Why board games are more than just fun and games

Belinda Bantham -- Thu, 06/15/2017 - 11:43

Why board games are more than just fun and games

If you only think of board games in terms of time well spent with family and friends, roll the dice again. Board games and their development play a vital role in how the new generation of learners, the so-called millennials, learn and acquire new information and skills.

 In light of this, a very successful workshop on table-top and electronic board games was recently held at the North-West University’s (NWU’s) campus in Vanderbijlpark, courtesy of the newly established research niche area Technology Enhanced Learning and Innovative Education and Training in South Africa (TELIT-SA).

 Prof Seugnet Blignaut, who heads the TELIT-SA team, says the workshop not only motivated participants to create table-top games, but also reinforced existing skills in terms of creating innovative and creative teaching and learning strategies.

Curious and playful

World-renowned gaming expert and enthusiast Dr Carolina Islas Sedano from the University of Eastern Finland (UEF) was the workshop facilitator. On her LinkedIn profile, Carolina describes herself as a context advocate, a curious and playful learner and an entrepreneur at heart – all characteristics which came to the fore during the workshop.

One of the activities on the agenda was the “Marshmallow Challenge” that dared participants to build the tallest freestanding structure possible, using sticks of spaghetti, tape, string and a single marshmallow. This particular challenge focused on developing skills such as teamwork, conceptual and spatial skills, creativity and innovation.

Carolina’s main research interests include using technology innovatively to achieve outcomes or experiences that would otherwise not be possible. She also explores ways of using technology to create meaningful and enjoyable playing-learning experiences, and takes the environment into account in playing-learning applications.

Using technology to enhance learning

Researchers within the research niche area, TELIT-SA, are hard at work strengthening and expanding its reach and impact. TELIT-SA focuses on the theory and practice of learning technologies across an array of disciplines in higher education. In short, it has a dedicated focus on the practice of technology-enhanced learning.

The participants at the recent workshop included staff members from the Serious Games Institute-SA (SGI-SA) and the Apps Factory, both divisions within TELIT-SA, as well as staff from the NWU’s campus in Potchefstroom. Challenges that students at the Apps Factory sometimes tackle include designing table-top games and then converting them into mobile applications (apps).

An example of how technology is harnessed to enhance learning is the app FinMan that SGI-SA developed a few years ago for the School of Accounting Sciences, specifically for the Financial Management module. Another app enables Grade 12 learners to calculate their Academic Performance Scale (APS) count and find out which qualifications are on offer at the campus in Vanderbijlpark.