Classroom games studied

January 08, 2004, vol. 29, no. 1
By Julie Ovenell-Carter

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For education professor David Kaufman, a $3-million SSHRC (INE) grant will mean four years of fun and games - and intense research.

Kaufman, who also serves as director of SFU's learning and instructional development centre, is leading a team of 18 researchers, 14 partners and more than 25 students from across Canada to investigate the educational value of games and simulations, particularly in the field of health care.

The project, Simulations and advanced gaming environments (SAGEs) for learning, builds on Kaufman's interest in games and simulations as aids to learning.

The former professor of medical education and director of faculty development at Dalhousie University has long used such methods in his own classroom.

He says his team will determine how best to design and implement SAGEs for learning, and how to adapt existing educational methods to include SAGEs. In addition, they will examine which SAGEs and instructional methods are most effective in different educational settings.

Although the research has broad applications, this project will focus on improving the delivery and promotion of health care in Canada. SAGEs can be applied to clinical, surgical, and interpersonal skills development.

Examples of current SAGEs include a game to improve recognition of heart attack symptoms, a diabetic patient simulator used by medical professionals and patients alike, and a simulation used by nursing schools to demystify the social world of drug users.

SAGESs also have the potential to help contain Canada's spiraling health care costs by delivering preventive health information to the public in a user-friendly way.

For example, SFU education professor Suzanne deCastell, a member of Kaufman's team, is currently developing an internet simulation game to teach children about contagious diseases.

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