Teacher as a game maker – Part 1

What do the teachers think about Seppo and making games? What kind of Seppo games do teachers make? Seppo-themed master's thesis did some research on it! This two-part blog post opens up the research findings and lessons learned.
Gamification | Learning games

Teacher as a game maker – Part 1

I started working at Seppo at the same time as I was starting my Master of Arts in Education thesis seminar. The new work raised many questions and as I learned to use Seppo, I started to think about what makes a good learning game and how to make one. I was also wondering if Seppo users would need more support to make games. The thesis project allowed me to delve deeper into the topic.

Having worked as a teacher for a long time I was particularly interested in the teacher’s perspective. I wanted to find out what kind of experiences teachers have with making Seppo games and using Seppo games in teaching. I ended up interviewing 14 primary school teachers who were class teachers and subject teachers of different subjects. All the teachers had some experience of using Seppo and a couple of them were experts who had used Seppo for a long time.

Very little previous research on teachers as creators of digital games was found. The previous research I found focused mainly on courses where teachers made learning games on platforms that required programming skills. No wonder then, that previous studies highlighted mostly the technical challenges in teacher game design.

The teachers’ experiences of making Seppo games turned out to be quite different. All the teachers I interviewed thought that making Seppo games was technically easy. Teachers said they learned how to use Seppo very quickly. They also gave credit to the good tutorial videos and customer support. Seppo thus made it much easier to make digital learning games.

Teachers’ experiences of what comes to designing content for the Seppo games varied. Some teachers said brainstorming games was fun and easy, but for some teachers making a good game felt challenging. Previous research on teacher game design has revealed similar challenges – it may not be easy to make a game that is playfully interesting for students and meaningful in terms of learning. However, teachers using Seppo had mostly been able to overcome this challenge, as they considered the games they made to be all in all successful and felt that their educational goals were met in the game situation. They also reported that students participated in the playing most of the time actively and enthusiastically.

According to the teachers, Seppo’s added value came from many different things. They liked that with Seppo they were able to create a learning game that suited their own purposes. Teaching with the game brought variety and versatility to the teaching, which the students liked. Seppo also supported mobility and the transfer of teaching outside the classroom. The positive results were not a surprise to myself, but I was reassured that Seppo is indeed an easy-to-use and useful teaching tool. Teachers’ stories also provided good advice for making games. Here are few:

  1.  Think carefully what are the goals of the game – What do you want to teach and why do you do it better with the game?
  2. Make the game together with a colleague or involve students in making the game to facilitate time management and brainstorming.
  3. Start with a simple one – even a simple implementation is often enough.
  4. When you’re ready to move on to the next level as a game maker, get inspired by books, movies, and other stories.
  5. Don’t be too self-critical – you may not always succeed perfectly, but it’s not serious and you learn by doing!

In the second part of the blog post, I will tell you what kind of games the teachers had created. So you will get some ideas for making Seppo games!

-Maarit Röynä

Source: Röynä, M. (2019). ”Oppilaat ylös penkeistä ja vaihtelua päivään”. Seppo-peli opetustyökaluna. Pro gradu -tutkielma, Helsingin yliopisto.