May 25, 2019

Respawn Education

Respawn Education: Empowering the Teacher with the Abilities of a Game Master and Transferring the Learning Experience into a Game that Spans Across Spatial, Social and Temporal Boundaries


By Gerhard Molin.


The 21st century can be seen as kick-off towards a knowledge society, a society that defines itself through the ability to not only create rapidly new knowledge, but also to share it with people and to have access to information 24/7 thanks to modern communication technologies and infrastructures.

Creating knowledge has become our most prestigious and valuable resource, which is why it has become more important than ever before, to prepare future generations for the future demands in a high pace and complex knowledge society. There is strong evidence that future generations will need a different set of skills to live and work in the twenty-first century, which means that education in the here and now, needs to be able to teach those key skills such as information processing, critical and creative thinking, collaborating, communicating and being personally effective.

Moreover, in an increasingly digitised environment, the question I am asking is: How can technology and education be merged in a meaningful way to actively engage students, promote curiosity and teach those key skills?

Seymour Papert can be seen as key figure in the field of interaction design and children. Papert suggests that children should be provided with technology, which enables them to be authors, instead of letting them experience the world with pre-scripted interactions. Moreover, Papert emphasizes the importance of using technology that children use in their daily lives. Computers provide such potential and can enable the shift from learning by being told to learning by doing approach. Hence, Papert sees technology such as computer as key to leverage children’s interest in a subject, which ideally leads to powerful ideas about solving problems.

There are a number of existing ways to engage students in classroom teaching. Teacher continuously aim to improve the classroom experience for their students to foster engagement and curiosity. However, current research suggests that there is still room for improvement. My PhD project titled “Respawn Education” offers yet another opportunity by empowering the teacher with the abilities of a game master through the prototype developed in this research. I envisage that this enables the teacher to transform the learning experience into a game that spans across spatial, social and temporal boundaries.

The importance of play and the role of teacher in the cognitive development of children were stressed out by various theorists such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky. Piaget’s and Vygotsky’s view on motivation highlights the need of technologies that incorporate learning in interactive, entertaining and playful ways.

Games can provide this possibility by offering children spaces for exploring, interacting and discovering, however, there is also criticism that computer and video games lack of collaboration and often isolate the children, as they have been designed for individual use only. This is why Vygotsky’s social-cultural approach and the concept of scaffolding, highlights the importance of creating technology that does not only support interaction, entertainment and experimenting, but also collaboration between children and those who can provide scaffolding, and enhances the quality of scaffolding in a digital classroom.

Dewey, Montessori, Piaget and Vygotsky all together stressed out the need of education being child centred and interactive, in which the teacher plays a crucial role as someone who provokes the children’s mind.

This is why Respawn Education envisages to support teacher with the abilities of game designer and game master in order to become an active part in educational games, rather than passive observers, which will ideally enhance children centred education and the quality of scaffolding. Another common problem of currently available educational games is their limitation to their predefined space in front of the computer, where the experience takes place.

My project seeks to investigate how the magic circle of play can be spatially, temporally and socially expanded. Furthermore, games meet the three main components of a constructivism worldview. They give players the opportunity to be immersed in a virtual world, in which players can develop their understanding of this world by interacting and experimenting with game environment. Games provide cognitive conflicts and puzzlement, as players need to achieve certain goals within a game, which requires mastering skills and which provides a context for problem-solving. Moreover, multiplayer games facilitate social collaboration, which is the most important fundamental principle of constructivism in order to construct knowledge.

Furthermore, it will not have escaped the reader’s attention that over time learning environments have changed, access to the information to provide puzzlement have transmogrified and new forms of collaboration have been established to render a social review of the co-construction of knowledge. Moreover there is ample evidence that ‘play’ is one essential element of learning. At this juncture in history, more than ever, children are choosing to access computers for play and yet this niche has yet to explore the nexus between computer play and learning. This represents a significant opportunity for development not least in engaging those whose engagement with the formal education system has in the past been troublesome.

This said, if the classroom of tomorrow is highly digitised, it will be necessary to develop applications that meet the demands of future classrooms and help teachers, the most valuable component of the social process of learning, to develop an understanding of game design, so they can become game designer of their own classroom.

I believe that teachers play a crucial factor, if not the most important factor, to keep students engaged and foster a student’s curiosity, which is why it is so important that teachers shouldn’t be left out in the development of games for the classroom, but take an active part in the development of games for the classroom of the future. Respawn Education aims to lay the foundation for this novel approach of game-based learning, which seeks to empower teachers with the abilities of a game master and to engage students in- and outside of the classroom.

Ultimately, the outcomes of this project can be highly beneficial for every area where the social process of learning occurs, such as public diplomacy to diminish stereotypes between cultures, which is extremely important in today’s highly globalised and intercultural society, to establish a healthy foundation for cross-border cooperation and relationships.


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