About Human Biological Systems
Casual games are everywhere. People play them throughout life to pass the time, to engage in social interactions, and to learn. However, their simplicity and use in distraction-heavy environments can attenuate their potential for learning. This experimental study explored the effects playing an online, casual game has on awareness of human biological systems. Two hundred and forty-two children were given pretests at a Museum and posttests at home after playing either a treatment or control game. Also, 41 children were interviewed to explore deeper meanings behind the test results. Results show modest improvement in scientific attitudes, ability to identify human biological systems and in the children’s ability to describe how those systems work together in real-world scenarios. Interviews reveal that children drew upon their prior school learning as they played the game. Also, on the surface they perceived the game as mainly entertainment but were easily able to discern learning outcomes when prompted. Implications for the design of casual games and how they can be used to enhance transfer of knowledge from the classroom to everyday life are discussed.
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