From bird to frog

Goal, vision and values

As the goal is to give the developers of the learning game ”All Can Code” an overview of one of the dominant and successful usages of computer games in education in the Danish educational system, our primary vision considerations have dealt with terms that inhabit this field. They have been, as noted in our first blog, found via interviews and observations from practioners within this very practice.

Critical reflection – Inclusion – Engagement – Experimental transformability

As we described the last time these different terms come from a questionnaire, that laid the foundations for an individual interview with a teacher using games on one to one platform and a focus group interview with three teachers within eSport perfomed on their home turf; VoiP. As we talked with them it became visible to us that we needed to go see the actual practice of learning eSports, as to build and understanding for the phenomenon to perhaps be able to isolate and cultivate some of the elements that make eSports a success when it comes to engaging students in creative, goal oriented learning – a hot potato in the field of education in Denmark these years thanks to John Hatties thoughts on visible learning.

To encapsulate the values from above we chose the term Game/Play and have made this our driving force for our design process. As we have begun working with the data we gathered from our last course, methodology, we have found that the two most interesting values are those of inclusion and engagement. This has become visible for us as the terms mostly used by the educators using games and the observations of students partaking in classes of eSports have been predominately those of social inclusion and an eager drive to learn the next move that can better your ability in the game. Note this last observation; the yearn to learn for the betterment of one’s abilities. It is of quite the importance, as it fulfils our value of engagement, critical reflection and experimental transformability. How is this you ask?

The critical reflection became apparent to us as we saw a teacher give the students the task of improving their jungle game (a certain role in the game League of Legends). They were given the knowledge of how experience gathering in the jungle worked via a detailed excel sheet and were let loose in the game after some short show casings from recorded matches. None of the students were given a concrete example to follow. As the students were practicing their jungle game they started analyzing and altering their paths and sequencing of usage of spells and creature camps to clear. Upon analyzing they did so in groups, not created by the teacher, but by themselves, not with the person sitting next to them, but with several of the students sitting scattered in the classroom filled to the brim with seventy-six computers. And thus, the social inclusion started to show itself. But not only as this active showing of a community of practice, but also as a respect from one game-role to another. They became better, they said, at playing their own role by having a better understanding of their teammates roles and they timings these entail. And herein lies the experimental transformability. The game has developed a new, sand-box like feature, in which the player can setup a scenario to fit their exact wish – here the training of jungle paths. They can change the normal layout of the game, so they get what they need to simulate an actual match in which they play the role of a jungler.      

These values, based on how this type of gaming functions, have also influenced our choice of design perspective a great deal. We want to use that of human centered design (HCD), as it builds upon an understanding of the actual usage of the technology from the user’s standpoint, while maintaining the intrinsic value that lies in “All Can Code”, which is that it is a product to be marketed in the Danish educational field (Giacomin 2015).

This also follows what Joesph Giacomin, professor at Human Centered Design Institute, highlights as the importance of the HCD-perspective. He summarizes his take on what this perspectives sums up in the following manner: “The definition of human centered de-sign presented in this paper is fully consistent with Krippendorff’s (Krippendorff 2004) view of a multidisciplinary activity which has as its ultimate goal the clarification of purpose and meaning, and is fully consistent with the assertion that design itself is a pragmatic and empirical approach for making sense of the world around u” (Ibid).

As we conducted our research in the aforementioned course of methodology we based it on a social constructive perspective in which our main focus was that of understanding the field from the users point of view; the actual usage and social interplay in the settings we observed. In this way, we secured an understanding of the phenomenon and gradually found our focus within games, which turned out to be that of eSports. We wish to build on these new insights and how we do this will be unfolded briefly in this blog and even more so in the third installment of our blogs.


Design perspective and its consequences
As we build on Giacomins understanding of HCD and try to understand the field from a social constructive perspective we enhance our understanding of both the users view and thereby strengthen the odds of developing a successful business (Ibid). He elaborates on the link between business strategy and HCD by stating that “businesses have shifted their emphasis away from matters of technology and manufacture, moving instead towards a growing preoccupation with how their products, systems or services are perceived and experienced by the consumer (Verganti, 2009)” (Giacomin 2015). He also cites Eric Von Hippel (2007) from MIT for stating that a business today in “70% – 80% of new product development” will fail for not understanding their targeted groups actual needs and ways of using technology and being around them. These understandings are derived by multiple different tools/methods herein for instance “game playing” and “ethnographic interviews”, just to name few (Ibid).

This perspective enforces that we, as researchers, can’t perceive nor determine how a certain prototype will be used, but by engaging with and empathising with the targeted group, we can better the understanding and raise probability of success. It is not a theoretical determination of the products use that will grant it success, measured in actual usage, but the everyday understanding and engagement of the product.

Design context

Figur 1: Now-scenario. For bigger image follow:

Designvision og designmanifest:
In the ”now-scenario” we meet our two main characters of Anja and Kim. Anja represents the individual gamer, whose motivation is dropping as she has been told to play a game by herself in her public school with the goal of learning mathematics. Kim is both motivated and engaged as part of a community of practice in his eSport school. However, the learning curve is extremely steep and Kim needs preexisting knowledge just to participate in the education.  In the scenario there are some interesting factors like motivation, interdisciplinarity and social constructs. They are all a frustration for Anja, as she receives none of these benefits from hear learning game, with goal of learning a certain subject.  Kim on the other hand is delighted to be met with all of these. Our vision is to isolate and transfer some of these traits from eSports to see if they can be implemented in other subjects via for instance All Can Code. Albeit, not by making All Can Code an eSports-title, but by getting an understanding for what ticks the right boxes for the students in eSports aside from the game title itself.

Our targeted group is that of students that receive education within eSports. But also, we wish to know how teachers use eSports and think and exercise their practice within it. In this manner, we follow the object; eSports as a medium for learning in an educational context. The reasoning for following both paths so far is how the game All Can Code functions. It is a game that, primarily, aims at assisting in the education of coding – learning how to code, to be specific. But, the games potential can do so much more. The interdisciplinarity-dimension of eSports is what we are after and this makes the student the teacher as well. The students themselves can code games for one another and create games. So for now, we have spoken to, and observed, the teachers, but during easter we will try and speak with the students of eSports and find our angle to create a workshop, that can test the different elements of eSports we wish to isolate. In this way our “visions manifest” becomes to include teachers and students and to look at innovation and interdisciplinarity.

Our design vision is relevant for our design context as it can be both frightening and challenging the historical practice in a teacher – student relationship, as noted by Ellen Møllenbech in relation to study of games in education ( 2016).

These challenges may lie within a technological understanding from both teachers and students, but also just in understanding the world from where the students come from – is their knowledge build on fiction or fact? (Mikkelsen 2015). In our focus group interview we were told that teachers from other subjects were interested in eSports as a medium, but the eSports-teacher did not engage in this mode 2 thinking as put forth by Michael Gibbons in “The new Production of Knowledge” from 1994. They directly said that they couldn’t even see themselves teach students in another game then their own, let alone another subject.

It is from this ledge we stand and desire to become cartographers in the field of eSports. Which elements does the subject (eSports) use that creates a motivating and including setting, that engages students in critical reflection via experimenting and transforming with and on the medium with which they interact to learn?

On this we build our future scenario – a platform that houses these certain elements from eSport-subjects. It is an important distinction for us that we do not look to make All Can Code into an eSports-game, merely to give it the possibility of seeing one way in which computer games are successful in the Danish Schooling system.

Future scenario

Figure 2: Future-scenario. For image follow:


Our revised vision
With human centered design as the chosen perspective we have a focus on engaging in our research as openminded and unprejudiced as possible. Bearing this in mind we seek an understanding for how the phenomenon works when games are being used as eSports in a learning environment. This forces us not to have an end product to guide us, but let the users of eSports guide the way and give us focus. By obtaining this empathy we will have to engage with the users and see practice form their point of view, so that our end product gets as high a chance of enriching their everyday experience. This again links up with Giacomins observations of business design and HCD as a fruitful combination. Our approach thus becomes to better our understanding of the engaging and including aspects of the field, so it becomes possible for us to advise the creators of All Can Code with a stronger, empathic weight to our arguments.  


Our revised vision thereby becomes to create an advisory view over how certain elements derived from eSports may strengthen the implementation of computer games in Danish education. Here primarily at the level of primary schools.

Our design question:

  • How can we confer an understanding of the current state of games used in an educational setting that may enhance a motivated and social learning based at primary schooling by observing and engaging with users of these schools in connection with their use of these products in their practice/field and thereby attempt to isolate some of these factors that generate success right now?

Design perspective

In HCD there is a general understanding, as designer, that any and all problems may be solved. Even those that may seem insurmountable. Therefore, we believe that there is a solution in which computer games may become a learning medium that reaches its potential and becomes a perk rather than a frustration for teachers and students alike.

Our ideas and methods for the usage of HCD stems from This approach differs from other deisgn based research strategies such as participatory design by not necessarily inviting user to join the actual design process of the prototype. This was not opted to being the best approach for this particular case as we already have a prototype (All Can Code and eSports) and thus we want to observe the actual usage of these to achieve a better understanding of what happens in this interaction to better it for the users of the field. It could very well be that Kostas Karolemas, the creator of All Can Code, used this design process however, as he revealed that he had used play testers to develop his game.

Human-centered design has three key phases

The first phase is the Inspirational phase, where we as designers have to go out and meet the people for whom we are designing. As stated earlier this will become our target group – for now it will be students, but earlier it was teachers. This is done in order to generate an in depth understanding and empathy for the target group to better understand their needs. The gatekeepers here are the students and teachers of the field as they are the users and practitioners. This understanding will be achieved through interaction and interviews with this group, as stated earlier.

In the second phase, Ideation phase, the goal is to make sense of all that was learned through phase one og identify the possible design schemes that may generate prototypes to solve the problems found. In this case how to motivate and engage the students via computer games.

In the third phase, Implementation phase, we breath life to our solution and set it free in the world. Sounds like a movie, but the idea is that we now have a prototype that sums up what the needs are of the targeted group.

I course of this we diverge and converge from stages of dreaming of all sorts of solutions to focusing on what holds the best possible chance of bettering the practice or field. In this case, which elements might best be isolated from eSports to better the chance of success for All Can Code in an educational setting in Denmark (figure 3).

Figur 3: fra, (2015) The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design side 13.

Anytime during the design process, we must create prototypes of the solution that is being worked on. In this manner, our idea of a solution has the chance to actually be tested and probed by the target group by going from our heads to the hands of the users. Our design process will follow that of figure 3. During our methodology course, we kept on being in phase one and for some time now we have stepped more over into phase two.

It is important to us that there, with HCD, empaphisis is on the following cornerstone of the design perspective: “Embrace Ambiguity we want to give ourselves the permission to explore lots of different possibilities so that the right answer can reveal itself.” (Martin i (2015)). We will therefore return to phase one, Inspiration, here in the design course. This will be done during the following weeks as we have worked on fixing our design perspective and the methods with which we worked in the inspirational phase. We plan on following solutions to our design question in different avenues.


This blogpost is written by: παιχνίδι υπολογιστή

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