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There are several ways in which the game can be exploited, all falling under three main categories which are called Game Modes hereinafter and explained in detail.
Game Mode 1 (GM1) – WeAreEurope Game as a foundation for Project Based Learning
The most common way of exploiting the game for teaching purposes is for it to serve as a basis/trigger for the design and implementation of wider projects which are to be carried out in the classroom. The extent of these projects can vary significantly, based on the teaching goals to be set. They can be connected to a specific disciplinary area or they can be interdisciplinary. Overall, the projects can be divided into three categories, based on the actual trigger which derives from the game. The elements of the game which can support the design of a project can be: Challenges, Map Stops and Time Periods. Considering that the options are numerous, this guide can only provide general guidelines and a few concrete examples.
Example 1a: Several distinctive elements exist in the game. One of the most recognizable ones are elements which appear on the maps which are not directly involved in the game progress. Indicative examples from the very first map are the Parthenon, the Colosseum and the Minotaur. By clicking on them, information about them can be seen. Thus, a teacher can create a project about the construction, use and significance of the Parthenon or the Colosseum, but also one about the mythological description of the Minotaur or even the Minoan Civilization. Such projects can be implemented at a later time, after the game or the corresponding time period is completed, or even before it is even initiated. By entering a certain time period, the map can be examined, elements can be recognized and projects can be realized. Then, the children can proceed to play the game.
Example 1b: Other distinctive elements of the game are the integrated challenges. Apart from the research needed to find the correct answer to a challenge, project ideas can be based on the content of the challenge. For example, in the Industrial Revolution period, there are challenges which require from the students to identify pictures of famous inventions and match them with their name. Extending this challenge, a teacher can design a project about one or more of these inventions, focusing on its functionality, innovative aspects, use and transformations they received up to today, their impact in human history and activities, etc. Even, the notion of the invention or what makes someone an inventor can be discussed and researched, along with the process of Patenting, the financial implications and so on.
Another example, in the same period is a challenge which requires that the players match images of famous composers (Mozart, Weber, Beethoven and Chopin) with their names. The teacher can use the WaE game as a teaching tool in order for students to learn about famous composers (even others than the ones mentioned in this challenge). Then, based on this, a project about classic music can be implemented, spanning from simple presentations about composers to a wider discussion about musical instruments and symphonic music, leading to the construction of instruments, etc.
In some cases, the game challenges are small projects on their own, characterized by the consortium as non-digital ones. These are challenges in which the players have to act outside the game environment and it is up to the teacher to decide that their actions were adequate. These actions can be: the creation of short stories, the construction of an artifact, the design and performance of a theatrical play. Finally, challenges can be exploited in order to design projects for facilitating the teaching of wider concepts
Example 1c: Another element form the game is the narrative which is read or heard at the beginning of each time period, which introduces historical and other information to the players. Based on this information, projects can be implemented as well. For example, the introductory narrative of the Age of Discoveries mentions the ships that the Iberian explorers used, the Caravels, also providing some hints about their design. A teacher can exploit this in order to facilitate a project in which children can: research and present the explored territories at that time, create models of the Caravels and explain their key features, discuss how the perception of the world gradually changed (from a flat earth to the globe), etc.
Example 3: The action of the game takes place in various instances within time. Thus, it can be used as a basis for designing a project about a significant time period as whole. Such time periods, in random order, are: the Ancient Times, the World Wars, the Renaissance, the Age of Discoveries, even the formation of the EU and many more. After completing a whole map in the game which corresponds to a specific time period, characterizing a significant era in Europe’s history, a whole project can be designed about this time period. In this case, let us consider the World Wars’ period which was a time of great changes all over the continent. After completing the corresponding map, several project ideas can emerge, postponing the progress of the game to the next map/time period. Having collected a great amount of information from the game challenges, the children can put the acquired knowledge in use or be facilitated to conduct further research in order to deepen their perception of an issue. Such issues are, for example, the geographical reconstruction and the corresponding processes (treaties, warfare, etc.). The children can be asked to study any border changes that occurred during this time period and examine the causes and the consequences. In this vein, political issues can be introduced, explaining the political systems that arose and declined during this period, discussing their advantages and disadvantages. Historical facts can be examined in detail (e.g. the Invasion of Normandy and what it meant for the outcome of the warfare). The financial implications of a country being involved in a war can be discussed, investigating the various perspectives which derive from the position a country holds in such situations (being the invader or being invaded, being on the winning or the losing side, etc.). Obviously, the choice to be made and the paths to follow are numerous. Regarding the outcome of the project, it can be a presentation or an essay in the form of a report. Other material can be created, such as posters, comics and infographics, depending on the age of the students, but in such cases arts are involved in the learning process as well. Following this last idea, the children can recreate information they retrieved or conclusions they reached by writing and performing a theatrical play in class or in front of a wider audience (e.g. parents or the local community).
Game Mode 2 (GM2) – WeAreEurope Game as an evaluation tool
When teaching, it is not uncommon for teachers to deploy evaluation tools and mechanisms in order to examine how well the new knowledge has been acquired by the students. A very common tool of this kind is a knowledge test. The WeAreEurope game can be used in a similar way, replacing tests with a more fun evaluation approach. For example, if a class has been working on Ancient Times through various disciplinary areas (e.g. history, geography, math, etc.) for a specific time span, the teacher can use the game in order to evaluate knowledge acquisition through the students’ performance in the game. In this case, playing the game individually gains some value, in the case the teacher wishes to examine individual performance and thus how each student puts the acquired knowledge into use, through the game.
Game Mode 3 (GM3) – WeAreEurope Game as a teaching tool
In the WeAreEurope game, in order to find the answer to a certain challenge the children will have to conduct research, negotiate (when working collaboratively) and conclude. Thus, the game challenges can be considered as small lesson plans which are implemented following the Problem-based Learning approach. Each challenge introduces a problem for the players to solve. By utilizing several transversal skills, such as information seeking, retrieval and filtering, negotiation, argumentation, critical thinking, etc. the players follow their own path to constructing knowledge by solving these problems and providing the correct answer to the challenge. Thus, each challenge of the game can be considered as a learning activity which requires from the teacher to facilitate the knowledge construction process when and as needed.
Game Mode 4 (GM4) – WeAreEurope Game as an reflective or investigation tool
The WeAreEurope game can be exploited in a way which combines the modes described so far. In this mode, the students can be asked to play the game (individually or in groups) regularly for a certain time (e.g. 3 times a week, for 2 weeks). They can be asked to focus on a specific category of challenges (e.g. literacy, math, science), based also on the role they undertake (in a group setting). Based on the information seeking they have to conduct, they can be asked to make a presentation based on a reflective question “what have I learned over the past 2 weeks?”. This approach can gradually lead the students to a reflective examination of the information they have accessed, providing alternative perspectives, interpretations and thus knowledge construction. Further teaching activities can be based on the students’ presentations and information gathered.
Lessons Plans - examples
Lesson Plan #1
The regimes/political systems in Ancient Greece
(WaE as a tool for deploying notions. Dawn-literacy-medium_1- Make a comic in which to describe briefly the system of government in Ancient Greece.)
Collaborative work in 2 groups – information seeking
Lesson Plan #2
WaE as evaluation tool
(WaE_ EU challenges)
Language, ICTs, Aesthetics, Geography, Social and Political Education
Collaborative work in 10 groups (aprox. 2 members each)– information seeking
This plan is a project, so below we present some activities:
Lesson Plan #3
Timeline of Europe Map changes
Collaborative work in 2 groups – information seeking
Following the structure of the game, ideally it should be played in groups of four students, each undertaking one of the aforementioned roles. For that to occur, the infrastructure of the classroom and/or the school should be adequate be allowing each student group to be able to use at least one computer with internet access, but also access to other informative resources, such as books in the classroom or the school library. Furthermore, the classroom setting should allow the groups to be separated physically, so as to don’t interfere with each other while playing the game.
The key is to form groups with multiples of four and thus form sub-groups which correspond to each of the aforementioned game roles. So, for example, in the case of 12 children, they can form groups of 3 and thus 3 will operate as the Person of Letters and so on.
This might be the ideal situation in most of the schools and thus it will be further elaborated. An example is provided, concerning a group of 3 students (Scientists’ Group). One can be assigned to search for information online and one in books, available in the classroom or the school library (or even the official textbook), in order to solve a challenge. The third student can analyze the challenge and provide instructions to the “information-seekers”, but also input all the game actions through the user interface. All three can argument and reach consensus regarding the answer to the provided challenge, thus exercising their collaboration-related skills. Of course, many variations of the role distribution can be realized, based on what the teacher wishes to achieve or the background and the potential of the students. Also other roles can be introduced, such as “secretary”, “information analyzer”, “illustrator”, “editor”, “journal keeper”, etc. When more than 12 children are engaged, they can undertake primary and secondary roles, or even take interchangeable turns in applying their role actions.
On an opposite perspective, the game can be played by less than 4 players (e.g. when played in a computer laboratory with adequate computers or as a home-assignment). In this case, 2 players can undertake 2 game-roles each or just 1 player can undertake all the roles and play the game individually.
In any case, the teacher can decide upon the role distribution, based on the class dynamics, the age level of the children and their cognitive level. For example, considering that 1st grade children need more support by the teacher, operating as a facilitator (e.g. most of them are not able to read), it seems practically impossible to have separate groups playing the game simultaneously and thus a whole-classroom approach would be more appropriate in which various roles can be assigned. Thus, the teacher should rely on his/her experience and perspective of the classroom in order to form groups and assign roles in the most effective way.
Finally, in many classrooms one can find children with special needs or learning disorders. It is not uncommon to find a child with dyslexia, mild ADSD, mobility problems, vision and hearing impairments. As the variety of cases can be very big and each one of them be actually very unique in matters of symptoms and attention needed, it is up to the teacher to decide which is the optimal way of including such a child in the game-related learning activities. It is only to be noted that such an action is definitely feasible and encouraged, as the game may facilitate the inclusion of such children in the classroom activities and their interaction with their peers (the game includes voice-over, pause and other options that can follow the pace of children).
The main characters of the game are four children at the age level of the target group, each holding different expertise. Each player has special attributes that will be called out during the game. These are the person of letters, the mathematician, the scientist, who answer to challenges related to literacy, mathematics, and sciences, respectively. The adventurer conducts the team movements. Thus the design encourages the game to be played by a team of 4 (or multiples of 4), all working together towards the same final goal.
At the beginning of the game, when an account is registered to access the game, the players have to elect the wise of their group using whatever method they agree on. This way, children are integrated into citizenship-related activities through their very first step in the game (definition of roles and responsibilities to achieve a common good). Apart from having the last word in every occasion, overrunning other players’ decisions in challenges and riddles, the wise also answers the quizzes, although with the help and collaboration of the other team members.
The players inadvertently go back in time and thus have to find a way to return to the present. During their journey, they are taken to designated and relevant periods in European history: a) The Dawn of Citizenship, b) The Middle Ages, c) The Age of Discoveries & Renaissance, d) The Industrial Revolution & Citizenship, e) The XX century, and f) My Europe. Each era represents a level. Levels make the players’ journey more engaging and fun overtime, enabling for them to be challenged every step of the way. In each historic period, the group has to travel through European countries and territories, solving challenges, riddles and quizzes that take them a step closer to their objective of returning home. To succeed, the children must work as a team taking advantage of different skills sets (selected at the beginning of the game) that will be required in specific situations in the game. The main game objective is to go through all historic periods, reaching the present time, using the minimum of turns.
The map of the game is updated in each time period/level to represent the designated era and depict the changes in the continent. The aim is for the children to, in each time period/level, acquire four pieces of a key that opens the time portal to proceed for the next era/level. To achieve this, the players have to travel between countries/territories. A movement between countries/territories is a turn. To find the next territory to visit, players get a clue (riddle). When arriving there they must solve a challenge of selected difficulty level (easy, medium, and hard), thus acquiring a piece of the key In case the players misinterpret the clues and end up in the wrong country/ territory, they are informed and have to re-examine the riddle. This costs turns but does not prevent them from pursuing the game’s objective.
Complementary to the main characters, an “old man” appears at the beginning (voice only), orientating the young group, acting as a narrator and providing help when requested. At the same time, opposing forces in the form of Time Agents attempt to prevent time travel by capturing the players, while moving between countries/territories. Upon being caught, the players have to prove they belong to the designated time period by answering to a quiz (multiple choice question). Failing to provide the correct answer, they are sent back to the previous country/territory and lose turns. If players answer correctly to a certain number of quizzes, riddles and challenges they also get badges along the game.
More details on the game description, the game controls and the technical issues can be found in the game manual, available also at the project’s website.
Figure 1. EU citizenship key competence framework
Citizenship as a notion has been linked over the years to privileges deriving from or connected with the membership in a particular political/social community. In this community, those who enjoy a certain status are entitled to equally participate with their fellow citizens in making the collective decisions that regulate social life (Bellamy, 2008). Every community has developed common–sense understandings of who belongs to it or not (Cesarani & Fulbrook, 2003). However the necessary qualities which characterize an individual as a citizen have not been the same in all cases. For example, in Ancient Greece equality of citizens as rulers or law-makers was the central pillar of citizenship, connecting it with race and class. Equality under the law provided legal status and introduced a member state aspect to citizenship, in Rome (Bellamy, 2008). As the nation states arose, the notion of citizenship gradually shifted from the kingship primacy understanding to a definition based on common ideas and the right to reside in the country of birth (Cesarini and Fulbrook, 2003). The ethnic revitalization movements (1960s - 70s) led to equality and structural inclusion. Furthermore, over the past decades, international migration has raised different questions directly related with the concepts of citizenship and citizenship education.
Thus, citizenship becomes even more complex to define within the EU context. But, overall the notion of citizenship entails a set of rights, obligations, rules and possibilities which support the sustainability of a rather diverse community, allowing interconnection, interdependence and interaction.
Nowadays, Citizenship Education (CE) is a core aim of many modern societies and thus it has been integrated in their official curricula (Eurydice, 2012). Extending the general scope of Education for preparing the student to become a useful future citizen, CE extends knowledge, skills (social, intellectual, technological), attitudes (respect for cultural and political diversity, respect for rational argument, interest in community affairs) and values (democracy justice, rule of law) and stimulates participation (Ruud, 1997; EU, 2006). Within the EU member states, mainly a mix of interdisciplinary and discipline integrated approaches are followed, enhanced by the facilitation of students’ active participation inside and outside school. Generally, citizenship curricula cover a wide and very comprehensive range of topics, addressing the fundamental principles of democratic societies, contemporary societal issues, as well as the European and international dimensions (Eurydice, 2012).
Examining all the aforementioned approaches and following the contemporary EU-proposed approach of examining a competence as a set of knowledge, skills and attributes, the consortium designed a framework for the EU citizenship key competences (Figure 1). Moreover, the 21st century skill-set was taken into account. Considering that CE has shifted from rights and duties to values which active citizens should acquire, such as respect of the others, sense of responsibility, caring about the others, social justice and cooperation (Wing on Lee, 2012), it should allow a holistic focus on students’ learning by keeping up with UNESCO’s four pillars of: learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together. Also, it should match learners’ interests to current social, political, environmental and economic affairs (UNESCO, 2014). More details can be found in the official report created by the WeAreEurope consortium (http://wreurope.eu/).
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