The interview with Professor Miguel Nussbaum

July 6, 2015

Interviewers: I-Ling Cheng & Sie Wai Chew (Sylvia)


Having collaborative learning in mobile device to provide a game-based learning has become a more popular issue in the educational dimension since “there is growing recognition that several principles underlying these games can be beneficial to the learner” (Echeverría et al., 2011, P.1127). The goal of this article is to provide expert domain knowledge to new scholars or researchers who are interested in educational collaborative mobile game learning. Hence, we interviewed the expert of the field, Professor Miguel Nussbaum, to learn more about how to design and implement collaborative mobile game learning. Professor Miguel Nussbaum, who is a professor at the Computer Science Department of the School of Engineering of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, has been working on integrating computer technologies into learning for decades. More specifically, he incorporates interactive game (e.g., Nintedo Game Boy, Isoball, and Tetris) into classroom for years. His scientific developments have been implemented in schools in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the United States, Great Britain, Guatemala, India, Sweden and UK.

This expert interview will address the following issues: (1) the keys of designing collaborative mobile game learning, (2) the methods of integrating mobile games in formal learning, (3) the challenges faced while implementing collaborative mobile game learning, (4) the impact of the mobile game-based learning in school learning, (5) future research for collaborative mobile games in the educational dimension.

The Keys of Designing Collaborative Mobile Game Learning

Professor Nussbaum mentioned that there are two approaches to be considered as the keys of designing collaborative mobile game learning. The first approach is on mobile game-based learning. Professor indicated that, as system designers, we have to understand the college of the classroom before designing these games. It begins by determining the time available for applying or using the software developed with the students. Moreover, as instructional designers or researchers, we have to keep in mind on providing the training course and the system support for teachers. More importantly, we have to ensure that the teachers’ are available to attend these trainings and they can utilize the supports provided for the software. Besides that, we have to find out what are the existing systems or software that the teachers are currently using, so that we could integrate with the readily available resources.

Next important issue addressed by Professor Nussbaum is that the balance between the metaphor and what the teacher wants to teach. The worst case is there are no relationship between what teachers want to teach and the metaphor of the game. It is important to maintain the balance between the metaphor of the game and the subject planned to be taught, to keep students interested to complete the game. Hence, it is recommended that the model of the game has to be as close as possible with the concepts planned to be taught. It is suggested that we could understand standard and explore existing games to achieve this. For example, the games Isoball and Tetris could be used to teach students about geometry. By mapping the pedagogy objectives with the metaphor of the game, this could assist teachers in using mobile games in their teachings. By making minor changes, teachers could adapt the games into the classroom. In other words, teachers could explore these successful and popular games’ metaphor, and figure out ways to adapt these games into their teaching subject in the classroom, in order to assist students to learn that subject and to achieve the teaching goal.

The second approach is about collaborative learning. It is important to begin with understanding the difference between collaboration and corporation. In corporation, a task is sliced into several subtasks that are completed by different individuals separately. It is obvious that there is no collaboration among the individuals. In collaboration, each individual in the groups has different and interdependent roles, each task is essential to the completion of the task or project. The incompletion of a certain role or task would cause other roles or tasks to not move forward, resulting for the project to not complete. Hence, interdependence among the group is the key in collaboration, along with clear definition on the roles of each individual. A word of advice is do not overload and lose focus on the objective of the project. It is recommended to form groups of three as groups of two would just be an exchange of idea and in groups of four, some of the individuals would tend to be passive in their input.

The Methods of Integrating Mobile Games in Formal Learning

Professor Nussbaum indicated that teachers are our bridge to the students; and machines will not replace teachers since machines are not able to understand the emotion of the class. When designing the software, we should always have in mind that the students are the active actors of the class. The game has to contain an active mediation between the learning content with the students. Interactive activity enables the students to interact with the knowledge, and the key here is the type of activity and the amount of interactive activity to be provided by teachers. Bearing in mind that the role of the teachers is important even with the implementation of the software, as teachers know the content of the course and they understand the reality of how the students are reacting towards the software. A better position for the teachers in the classroom is to act as the mediator of the class to assist students in constructing their knowledge, instead of just delivering the content of the course.

Additionally, Professor Miguel suggested that to make teachers accept using mobile games in the classroom, we have to understand teachers’ issues and to assist teachers to improve their classroom work. With the discussion with teachers, we should identify their teaching objectives and determine further improvements to be made in the classroom that the teachers want to achieve. In other words, we need to analyze the objectives that we hope to achieve with the teachers. The key point here is that teachers themselves have to identify and recognize that they are having certain difficulty or problems in the classroom and there are rooms for improvements in their teaching methods. Then, working with these teachers as our allies and show them ways that we could assist them to move through the stages of learning curve with our software.

The Challenges Faced While Implementing Collaborative Mobile Game Learning

Professor Nussbaum has conducted researches on students ranging from kindergarten to university in varies subjects, from language to mathematics and sciences. He pointed out two challenges that we may face while implementing collaborative mobile game learning into classroom as follows:

An expert of the domain is required to design the structure of the curricular, so that later on an integration of these components into the learning model could be done. However, teachers are the one who really understands whether this integration makes senses and the reason of having this design. Hence, the teachers’ opinion on the integration is crucial, as they will be using these tools in their teaching and they truly understand the needs and reality of the classroom.

The other issue is maintaining the engagement of the students. Students have to enjoy and be immersed in the software. If the games are too easy, students will get bored and if the game is too difficult, students will just give up. Therefore, the game has to contain a constant increment in its difficulty level, understanding the amount of difficulty between levels of the games is one of the key in designing these games.

The Impact of the Mobile Game-Based Learning on School Learning

Although mobile game-based learning has been considered to incorporate into school learning, it has not changed the way of learning. Professor Nussbaum said that mobile game-based learning had not changed the way of learning, as it is just an important tool. It will not bring change if teachers do not know how to use that tool. For example, you can have the most powerful computer, but without knowing how to use that computer; it may just be a typing machine. In other words, technologies play an important part in learning, however, technologies only act as a tool for learning, they will not imply changes in the way of learning. It is by using these technologies in learning that will imply changes in the way of learning. Hence, it is important for us to understand the ways that we could use these technologies.. Hence, games are just tools; teachers have to understand how to utilize these games. Another reason technology has not changed the way of learning is as the budget of a project finishes, there is no continuity in our projects to promote and implement that project into the classroom. In other words, some researches had proven and shown learning improvements, however these were not brought toward to the implementation stage into the classrooms. The key of promoting the game into a classroom is to first know how to approach games, to understand teachers, and to make teachers become our allies. Secondly, to work with teachers and to show them a way to overcome their learning curves. The learning curve is to swift teachers from negative confident to positive confident of using game based tools into classroom. Third is to understand the college of classroom.

Future Research Direction for Collaborative Mobile Games in Educational Dimension

Professor Nussbaum mentioned that collaborative learning would be the issue for the future: don’t miss the boat. However, it is important to understand the difference between collaboration and corporation, understand how to define independent roles when giving out the tasks, don’t overload (to have simple tasks), don’t put many students in a group – the magic number of a group number is 3. Also it is important to train your teachers since teachers are not ready for collaborate learning and they are new to working collaboratively. Hence, future research would be the integration of collaborative work inside the classroom by providing the necessary tools, and training for teacher to be prepared for this. Finally, the quality of education is not only how you teach, but also what you teach. We are preparing students for college instead of the society. We tend to forget that not all students further their studies into colleges, those who do not go to college are not well prepared when they left schools. Hence, we have to rethink about the subjects taught in school (not what teacher want teach, but what teacher should teach in school). As example video, “Don’t stay in school” by Boyinaband

In summary, during the expert interview, Professor Nussbaum has portrayed his expert domain knowledge on the conception, designing, and implementation of the collaborative mobile games learning from different angles, that can support the researchers and teachers in the pedagogy domain and e-learning filed to incorporate game-based learning to support their learning design. Thanks Professor Miguel Nussbaum again.