Legends of Alkhimia: Fostering Authentic Learning of Chemistry within Fictionalized Game Environments
Project ID: NRF2007IDM005MOE006
NRF Funding: S$1.3m
The project in a nutshell:
Legends of Alkhimia is a multi-player computer game designed to foster authentic learning of chemistry in fictionalized game environments. It is part of a broader learning program for lower secondary school chemistry designed to help students understand chemistry through situated practice. Student learning involves extended problem solving in the context of performing scientific inquiry.
In the game, students have to solve the mystery of recent strange happenings in the once sleepy town of Alkhimia. In tackling this challenge, students engage in doing chemistry to create effective weapons that can repel marauding monsters that appear out of nowhere and to fulfill missions for the good of various inhabitants of the town. They slowly become acquainted with the legends of Alkhimia. They learn that not all is as it appears . . .
The pedagogy of game-based learning in Legends of Alkhimia involves the dialectic relation between experiential and dialogic learning within a developmental trajectory of chemistry competence gained through chemistry performance. By engaging in the learning program, students develop a practical sense with and of chemistry as a professional domain of practice. In so doing, they appropriate the habitus of professional practice and develop the values and dispositions of critical reflexivity and epistemological vigilance. In short, they learn to become chemists.
Screen snapshots from the game:
The chemistry lab
Battling the mechanical spider
The project has two overriding aims: (1) to identify basic principles for designing educational digital game software such that players enact the authentic professional practices of a specific field of study, namely chemistry, while pursuing fictional but nevertheless meaningful game goals; (2) to evaluate the effectiveness of chemistry learning arising from the introduction of fictional goals in authentic professional practice game environments.
A basic premise is that, despite the fictive nature of game goals, the in-game meaning of the goals, in a well-designed game, will be significant enough to provide a context that allows students to develop deep and lasting praxis-based understanding of the subject matter. As part of the design process, we propose to identify the design principles related to (1) codifying the tacit knowledge associated with professional disciplines into gameplay, (2) re-creating authentic practices in a fictional setting, and (3) associating authentic practice with fictional game goals. We propose to undertake a process of iterative design and development based on constructing an educational digital game, on the subject of basic chemistry at the Secondary 1/Secondary 2 level, which is consonant with the stated principles. Classroom-based intervention research will be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of the game with respect to the design principles that it embodies and to the learning of chemistry situated within its associated epistemic frame.
Alpha Development Level 1 Prototype (28 August 2009)
In the final scene, the blue-haired player's ammunition is of limited effectiveness against the metallic monster because the separation technique he employed in the chemistry laboratory on the original mixture (comprising an acid contaminated by sand) was not a very effective one. Consequently, his ammunition is still a partial mixture, and this results in it having lower effectiveness against the monster as well as causing occasional jamming of his weapon. In contrast, the green-haired player separated the original mixture effectively. Consequently, his ammunition comprises a pure acid that has much greater effectiveness when used against the metallic monster.
New screenshots (added 11 June 2010):
Talking to in-game characters in Alkhimia
Unexpected chemical reaction when performing an experiment
In-game player notebook which serves as a player's scientific inquiry journal
Battling dragon tortoises in the lava-strewn cavern
Chee, Y. S., Tan, K. C. D., Tan, E. M., & Jan M. F. (2009). Learning chemistry with the game "Legends of Alkhimia": Pedagogical and epistemic bases of design-for-learning and the challenges of boundary crossing. In Kim, M., Hwang, S. W., & Tan, A. L. (Eds.), Proceedings of the International Science Education Conference (pp. 273292). Singapore: National Institute of Education. [pdf]
Chee, Y. S. (2010). Possession, profession, and performance: Epistemological considerations for effective game-based learning. In Cai, Y. (Ed.), Interactive and digital media for education in virtual learning environments (pp. 724). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
Jan, M. F., Chee, Y. S., & Tan, E. M. (2010). Learning science via a science-in-the-making process: The design of a game-based learning curriculum. In S. Martin (Ed.), iVERG 2010 Proceedings International Conference on Immersive Technologies for Learning: A multi-disciplinary approach (pp. 1325). Stockton: Iverg Publishing. [pdf]
Jan, M., Chee, Y. S., & Tan, E. M. (2010). Unpacking the design process in design-based research. In K. Gomez, L. Lyons, & J. Radinsky (Eds.), Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the Learning Sciences, Volume 2 (pp. 470-471). International Society of the Learning Sciences: Chicago IL. [pdf]
Chee, Y. S. (2010). Game-based learning as performance: The case of "Legends of Alkhimia". In B. Meyer (Ed.), Proceedings of the 4th European Conference on Games Based Learning (pp. 4754). Reading, UK: Academic Publishing. [pdf]
Jan, M., Chee, Y. S., & Tan, E. M. (2010). Changing science classroom discourse toward doing science: The design of a game-based learning curriculum. In S. L. Wong, S. C. Kong, & F. Y. Yu (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Conference on Computers in Education (pp. 543547). APSCE. [pdf]
Chee, Y. S. (2011). Possession, profession, and performance: Epistemological considerations for effective game-based learning. In Cai, Y. (Ed.), Interactive and digital media for education in virtual learning environments (pp. 118). New York, NY: Nova Science Publishers.
Chee, Y. S., Tan, K. C. D., Tan, E. M., & Jan, M. (2011). Learning chemistry through inquiry with the game Legends of Alkhimia: An evaluation of learning outcomes. In D. Gouscos & M. Meimaris (Eds.), Proceedings of the 5th European Conference on Games Based Learning (pp. 98–105). Reading, UK: Academic Publishing. [pdf]
Chee, Y. S. (2011). Learning as becoming through performance, play, and dialog: A model of game-based learning with the game Legends of Alkhimia. Digital Culture & Education, 3(2), 98–122. [pdf][html]
Chee, Y. S., Tan, K. C. D., Tan, E. M., & Jan, M. (in press). Learning chemistry performatively: Epistemological and pedagogical bases of design-for-learning with computer and video games. To appear in K. C. D. Tan, M. Kim, & S. W. Hwang (Eds.), Issues and challenges in science education research: Moving forward (Chapter 16). Berlin: Springer.