EAGER: Designing and Exploring the Impact of Learning Technologies on Youth Fitness Practices

PIs: Cynthia Ching, Sara Schaefer, Robin Hunicke
University of California-Davis
Award Details

n this Cyberlearning EAGER project, the team is working towards design of an immersive virtual world in which learners play themselves in a narrative as they attempt a variety of challenges and experience how changes in their exercise and eating behaviors lead to outcomes different from the ones that their current habits produce. The foundational hypothesis is that tangibly experiencing what would be possible if they adopted different habits, along with reflections and discussions (both explanatory and identity-related) around those experiences, would create conditions for more healthy behaviors. This project will advance understanding of how to take advantage of the immersive possibilities technology makes possible to foster positive changes in everyday behaviors and will contribute significantly to understanding how to foster positive behavior in many areas of societal importance, e.g., health, social conduct, and becoming masterful at carrying out professional practices.

While there is much evidence that serious games can play powerful roles in fostering learning, there is less understanding about exactly how to design such games so that they systematically foster learning that results in taking on new more positive habits and dispositions. The scholarly literature suggests that fostering new more positive habits and dispositions requires taking into account the complex contexts and practices of learners’ lives and the different meanings, preferences, and skill levels they may bring to new situations. This project continues work towards an innovative new genre of serious games for learning that are designed to foster and sustain positive new habits, dispositions, and behaviors. The system uses data about learners’ activities and motivations to pose challenges to learners; learners engage and analyze that same data as they test hypotheses and plan toward addressing the challenges, all within a context of sense making that bridges the virtual and physical worlds. The project team is aiming towards development of a nuanced model of learning, taking on, and sustaining more positive health and social behaviors that is sensitive to individual meaning making and contextual constraints. The work is being done in the context of serious games for health, and the data learners engage with is data about their own health, nutrition, activity, and fitness.

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