Understanding How To Support Intergenerational Play Through Educational Video Games

Congratulations to Sinem Siyahhan who successfully completed her dissertation entitled: Understanding How To Support Intergenerational Play Through Educational Video Games (December 17. 2011)

Advisors: Joyce M. Alexander, Sasha A. Barab
Department: Counseling and Educational Psychology
University: Indiana University-Bloomington

Currently an Assistant Research Professor in School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University. My research focuses on designing and studying games to support family literacy and learning.

Abstract of your dissertation:

The limited number of studies on intergenerational play suggests that not many mothers play video games with their children. However, when intentionally designed to support intergenerational play, video game could provide an opportunity for mothers and children to connect in new and powerful ways, especially around adolescence—a time when family relations undergo major transformation.

Using the lens of socio-cultural theoretical framework and activity theory, this dissertation investigates how to design educational video games to support intergenerational play where parents and children spend quality time together while engaging in collaborative work. Sixteen mother-child dyads (children ages 10 to 13) were observed while playing different game scenarios designed around dilemma situations and personally relevant issues in the context of Family Quest—a family game space create within Quest Atlantis, a three-dimensional educational gaming environment (www.QuestAtlantis.Org).

The findings suggest that games designed around both dilemma situations and personally meaningful issues created conversations between mothers and children, and provided an opportunity for mothers to spend one-on-one time with their children. Mothers gave more directives to their children when playing through game scenarios that lacked dilemma than those that were designed around a dilemma situation. In addition, gender differences were found in mother assistance behaviors, e.g. mother gave more directives to their daughters than their sons. Collaborative discussions were observed only in the game scenario that involved a dilemma around an issue that lacked personal relevance. During follow-up interviews, mothers who had no previous experiences playing video games with their children reported a strong preference for playing Family Quest with their children over commercial games due to its educational content. The analysis of different cases of mother-child dyads suggest that mothers and children who worked as equal partners were also the ones who engaged in collaborative discussions and family conversations around real world experiences during their gameplay.


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