Supplementing Elementary Science Learning
with Multi-player Digital Board Game:
A Pilot Study
Sasivimol PREMTHAISONG & Niwat SRISAWASDI*
Faculty of Education, Khon Kaen University, Thailand
Abstract: Educational games or serious games are playing an important role to facilitate today’s
student learning preferences and promote their motivation to learn in subject contents.
Currently, many researchers revealed that digital game-based learning could promote students'
motivation and their interest for learning by addressing abstract and complicated concept with
mechanics of game. To examine a preliminary effect of supplementing primary school students’
learning in science, a multi-player digital board game has been created and then implemented
to 6 third-grade students (1 male and 5 females) in a local public school in the northeastern part
of Thailand. They received the board game learning experience in a 100-minutes supplementing
activity after their completion of conventional science lesson on living and non-living things.
The results showed that they positively accepted the learning and playing with digital board
game in general science topic about living things and non-living things. Furthermore, the
students expressed positive perception towards the learning by playing with the digital board
game. The main contribution of this study using digital board game-based learning to enhance
students learning perception in science learning.
Keywords: digital game, game-based learning, educational game, collaborative inquiry,
The advancement of digital technology in education could be used to promote authentic and active
learning for new generation learner. In recent years, educators, researchers, developers, and teachers
have attempted to apply digital game technology to create edutainment learning environment by adding
educational purposes into digital games that are educational games or serious games (Cheng et al.,
2013). Digital game-based learning is a pedagogical type of constructivist-oriented learning approach
that has positive learning outcomes for students. According to the popular of digital game and its
important role in our society, particularly younger generation or children who like to play game as a
favorite, many studies have demonstrated that educational digital game could be used to promote
student learning performances and their learning motivation (Wang & Chen, 2010; Liu & Chu, 2010;
Harris & Reid, 2005). In the same way, Sung and Hwang (2013) collaborates a game-based learning
environment by integrating a grid-based mindtool for students to share and organize during the game-
playing process. Moreover, developing game-based learning could enhance students’ motivation,
perception and learning outcome in science class (Meesuk & Srisawasdi, 2014; Kitchawalit &
Srisawasdi, 2015; Hiangsa, Srisawasdi, & Feungchen, 2015; Kanyapasit & Srisawasdi, 2014;
Srisawasdi & Panjaburee, 2019). These results revealed that the pedagogical applications of educational
digital game could enhance not only students’ learning achievement but also their attitude towards
learning and motivation to learn in science courses.
Due to the growth of digital technology in today’s society, digital board game is one of learning
technology that used to engage today students’ learning, and also foster their motivation and interest in
the learning of content subjects (Agca & Özdemir, 2013). The potential of digital board game in order
to promote students’ attitudes toward learning and increase their learning performance has been
mentioned by educational researchers and developers. In the learning with digital board game, it is
similar to playing with a computer game that can make student learning more enjoyable and challenge
So, H. J. et al. (Eds.) (2020). Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Computers in Education.
Asia-Pacific Society for Computers in Education
in order to accomplish their own learning. The term of digital game refers to any game played using
electronic device that employs consistent rules or constraints, has a clear goal, provides feedback and
monitors progress via scores or other methods. The digital board game made of a game board,
illustration cards, a text description, and some digital characteristics that players could use to interact
with the game. In addition, a digital board game provides an interactive and interesting platform for
learner. For instances, Zheng, Cheng and Chen (2018) integrated board game into computer software
(called organ savior game) to explore students learning effectiveness in the health and physical course.
These results showed that using organ savior game can enhance students’ learning achievement. By the
way, Juior, et. al (2020) designed a board game consisting of one physical board, a few cards, and one
mobile application about the reactions of organic compounds. The result of this study indicated that this
kind of game could be effective learning tool to support students better learning in the organic reactions.
Furthermore, using a digital board game in vocabulary languages learning can enhance students’
learning interest (Ali, et al., 2018). Consequently, digital board game seem to be a pedagogic choice as
technology-enhanced science learning that could apply to promote students’ learning in science-
oriented concepts. As such, it should be utilized as pedagogic learning tool in order to transform and
create an innovative learning approach in science education.
2. Literature Review
2.1 Game-based Learning in Education
In the last decade, several researchers have attempted to integrate content knowledge with games for
learning that calls educational games or serious games (Sorensen & Meyer, 2007; Stone, 2008). Using
games in education has demonstrated positive learning outcomes. For example, Hsu, Tsai and Wang
(2012) investigated the effect of using a computer game with the self-explanation principle in
elementary school about light and shadow. This finding showed that students have a high-engagement
in terms of the posttest and the retention test. In the same way, game features could affect the
development of children's engagement (Ronimus et. Al., 2014). Furthermore, various studies have
explored students' motivation by using the game in education. For instance, Huizenga, et. al., (2009)
used a mobile game that calls Frequency 1550 in education integrated situation with active learning to
enhance students' motivation and historical knowledge for History in general and the topic of the Middle
Ages in particular. Similarly, Gamlo (2019) demonstrated that the use of mobile-game based language
learning applications (MGBLLAs) could improve students' motivation to learn English.
2.2 Digital Board Game in Education
Recently, many different types of educational games are used and applied for learning in school. The
board game is one of the educational games to enhance students' motivation, perceptions, and
participation of learning in the classroom. Moreover, many researchers have developed a board game
with digital technology suitable for students in the 21st century. Zheng, Cheng, and Chen (2018) used
an electronic board game called organ savior game to teach health and physical education for elementary
school students. This research demonstrated that students could enhance learning achievements in
learning human internal organs and health information. Using a digital board game for the purpose of
vocabulary learning in language can supports students to learn vocabulary (Ali et. al., 2018).
According to the aforementioned, Digital board game is an essential educational tool for all
student to relate with content knowledge and provide students interaction through physical devices to
develop students' knowledge learning. Furthermore, integrating a learning subject with a digital board
game can improve students' learning affectiveness. For instance, Wu, Chen and Huang (2014) provided
a digital board game language learning set for English classroom learning. This study found that
instruction could be improved communicative skills and intrinsic motivation for EFL language learning.
Consequently, our research attempted to integrate a digital board game with content knowledge to apply
for classroom learning.
3. Research Methodology
3.1 Research Design
The one-group posttest only design was set up to study the effect of using game-based learning with a
board game for science learning about living things and non-living things. This research used qualitative
methodology as the study platform. Qualitative research methodology within phenomenological
research design was used to explore primary school students’ perceptions towards supplementing
science learning with digital board game.
The participants of this study were six third-grade students (one male and five females), age ranging
from 8-9 years old in a university-based school located in the northeastern region of Thailand.
An interview protocol has been developed for this study regarding the theory of Technology Acceptance
Model (TAM) in order to examine students’ learning perception after interacting with a supplementing
digital board game crated by the authors. (Davis, 1993)
Data Collection and Analysis
The preliminary study has been conducted in a primary school science course, in a topic of living things
and non-living things, by the first author. Figure 1 illustrates the experimental method of this pilot study.
As showed in the Figure 1, the science teacher, the first author, introduce a conceptual summary of
living and non-living thing lesson to the students. Then, an introduction of how to play and learn with
a proposed digital board game, shortly called Living or Not game, and its playing rules has been
presented by the teacher. The students were allowed to interact with the game in group as multi-player
approach and turn-based playing. Before ending the class, the teacher and students collaborated in a
conclusion about the living and non-living things concepts by recalling what they received during the
game and classifying them into living or non-living things. After completing the proposed lesson, all
students took a post-interviewing to measure their perceptions for 10-15 minutes each.
Figure 1. An illustration of the experimental procedure of this study
Game Design – Living things and Non-living Things
The design of the game is similar to the well-known snake-ladder game, which is a kind of common
game made for board game and used by two or more players. Ladder snakes are interesting game that
use dice to define how many steps a box has to go through. The researchers designed game attributes
and its mechanics and rules following the snake ladder game for producing the Living or Not game.
With the support of mobile technology, the Living or Not game is an interesting digital mobile game in
a combination of board game, card game, and digital game by their nature.
For the Living or Not game, there are 30 scannable cards consisting of two types of cards: living
things cards and non-living things cards. To begin the game, all players have to put their pieces in the
starting position on the gameboard. Afterward, to get a card, the players have to roll the dice and go to
a piece obtained. Then, the players can open a card as a piece picture obtained via the game, and the
image on each card is connected with a specific mobile application for the game, which could be
scanned and see the selected things by this mobile application, on mobile device’s screen which this
research used IPAD device. The board of the game consists of 30 boxes inside. There are many pictures
of cards about living and non-living things in the boxes. Moreover, there is a conceptual question for
each card displaying after the user scanning by mobile application. If the players answer correctly, a
reward would be presented on the mobile application. On the other hand, if the player answers wrongly,
a punishment would also be presented as well. Figure 2 shows an example of gaming steps by using the
digital board game.
Figure 2. An illustration of gaming steps with the living thing or not digital board game
The content in the Living or Not game is about the theme of living things and non-living things.
The board game development is focused on playing about the characteristics of living and non-living
things. As such, players would learn to know different characteristics and how to classify a type of
living and non-living things as the contained in each card. In the game, there are seven characteristics;
growing, reproduction, breathing, eating, moving, responding, excretion. The game step is performed
by the player in turn until one of the players successfully place on the last box and say the word “Finish”,
or the teacher limited the timing to play with the game. Figure 3 of a learning process by using digital
Furthermore, the Living or Not game has been designed for students in multi-player style and
turn-based task. Therefore, they can play it in groups or individuals in the classroom or even playing
with their parents at home.
Figure 3. An illustration of learning process by using digital board game
4. Research Result and Discussion
This study purposes to examine primary school students’ perception towards a supplemented digital
board game in a science class. This study demonstrates its qualitative findings regarding the students’
perception. Meanwhile, data that was collected qualitatively; more specifically interviews, were coded.
Thus, the results of the study “S1” refers to “Student 1”, “S6” stands for “Student 6”, respectively.
Generally, these results show an important need for a digital board game in science learning.
These results demonstrated that participants provided positive feedback when asked about their views
on the use of a digital board game in their science learning. The students provided positive comments
when asked about their views on the use of a digital board game in science learning.
From the view of Technology Acceptance Model (TAM), perceived ease of use, perceived
usefulness, user satisfaction and attribute of usability are supposed to be related to using digital board
game in science learning. Moreover, researchers adapted the TAM to consist of learning aspects and
playing aspects after interacting with the digital board game. From table 1, the Item 1 about learning
perspective, one of the students explained that “Yes, a game has information about the characteristics
of living things. For example, a human can reproduction or evolution". The perspective was reflex by
S1, S5, and S6 in which they felt that "I can know that what is living things or non-living thing”. Item
2, the view was commented by S1, S2, S4, and S6, they believed that “Yes, it [digital board game] is
useful. We can answer questions, for example, Can it move?, Can it reproduce? Can it excrete? and so
on”. Item 3, S2, S3, S5, and S6 noted that “It [digital board game] is easy because i can divide about
characteristics of living and non-living things through IPAD”. Item 4, all of students mentioned that
“This game is good because it has knowledge”. Item 5, one of the students alluded that “Sure, because
i like to use a smartphone on learning”. In the same way with S1, S2, S4, S5, and S6 mentioned that "I
want to play a game again". The learning of living things and non-living things through digital board
game learning environment supports to learn by themselves.
Table 1. Perspective of Students’ Perception with Digital Game Based Learning
Do you think a game could be a tool for learning science by yourself? Why
or why not?
Do you think the game can support your learning about living things or
non-living things? How?
Do you think it is easy to learn about living things or non-living things by
using the game? How?
Does the game is good for your learning experience? How?
If you need to learn about living things or non-living things, will you use
the game? How?
Do you think a game could be a tool for playing science by yourself? Why
or why not?
Do you think the game can support your playing about living things or
non-living things? How?
Do you think it is easy to play about living things or non-living things by
using the game? How?
Does the game is good for your playing experience? How?
Do you think it is a tool that can use to play the game? How to play?
For the playing perspective after interacting digital board game, these results showed Item 6,
“Yes, I can because it [digital board game] enjoys because we can think and see a card by ourselves
through the iPad” as mentioned by S1, S3, S4, and S6. For item 7, As S1, S2, S4, and S6, they believed
that “This game has useful because we can play and learn together”. The view of item 8 was echoed by
S1, S3, S4, S5, and S6 in which they felt that Student A “It [digital board game] is easy to play because
we just roll the dice and use the iPad to play a game”. S5 referred that “It [digital board game] is very
good because it [digital board game] is enjoyable and easy to play.” for the view of item 9. For the last
item, S2, and S5 noted that “Yes, i can play with my younger brother. I can teach him how to play a
This qualitative study was shown students' perception of digital game-based learning using the
Technology Acceptance Model. This study also found that students perceived digital board game as fun
and interactive tool. In addition, digital board game can be played at spare time, play with family or
friend, review science content after the learn finished and makes learning a fun process. Related to a
previous study indicated that the participants mentioned that digital learning can promote the experience
more enjoyable and interesting (Mora, Loreto, & Divitini, 2016). Similarly, Chik (2014) demonstrated
that playing a game with other communities of players could extend students' vocabulary and enhance
students' language skills. Furthermore, by developing the digital board game, the game is improved with
several visual and sound which makes it a good educational tool that promotes pleasure, enjoyment,
and motivation of students (Sahrir, Zainuddin, & Nasir, 2016). These finding could use to refine on
digital game-based lesson that encourage better student learning.
5. Conclusion and Future Study
In this study, researchers purpose to investigate the perception of a digital board game among
elementary students in science learning specifically in living things and non-living things. From the
results, it seems clear that most students believed that digital board game could enhance their knowledge
about living things and non-living things. They have positive perception to the digital game-based
science learning with a board game. Based on the results of this study, it is presented that the digital
board game has a great tool for support more innovative science classroom education method in 21st
century. According to the preliminary findings, the researchers will design board game-based learning
with appropriate pedagogy to promote students’ learning performance in the next study.
This contribution was financially supported by Khon Kaen University Demonstration School
International Division, Faculty of Education, Khon Kaen University, Thailand. The authors would like
to express gratefully thanks school principal and all participants involved in this study.
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