Inventure - A blended learning experience for teaching engineering and design skills

By Mia Chapman, for Introduction to digital game-based learning, 2018

MakerClub​ is a network of out of school invention clubs teaching young people design and engineering skills with the assistance of an online learning platform, made up of tutorials and design briefs for building inventions. As Head of Education, observing user interactions with the learning platform is an important part of my role to ensure that the content is engaging. However I have noticed a lack of motivation to understand scientific concepts behind the inventions and an unwillingness to find information for themselves, which learners have suggested is ‘boring’ or ‘too much like school’. For the last two years, we have tried to solve this problem through gamification techniques, defined as the application of game elements into alternative settings (Lee and Hammer 2011). In particular we awarded points and badges for completing lessons and quizzes which then unlocked new tutorials, however these techniques have been criticised as lacking excitement and usefulness (Kapp 2012) often causing learners to lose interest (Kohn 1993a), potentially explaining the lack of engagement and motivation I have witnessed.

In an attempt to solve these problems I have designed the game ​Inventure​, making use of narrative and player choice to engage learners at MakerClub in scientific knowledge and skills, helping them to solve problems and construct tangible inventions in the real world. The overarching pedagogies at play in Inventure and the accompanying physical environment are constructivism and constructionism. The former emphasises the need for learners to construct their own knowledge based on experience (Piaget 1976), while constructionism expands on this, claiming that knowledge construction takes place through the making and sharing of a physical product (Papert 1993). It is intended that through using Inventure, players will construct their own knowledge both in the digital world and through making in the physical world.