EXP: GeoGames – Online Map Games for Teaching and Learning through a Real-World Spatial Perspective

PIs: Karl Ola Ahlqvist, Andrew Heckler, Rajiv Ramnath
Ohio State University
Award Details

In this Cyberlearning: Transforming Education EXP project, the investigators are aiming to learn how to promote geo-spatial thinking skills and ability to use data gathered geo-spatially to solve complex problems. The technology being refined leverages on-line maps to situate scenarios in GeoGames so that learners have access to real GIS, remote sensing, socioeconomic, agricultural and other data and models as they engage with others to solve real-world problems in the GeoGame. The focus is on helping learners gain and use a spatial perspective in their thinking and problem solving. Geogames present real-world challenges that require large-scale data collected across geographical areas in game-like ways to draw in the learners; the learners solve problems using the data found through navigating the maps and in conjunction with each other. Research is carried out in the context of a particular GeoGame called Green Revolution. In that simulation, students take on the roles of rural farmers in a developing country and interact with each other to deal with water and weather issues. Learners navigate geo-spatial representations (world maps) to access real data that allow them to make predictions together and develop strategies together for making it through coming storms, pest infestations, and other real-world hazzards. Already learned in that project is that solving problems together in such a simulated real-world context promotes better understanding of the difficulties involved in the lives of farmers in developing countries and some of strategies that might lead to success. Research in this new project focus on trade-offs between complexity of the factors that might be considered in solving complex real-world problems and learning outcomes. The GeoGame technology and its use integrate the strengths of geo-spatial technologies, gaming, and social networking with availability of real-world data to promote learning about real-world facts and also complex, interlinked human, environmental, and technological systems in an experiential, collaborative, and engaging way. The focus is at the college level but ultimately could be appropriate for high-schoolers, middle-schoolers, and the general population.

Policy people tell us that a geo-spatial perspective is essential in addressing many of society’s pressing issues (e.g., economics, agriculture, climate change, transportation, relief, urban planning, emergency services). This approach of GeoGames may provide an engaging and broadly-applicable way to educate future policy makers in taking a global perspective on both the global and local problems they address. The approach may also provide a way to help the public appreciate the connectedness of the world, the broad implications of local policy decisions, and the issues that must be considered in policy making.

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