Blending formal and informal learning environments: The case of SAVE science

Diane Jass Ketelhut, Brian Nelson

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

2 Scopus citations


This study explored how children attending a national science and engineering fair with their families engaged with a serious game, SAVE Science, designed for assessing science learning in the classroom. The SAVE Science project, Situated Assessment using Virtual Environments of Scientific Content and Inquiry, investigates the use of virtual environment-based adventures for assessing science content and inquiry in middle grades. One of the typical characteristics that separates formal schooling from informal learning is the seriousness and structure applied to curricula and instruction. However, the boundaries between the two are blurring as schools incorporate play, albeit serious play, into classroom practice while social media is driving community-based knowledge building. As a result of this blurring, our team wondered how children would engage with a serious game designed for formal science assessment in an informal setting. In our booth at this weekend event, several iPads were set up with two SAVE Science game-based assessments for children to play with. Support personnel simply helped children initiate the games, but let them engage independently. Once completed, children were asked the question "how do you learn science with videogames?" During the event, 54 children ranging from 7-12 years of age played at least one the complete game, and then stayed to add thoughtful, anonymous responses to this prompt. Analysis showed that participant responses fell into five major categories. In order of prevalence, they are: 1. how videogames can help you learn science, 2. why videogames are engaging, 3. specific things that a videogame can teach, 4. what was learned in these specific games, and 5. how videogames can also teach about math and app design. Results demonstrated that these children, when faced with many fun choices in a science fair, found our serious assessment games as appropriate and engaging in an informal setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 10th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2016
EditorsLiz Boyle, Liz Boyle, Thomas M. Connolly, Thomas M. Connolly
PublisherDechema e.V.
Number of pages5
ISBN (Electronic)9781911218098
StatePublished - 2016
Event10th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2016 - Paisley, United Kingdom
Duration: Oct 6 2016Oct 7 2016

Publication series

NameProceedings of the European Conference on Games-based Learning
ISSN (Print)2049-0992


Conference10th European Conference on Games Based Learning, ECGBL 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Design
  • Engagement
  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Virtual Environment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Computer Graphics and Computer-Aided Design
  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Education


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