Clementina Gentile + Northernlight / TU Delft, Design for Interaction
The project builds a fun, educational and integrated student experience. The different touchpoints used throughout the journey arc––and how they work in concert to achieve student learning objectives––were well-considered. High-quality artefacts engage users over physical and digital channels, and across time and space, and are commendable. Beyond end-users (the students), the designers also took care to create a smooth, intuitive experience for implementing stakeholders, from museum curators to schoolteachers. They also ensured there was alignment between design and business, and present a compelling business case for the implementing museum.
1. The Nutshell: In plain language, tell us what your project is, what it does, and what it’s comprised of.
Museumvirus is an educational game divided in 3 phases. The first phase takes place at school. Through an online game played on the interactive white-board children identify themselves with different virus profiles. In the second phase the 4 virus groups, with the help of decoding glasses, read 4 sets of secret messages spread allover the museum exhibition. In this way they can answer a set of questions and obtain a secret code. In the third phase, back at school, with the secret code students access the last part of the online game: a interactive story with animated visuals.
2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The museum was looking for a new educational program for children targeted exhibitions. The main challenge posed was to create an engaging educational activity in which the museum visit would be only one part of a more complex playful experience, extended also to the school context. The design criteria defined by the museum were related to the modality of interaction: the activity should have been digital at school, possibly using the interactive white-board, whereas it should have been kept as much as possible low-tech and physical in the museum. Moreover the educational program was supposed to be adaptable to the diversity of the contents featured in the different exhibitions and it should have been possible not only to school classes, but also to families and individual children to access to the activity, at least to part of it.
3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
The main intent of the designer was to bridge the gap between traditional education and the non-standard learning practice which children experiment and get acquainted with through media ecologies such as web-based games and on-line communities. Game design and gamification were useful tools to understand the weaknesses and the potential of the current situation in terms of engagement. A framework of playful and engaging experience was built in order to have a theoretical basis which could be used as an analytical tool as well as a design tool. The four different components of an experience (emotional, sensorial,spatio-temporal and compositional thread) were considered under an engagement perspective, combining them with game design features.
4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Literature research was useful to gain acquaintance with the state of the art of the different contexts and stakeholders: teenagers attitudes towards education, media and gaming; museum latest trends in terms of education; teaching methods at school involving the interactive white board. Moreover a theoretical framework of playful and engaging experience was created both as an analytical tool and as a design tool. Case studies of museum experiences were analyzed through the framework in order to spot weaknesses and potential of the experiences in terms of engagement and playfulness.
The field research comprehended ethnographic research and creative sessions with children, observational research at school, interviews with teachers, parents, curators and educators from the museum. The result was a set of design criteria and a clear design vision which were the basis for 2 brainstorming session: one with exhibition designers and the other one with the museum curator and educator. Three main ideas were presented to children under the form of a storyboard in order to gain users feedback. The final concept was then implemented in a iterative way, letting children be actively involved in some of the design choices. The contents and guidelines were provided by the museum staff whether the programming was done by a professional programmer. The final game was implemented and tested in a school with teachers and children before it was actually put up and running as the educational program of the museum. The communication strategy (newsletters and conferences for teachers) was planned together with the museum.
5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
The project proposes an educational experience embedded and structured in a service, including in the specific case museum and school. The novelty lays not only in the introduction of game design elements into the learning/teaching practice, but also in the idea of bridging the boundaries of institutions and places, creating a powerful network of expertise and information, merging in a complex and articulated experience different and otherwise scattered activities and realities. It has an impact on the museum approach to educational programs, broadening the range of action of the institution and assigning to the museum a relevant role into a bigger educative system. Balancing virtual gaming and physical group activity, the experience stays attractive for children and educators at the same time, representing a valid alternative to more standard educational methods. Taking as core principles peer-based and interest-driven learning and a reward based on status, the experience succeed in the attempt of shaping traditional education according the example of the emerging learning practices which teenagers are acquainted with.
6. Outline the steps of the service; what are the intended behavioral patterns or “scripts” for the actors interacting with the service?
COMMUNICATION: The educational department of the museum, through newsletters to the schools, communicates the new featured exhibition and introduces the on-line game to be played before the visit.
FIRST PHASE AT SCHOOL: The teacher accesses the online game through the interactive white-board and guides the assignation of the different virus profiles to the children in the classroom. At the end of this phase, the teacher is asked to fill a request form to let the museum know in advance the date of the visit and the number of children per each virus group.
SECOND PHASE AT THE MUSEUM: Once arrived at the museum, each child get at the ticket office a set: a booklet and a pair of decoding glasses. The colour and the contents of the set vary according to the virus group they belong to. In case the class has not played the game at school, signs at the entrance of the exhibition illustrate the 4 virus profiles and invite children to pick one for the visit. Each group has a different set of questions on the booklet. The hints to answer to the questions are spread as secret messages allover the exhibition. They need to find and decode the messages with the decoding glasses. The answers from the 4 booklet will form 4 secret codes.
THIRD PHASE AT SCHOOL: The teacher access the last phase of on-line game through the interactive white-board. Inserting the secret codes, they can play with an interactive story.
7. How did you identify the possible leverage points in the service system? How did you evaluate the importance of each, and determine the mix of interventions that would have the greatest impact?
The power of service design is the ability to create connections and systems, strengthening and empowering the actors of the same system. In the case of Museumvirus, the research showed two cultural and educational institutions (museum and school) sharing the same educative intent and having almost the same troubles in innovating methods and educational perspective. Considering that most of the museum exhibitions targeted at children deal with topics which are part of the school curriculum, the opportunity of connection between the two institution was spotted in terms of a potential composed experience which could embrace two places, two institutions, two approaches in one unique learning experience for children. How to make this learning experience playful and engaging was one of the main issue. In this sense the interactive white-board was seen as a tool which had the potential to bring a new approach to the traditional lesson and which was still not used at its full potential, mainly because of the reluctancy of the teachers. Having the game being introduced by the museum, an institution that the teacher would trust, the designer tried to gain the acceptance of the teacher towards the game itself. Moreover, introducing a game in the school setting, represented the opportunity to let the children be actively involved during the lesson, without having the teacher losing his/her authority. The framework of playful and engaging experience was helpful to spot the weaknesses of the current system and to identify the consequences of specific game design features in terms of experience threads. Manipulating elements such as goals, epic meaning, appointments, teams there was an outcome in terms of the extrinsic and intrinsic motivation, the behavioural richness, the perception of space and time within the experience.