Using Digital Game-Based Learning for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Using Digital Game-Based Learning for Students with Intellectual Disabilities

Sep 01 2022

The purpose of the study was to examine the current literature on the use of digital Game-Based Learning (GBL) for students with intellectual disabilities. The authors’ intent was to come to conclusions on how digital GBL affects the acquisition of specific skills and make recommendations on future research.

Definitions around Game-Based Learning

1. “Learning based on digital games can help students with intellectual disabilities to learn new data, learn and develop new skills, acquire life skills, develop social skills and form a way of thinking (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013). A game acts on a student through a biological, social, cultural, emotional (affective), cognitive and physical aspect and as such has a direct influence on behavior, way of thinking and perception of the world in which an individual lives and acts (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013).”

2. The authors differentiate between “educational games” (EG) and “serious games” (SG). Educational games refer to those that utilize software with game technologies and storytelling to create educational content. According to the authors, they are primarily used for the acquisition of factual information. Serious games, on the other hand, are those that reapply resources from the video game field for educational purposes. They are typically high in entertainment factor, and embed instructional content within gaming elements such as badges, levels and time-restricted challenges.  

3. The DSM-V now defines intellectual disability as deficits in “reasoning, problem solving, planning, abstract thinking, judgment, academic learning, and learning from experience”. Compared to the DSM-IV, the new edition favors comprehensive assessment based on adaptive functioning over standardized IQ scores.

Adaptive function over intellectual function

The authors of the study established the following research questions for their literature review:

1. Which specific technologies and games are used for digital GBL for students with intellectual disabilities? 

2. For which skills, abilities and subjects are the games being developed?

3. What are the characteristics of the participants in the studies, and which evaluation methods are being used to evaluate the effects of the games?

4. Do the digital GBL systems being developed have a positive impact on students with disabilities?

Only studies involving participants who have intellectual disability as a primary disability (as opposed to those who have intellectual disability as a result of other primary difficulties) were considered. 21 papers met the inclusion and exclusion criteria. According to the classifications set forth by the authors, the most common type of digital tool being used were SGs, and the most commonly used technology was the PC, along with additional equipment such as a webcam. The analyzed studies were more focused on the development of adaptive functions rather than on the development of intellectual functions. Math was the most commonly taught subject area. 15 of the 21 studies showed how the digital GBL was evaluated (the remaining 6 did not, partly because some of the game solutions were in the development or evaluation phases). These studies concluded that digital GBL contributed positively to the participants’ ability to adopt new skills.

Future inclusion of social-emotional skills

Future research could be directed towards developing a framework for the evaluation of digital educational games for students with intellectual disabilities, using a systematic and flexible methodology called Design-Based Research. 

Social-emotional skills were not covered in any of the research studies that were examined. The authors also suggest that a possible area for further development would be digital GBL for students with intellectual disabilities that focuses on recognizing and understanding emotions in others, empathizing, learning how to express feelings appropriately and establish relationships with other people.

Notable Quotes: 

1. “Learning based on digital games can help students with intellectual disabilities to learn new data, learn and develop new skills, acquire life skills, develop social skills and form a way of thinking (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013). A game acts on a student through a biological, social, cultural, emotional (affective), cognitive and physical aspect and as such has a direct influence on behavior, way of thinking and perception of the world in which an individual lives and acts (Sigh & Agarwal, 2013).”

2. “One of the possible further directions of research in this area is to create a frame- work for the evaluation of educational game solutions designed for students with intellectual disabilities using Design-based Research (DBR). DBR can be specified as a systematic but flexible research methodology which strives to improve the educational practice through iterative analysis, design, development and implementation (Wang & Hannafin, 2005). It is based on collaboration between researchers and professionals which leads to contextually sensitive principles of design and theories. DBR is an iterative process which allows the correction and improvement of solutions as many times as needed in order to satisfy all needs of the student.”

3. “The most common teaching subject is mathematics, which is in some studies combined with physical education and reading. Mathematics is followed by the field of science and reading…Most common skills are logical skills (8 studies) followed by the holistic approach of competence development, which includes motor skills, perception, cognition and visual processing, and food (4 studies). Only one or two studies dealt with the areas of professional skills, socio-emotional skills and academic skills.”

Personal Takeaway

“Gamification” of learning is an area of teaching practice that fascinates me, and it is helpful to read Stančin et al.’s meta-analysis of the existing research on the effectiveness of digital learning tools for students with intellectual disability

Akane_Yoshida_72ppi

Akane Yoshida

Summarized Article:

Stančin, K., Hoić-Božić, N., & Skočić Mihić, S. (2020). Using digital game-based learning for students with intellectual disabilities – A systematic literature review. Informatics in Education, 19(2), 323-341.

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