Lightning Talk Digital Humanities Australasia 2018

Making the familiar strange and the strange familiar: bridging the gap between the digital and the physical through a location-based mobile learning game (51)

Jeanne-Marie JM Viljoen

This paper will present a case study in humanities education that employs a location-based, collaborative, mobile-learning game to guide students in a learning activity that mediates their interactions with the real world around the river Torrens and City West precinct of Adelaide. The aim is to discuss how the use of this digital tool might enhance our ability to make connections between disparate ways of thinking, pedagogies and cultures to tackle the challenge of these students feeling isolated and possibly even dropping out of their courses. This mobile learning game has been designed for students in the elective course English for Academic Use in Australia. The profile of these students is that they all speak English as an additional language and are largely new arrivals in Adelaide. They mostly come from highly literate and tech savvy backgrounds in Asian countries, where they may already have a university degree. However, their educational backgrounds often mean that they are acquainted with more passive pedagogies very different to those in Australia. Furthermore, research shows that students like these tend to drop out of university when they come to countries such as Australia because they feel that they are unable to socialise and collaboratively interact with and question local peers, often an essential component of learning in an Australian university classroom. The mobile learning game introduces them to local culture and history. In the game they get to view street art at the Montefiore road underpass, run their hands along bronze statues of possums at the Piltawadli memorial and smell the Torrens River water. Their responses to these experiences are mediated via the game that structures their interactions. They are given points for using certain language structures in English and describing their feelings as they find their way around the local environment in groups guided by the GPS software in the game. The game specifically aims to merge the digital and the natural environment into a virtual experience that extends these students beyond their comfort zone and the world of their mobile phones. The game’s purpose is to help students to venture out with more confidence to have enjoyable and meaningful interactions when they come face-to-face with local peers, because they have been given some exposure to the local environment, languages and cultures and have been able to practice interacting with it in different ways and on their own terms.