"Playing with" Museums Exhibits: Designing educational games mediated by Mobile Technology

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"Playing with" Museums Exhibits: Designing educational games mediated by Mobile Technology
Authors: Yiannoutsou et Al.
Category: Design/Technology

Summary Two educational games that usage mobile technologies for young children in museums.


  • Game Design Considerations :
    • Design in respect to the organization (museum): Technology was smoothly embedded in the museum ecology without demanding extreme changes of the arrangement of this traditional museum.
    • Design for unobtrusive presence: This means that the software was designed so that it does not become an obstacle for the visitors to play the games. The underlying principle was to keep technical aspects out of the attention of the visitors and provide functionalities that will help them focus on the game and the exhibits involved.
    • Design for engaging the users: The exhibits and the relevant information are situated in the context of a game. This approach offers to the young visitors the opportunity to use the exhibits and the information about them in a meaningful way.
    • Design for enriching the spectrum of interaction between museum and visitor: The games designed and the technology which supports them allows two dimensional interactions: interaction with the exhibits and interaction with other visitors. The aim here is to see the museum visit also as a structured social activity.
    • Design for collaboration: The activities are designed so that collaboration is an integral part of the game activity which means that the users need to collaborate in order to play the game and complete it. In the first game called Donation inter and intra group collaboration takes place. In the second game called Museum scrabble, users collaborate within their group but they also need to take into account the actions of the opponent group.
  • Games
    • Donation:
      • Collection and manipulation of information about the museum’s exhibit.
      • Children are asked to discover a specific exhibit, to help an imaginary art benefactor donate an artifact to the museum.
      • Interaction: Children scan RFID tagged exhibits and receive information; Must locate clues that help them solve the game.
    • Museum Scrabble:
      • Linking exhibits properties with other exhibits
      • Game has 3 components:
        • Clues: pieces of information associated to an exhibit.
        • Triggers: links to the other exhibits
        • Exhibits: Spaces in the museum.
      • Game Flow: Player select clue, check trigger and decide if she wants to play that clue/trigger. To link the exhibit to the trigger the player must search the museum for the most relevant exhibit and point to it using their PDA. Once the exhibit is “stored” inside the PDA the children can decide to use it or keep it for other play-round.
      • The rationale behind the design is to offer basic information about an exhibit and engage children to search for relevant exhibits.
  • Mobile approach:
    • Mobile technologies contributes in enriching children interaction with the museum in the following ways:
    • Store, manipulate, exchange information
    • Transform the one dimensional relationship between the exhibit and the user (flow of information from the exhibit to the user) to dialectic relationship (the user can interact back with the exhibit, by asking for info, clues or hints, by linking it with other exhibits)
    • Support the process of making museum visit a social activity rather than an individual matter (status awareness of the co-players, awareness of the other players interaction with the exhibits, exchange of information, etc).
  • Findings, about user experience:
      • Donation
        • Children developed “task oriented” approach. (i.e. few cases when students read information meticulously, and lot of “scanning for clues” instead of deep engagement)
        • According to post-visit report “task-oriented” approach helped students to formulate a concrete idea about the exhibits the played with
        • Activity was rated as engaging and pleasant
      • Scrabble
        • Grown- ups test group
        • Similar engagement as Donation
        • Feedback with respect to the design of the activity: some exhibits were found as more appropriate as clues.

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