Instructional Mobile Games: Playing with Cognitive Load

Design and Development of Digital Games, Educational Technology, Game Theory, Games, Graduate School, User Experience

Can children learn from playing a mobile game? The answer is yes. Every game teaches something, even tic-tac-toe! Yet, what sort of structure is needed to create a game that successfully teaches a student concepts without making them feel overwhelmed and frustrated with instructional learning materials?

From an instructional design perspective, this is where Cognitive Load Theory comes into play.  What is Cognitive Load Theory? Cognitive Load Theory explains how the brain interacts with instructional materials for learning. Watch the video below for a quick explanation. (I would recommend watching the video with your sound off.)

An intrinsically motivating and engaging instructional tool that can be used in the classroom is a game. From a design perspective, the use of a mobile device is an excellent way to decrease cognitive load because of the reduced capabilities of the device and small screen size, limiting media and potential distractions.  Mobile games, in particular, can be used to discourage extraneous cognitive load (interferes with learning) and encourage germane cognitive processes (resources that aid a task). Games build schemas allowing students to learn the underlying patterns, which are held in long-term memory. Students can then later interact with more complex elements, or patterns, that can be manipulated in working memory.

It is vital that educators, instructional designers, and game developers collaborate and use this practical theory when designing and developing instructional mobile games. Below are 3 guidelines for teams to use:

1. DO scaffold learning.

Design simple to complex experiences by starting with an instructions page and build levels from easy to difficult to increase expertise. Within each level provide hints, prompts, and feedback. There are various features that can be used like speech bubbles, point systems, and message pop-ups.

2. DO build a state of flow.

Build a game with predictable experiences that presents procedural information that brings the student in a state of flow, focused on the tasks. In a state of flow, students are fully immersed in their learning and the game, optimizing user experience.

3. DO playtest game with students.

It is important to test the game with users in order to test the effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction of the student experience. Some important questions recommended to be answered: Did the students learn the concepts that were intended in the design? Were the instructional goals of the game met? Were the students satisfied with their gaming experience? Was it fun?

With cognition in mind, it is crucial to consider all of these factors when designing an instructional game. If all stakeholders take into consideration these design guidelines, a mobile game will potentially be a rewarding learning experience for the users. 

Calling All #femmegamemakers

Design and Development of Digital Games, Games, Women in Tech

Reminiscing Fall ’16 semester, my professor challenged our class with a social media scavenger hunt. She directed our class to hop on Twitter and find tweets that motivate and inspire us. I had a difficult time finding a tweet that made my little brown self want to kick some major ass. So, this blog post is dedicated to all of the girls in the world who dream big and need an empowerment anthem.

I’m lit 🔥  and I’m not talking about a Saturday night sipping on rosé, listening to Beyonce’s “Formation” feelin’ some type of way lit. I’m fired up because after Googling “female game designers” I found that I can count the number of female game designers with practically one hand. This was very unsettling and to no surprise the video game industry is dominated by males, like every other STEM-related job. ESA’s Essential Facts About the Computer and Video Game Industry found that 44% of women are game players. Then, ensued the Twitter rant:


In December of 2016, the White House hosted a Girls Make Games dev workshop. Kudos to Laila Shabir, you’re amazeballs!  Yet, I want more. I want to level-up the femme gaming vision to ensure that game design is not just an optional workshop held over the summer but rigorous game design curriculums accessible in every school for all girls around the world. A scaffolded path where by the end, girls can proudly display their final products that will land them a bright and successful future. Why? Game design is the gateway to learning essential 21st century skills like story-telling, coding, problem-solving, and logic, to name a few.


Not familiar with the #CS4All Movement? Check out my presentation and learn here.

Female game designers still do not have a voice in this MEGA billion dollar gaming industry and I’m determined to change that. We need different perspectives and stories. To all administrators, teachers, parents, and game-changers (pun intended): Young girls have a right to code, design, and create games.

This goes out to all of the little girls who have big dreams and want to invent, play, and make a difference in the world! The world wants to hear your dreams, stories, and wants you to express yourself through game design.

We need young girls & boys to know this isn’t a age where a blonde Princess is in distress & needs rescuing 👊

Design characters! Like a little girl with an afro chasing NASA spaceships or a little brown girl who dances her way through the neighborhood. Code your own game, express yourself, tell your story, and follow ‘what’s inside of you!’

Create. Create. Create.

If you’re a female game designer, game developer, or love making games – tag your posts with #femmegamemakers to share your femme-made game designs, characters, and stories!

In the next 25 years…

Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

In 25 years, intergalactic dinosaurs will roam the Earth. Just kidding!

After binge watching popular sci-fi tv series this past fall, like Black Mirror, Stranger Things, and Wayward Pines, I found myself thinking about what the future will be like. Will we be living in a cubed box with flat built-in screens surrounding us? Are robots going to take over the world? It’s scary how science-fiction isn’t too far off!

One of my professor’s challenged our class with a difficult question:

What do you think the future holds for education, technology, and communications?

In formulating my answer, I looked back at the second blog post I wrote, which was about technology determinism.

Yes, I do believe technology is driving society (very different from my original thoughts — read Technology Determinism: Are you Hard or Soft?) but the money and brains behind those technologies have control of how it will be used by society. Yet, society has control of the way they are using the technologies. Every human being has a choice. It is an ecosystem that feeds one another.

I hold our society, government, giant technology companies, and anyone responsible in creating these new technologies accountable for the future of education and communications.

As an optimistic individual, I do see the future for education, technology, and communications to be bright but I am also weary of the choices humanity makes. After reading The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, I found this science-fiction short-story, written in 1909, had already predicted the many technologies we have today (like video chat) and even so, may predict the future! Drum roll please…

Below are my top 3 predictions of 2041:

1. As technology advances, machines will crash and burn because of the negative effects it has on society. (ie – Uber’s self-driving car)

2. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will impact the way we communicate and interact with the world around us.

3. Government and tech companies will develop laws, ethical and moral practices, and guidelines that will serve and protect society.

I strongly believe humanity can strike a balance between life and life behind the screen. I often get sucked into my little devices, my filter bubbles. There are times I need to conduct a self-evaluation (check myself before I wreck myself) to then quickly realize I need to engage in face-to-face interaction rather than develop neck problems while staring at my phone, get outdoors to appreciate mother nature, and practice mindfulness to detach from the machine.

Knowledge is power. As part of the Teachers College CLMTD graduate program, I hold myself responsible for ensuring that I create and design technologies that are ethical, moral, and serve students with a healthy balance between life and technology.

Thank you, Dr. Gorski, for an unforgettable semester!

Research Plan: Motives in Playing MMORPGs

Game Theory, Games, Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

Diving into the second week of my research plan, I’m determined to complete my research piece this week. My goal is to shape the research behind my driving question, “Why is an individual motivated to continue playing MMORPGs for a long period of time?”

Luckily, I’ve been casted with an intrinsic motivation spell. I’m going to start an introduction which defines MMORPGs, how explain how someone plays the specific game I have chosen for this research project.  It just so happens that yesterday in my Video Games and Education class, Professor Lee discussed motivation and gaming. The theories I found digging through my research articles for Social and Communicative Aspects of ICTs directly correlates with the theories discussed in my Video Games and Education class.

To break down the research I conducted for my study, I have listed all of the articles I am reading and borrowing ideas from – see below:

After reading in Interaction with the game and motivation among players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, I’ve found that there are two theories that I want to include in my plan. One is Richard Bartle’s theory of player types. Bartle explains that there are 4 different types of players: killer, achiever, socializer, and explorer. Each player type is engaged by different factors such as leaderboards, ranks, newsfeed, friends, chat, and achievements. Based on Bartle’s four large player groups, Nick Yee discovered three components in the study Motivations of Play in Online Games, which are achievement, socialization, and immersion. I want to measure how deep these psychological motives are which leads these players to play an MMORPG for a long period time.

I found that the article, Interaction with the game and motivation among players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, was a great start to my research that lead me to read Nick Yee’s study Motivations of Play in Online Games. I’m going to use Yee’s empirical model to asses a player motivations. As a future game designer, this will provide useful information about the users engagement including in-game behaviors and usage patterns. I want to shape the goal of my study around ethical game design and best practices in MMORPGs. It would be excellent to provide grounds for motives causing long term game play based on the game mechanics and dynamics of the game as well the player type.

There has been much progress made since last week, being that I was holding a blank slate. As I continue to read and research, there was a reading two weeks ago that I want to model called Children online: Learning in a virtual community of practice. Since I will be using the same measures to record data, a survey and an interview, I would like to use Angela Thomas’s structure as a model.

…until next check-in!

Critique of Games without Frontiers

Games, Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

I wrote a “think piece” about Young’s article Games without frontiers: On the moral and psychological implications of violating taboos within multi-player virtual spaces. This is such an interesting article because one, I had no clue adult MMORPGs existed and two, I had no clue adult MMORPGs existed. MMORPGs stands for massively multiplayer online role-playing games. Read my critique.

My coworker’s concern about my interest in this topic made me chuckle, especially when he stated, “Andrea, stay away. It gets Furry bad.” These games fascinate me. It’s not the game mechanics or aesthetics of the game that attract me, it’s understanding why people are playing these games. At one point, do the gamers vision actually get blurred between virtual and real worlds?

In these fantasy worlds, a very large number of players create their own avatars to help shape their identities and physical characteristics. The jaw-dropping piece, these gamers murder, eat humans, have sexual relations with animals, and rape. Young defines taboo as a deep disgust and revulsion to a violation of social norm. One of my classmates asked, “What is a “norm” and who defines it?” Society defines a norm. Therefore, I believe a norm is anything that society defines. Young could have and should have done a better job of defining a “social norm” in his article. In real life, society typically does not accept rape, murder, bestiality, or necrophilia. You would think this be true in the virtual world as well. It would only make sense for these violating “taboos” to follow through in the real world…but it’s not.

Gamers argue that it’s just a game, a fantasy world where you can express yourself. Many can argue that there should be real-life consequences for gamers and their actions in the virtual world, like imprisonment. I’d have to agree with the gamers and argue that this is just a game. By playing in this fantasy world, does this define a gamer’s “true self”? This is a strong hell-no! If I play in this virtual adult world and eat a human, I would not identify myself as Hannibal Lector and eat human meat in the real world.

This is why Young proposes future research in the parity of both the virtual and online worlds. He argues that players who truly identify with their avatar and play for long periods of time have a strong sense of parity between both worlds.

Thinking about the future of MMORPGs, a classmate wondered what would happen if adult MMORPGs turned virtual reality? Nothing. I think this would be another enhanced experience for gamers. I would be extremely curious to see if gamers, who play for a long period of time, lose complete sense of the real world in this virtual reality world. I shall research and see!

Technology is Not a Person

Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

While celebrating my birthday dinner at Cask Bar + Kitchen with my husband, I indulged in a great conversation and a delicious plate of lamb nachos. As we waited for our food, I mentioned a TED talk by Sherry Turkle: Connected, but alone? that I watched in the morning on my way to work. I glanced around the bar and I told my husband to look at the man with the cell phone in his hand. He’s with a group of coworkers staring at his mobile device scrolling through his Facebook feed. I heard Sherry’s voice in my head:

“Technology appeals to us most when we are most vulnerable.” – Sherry Turkle

I’m thinking does he not want to be part of the conversation? Is he not interested in what his friends are saying? My husband stated that the gentleman in the blue-collared dress shirt may feel that he is not confident enough to hold a conversation and it seems like his cell phone is his security blanket.

We quickly shift our attention to a group of girlfriends at the opposite corner of the bar. One of the women was perusing through her cell phone almost the entire time. I’m sure she felt connected with all of her friends digitally but she was completely alienated from the jokes, smiles, and good laughs with her friends at the table. We probably should have been minding our own business but these observations contributed to our really great conversation.

“We expect more from technology and less from each other.” – Sherry Turkle

My husband and I strengthen our relationship and connection with meaningful conversations over dinner because one of our “technology boundaries” is to check our phones at the door during meal times. These conversations shape our “real-selves” and the way we view each other.

How are individuals using technology to mold their real-selves? It’s funny to think that the man and woman, who were glued to their mobile devices, could be seen as “social” by their family and friends on Facebook but are alone. According to a study conducted by Zhao, Grasmuck, and Martin, Identify construction on Facebook: Digital empowerment in anchored relationships, “This nonymity of the Facebook environment does seem to make people more “realistic and honest” in their self-presentation, the reduction of “gating obstacles” in the online setting enables the users to “stretch the truth a bit” in their efforts to  project a self that is more socially desirable, better than their “real” offline identity.” I witnessed this “stretching of the truth a bit” first hand.

I’m assuming these two individuals shared a post of their evening out with friends on Facebook. In the photograph, they appear to be having a great time with friends at Cask, laughing and smiling, but are they portraying their real-selves or their virtual-selves?

This leaves me to inquire, are we using technology to replace human interaction to find our true selves? Technology is not a person and will never replace human interaction. A robot cannot feel empathy, a text does not improve self-esteem, and Facebook will not truly identify who we are. Our future hangs on profound questions that Sherry Turkle concludes within her impactful article, Can You Hear Me Now?.  Let’s take a step back, reflect, and make adjustments to make real connections.

“What will we be like, what kind of people are we becoming as we develop very intimate relationships with our machines?”

“Life Online” & the Impact on Students

Games, Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

There are many ways students can pursue a “life online.” Students of all ages use virtual environments, which can include virtual worlds like PokemonGo, Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, or Penguin Club. Students also use social media as another form of taking a “life online.”

In 2007, I was a freshman in college and none of my professors in the Spanish or Education department took part in virtual environments, which is why I may have never heard of Second Life. According to Michael J. Bugeja’s article, Second Thought About Second Life, Second Life is a virtual-reality world created by Linden Lab, in which avatars (digital characters) lease “islands” for real-life purposes — to sell products, conduct classes, do research, hold conferences, and even recruit for admissions. Reading this article startled me and really made me open my eyes and mind. As an educator, I never thought of taking students into a virtual world in the classroom.

Why are these students, colleges, schools even participating in these virtual worlds and social media platforms? Are the educators and administrators really thinking about how this will impact these students academically and socially?

This type of virtual environment grants students anonymity, allowing them to detach from reality. Understanding the fundamental building blocks of these platforms is key. After reading the article, Social media? Get serious! Understanding the Functional Building Blocks of Social Media, the central honey comb of social media is identity. How can students truly identify themselves through an experience that is not real? A student isn’t facing another student, making eye contact, or even seeing the other individual. Being in this virtual environment condemns any real consequences. At what point do students draw the line between reality vs. fantasy?

Aside from these social implications, there are measures of concern to address between student academic achievement and their “life online.” In the study by Kirschner & Karpinski, Facebook and Academic Performance, I found that the study was very vague and clearly needed some peer review. I don’t think that these technologies decrease academic achievement, it makes no difference. It’s interesting how Pasek, more, & Hargittaito break down the issues in Kirschner’s and Karpinski’s study in Facebook and Academic Performance: Reconciling a Media Sensation with Data.

Going back to technology determinism, students have control of their “life online.” They choose to go on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Students are capable of achieving academic success with or without ICT. I strongly believe that it is a matter of time management skills and priorities among each individual student.

In the end, I am 100% positive that the creators of these social media platforms and virtual environments, such as Linden Lab, thoroughly thought about the implications and societal impact these applications or interfaces were going to make among students, faculty members, and colleges around the world. (I’m being sarcastic.) Surprise! To my findings, I come to realize the true motive around education and technology is money.

I took to heart what Michael J. Bugeja suggests for universities and find that it is sound advice, not only for universities but our society as a whole!

“That suggests that universities have rushed into online consumer markets without fully understanding liabilities. Until we do, we must rely on traditional academic standards:

  • Procedure: Send a copy of this article to your campus lawyer, equity officer, accountant, human-resources supervisor, teaching-center director, network administrator, and ombudsman, requesting their opinions about issues raised here.
  • Debate: Hold a public forum and/or a faculty meeting to discuss these issues openly with experts on cyberlaw, new media, technology, gaming, harassment, ethics, and other related disciplines.
  • Research: Go online to view the warnings and disclaimers included in the syllabi of computer-science professors, scholars in studio and fine arts, and in social, forensic, and medical sciences (to name a few) whose real or online environments might expose students to content that some might find potentially offensive.
  • Best practices: Prepare faculty members and students for the Second Life experience in orientations, adopting the policies already in use by campus programs that routinely expose students to unfamiliar environments, such as travel abroad, archaeological digs, social work, internships, and volunteer work.
  • Assessment: Analyze technology use in terms of cost versus learning outcomes and keep files of your institutional efforts to be used in accreditation as well as disputes, documenting that you have addressed these issues.”


Will Education Capitalize on Big Data?

Big Data, Educational Technology, Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

Many educators are weary of using big data in the classroom. I can see why and empathize with many educators. Looking at the bigger picture, there are many decisions that need to be made about the fundamental use of big data by social and cultural researchers. Six provocations for Big Data, by Boyd and Crawford, examines quantitative data by addressing six challenges that will impact future decisions:

  1. Automating Research changes the definition of knowledge
  2. Claims to objectivity and accuracy are misleading
  3. Bigger data are not always better data
  4. Not all data are equivalent
  5. Just because it is accessible doesn’t make it ethical
  6. Limited access to Big Data creates new digital divide

I want to focus on point #5 and #6 regarding ethical issues and the new digital divide. For one, children cannot give consent and two, not all populations have access to Big Data. To further explain accessibility, read the article “13% of Americans don’t use the internet. Who are they?” released by Pew Center Research on September 7th, 2016 by Anderson and Perrin.

We need to question the assumptions and methodologies associated with Big Data in Education. These larger numbers can demonstrate a larger trend but in return, it erases small stories. Common metrics, as described in The Reader-to-Leader Framework, only captures how much activity students are contributing towards the platform or application, meaning how many comments, posts, or progress done for an assignment. This only tells the educator a really small piece of the pie. Big Data cannot capture student’s personality, learning style, what the student has learned or their understanding of a concept. This can open up a whole new can of worms about standardized testing versus project-based learning. I strongly believe that both the macro and micro picture is needed in order to tell the whole story.

Big Data + Small Stories = Whole Story

I’ll leave you off with a video that Dr. Kristin Gorski presented, “Big Data in Education: The Next Revolution” where Kenneth Cuckier, the guru of Big Data in education, believes that education can be customized to individual needs using Big Data.

“The fact is, we need to save our kids from the educational system that was built for a different era, the industrialized, mechanistic, one size fits all assembly line era. We can now tailor it just as we have with apps, Amazon recommendations, and Google searches that are tailored to our interests. We need education that is tailored to our needs and the best way that we learn.” – Kenneth Cuckier

 In the end, can the world of education truly benefit from Big Data?

Technology Determinism: Are you Soft or Hard?

Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

I wish I could express that I have a clear stand about this everlasting debate, technology determinism. Perception and narratives play a huge role in this discussion. Therefore, be prepared to be confused. I love the way one of my classmates, Abby, comically puts technology determinism in its place, “What came first the chicken or the egg?” Based on my past experiences as an educator, it’s very difficult to view technology as the dominant role that drives development in society. Note: Beginning this discussion, I was extremely “soft.”

Technology determinism is beautifully described in Marx and Smith’s article, “Does Technology Drive History?” and “Do Machines Make History?” If you’re on the “hard” end of the spectrum, you truly believe at the bottom of your core that technology drives society. You would say:

  • “The automobile created suburbia.”
  • “The bicycle caused the women’s suffrage movement.”

I’m going to go completely “soft” now. This is quite amusing because I question, do machines have brains? How is it that a bicycle can be the sole cause of women’s suffrage? I can’t picture the bicycle thinking, “I’m going to make a change in society and have women view their roles differently by empowering them to move freely.” The women of this era made a choice to change their fashion and become independent.  Speaking of choice and technology, do you think we have a choice to use social media or has our brain been re-wired? Watch the video below:

On the other end of the spectrum is “soft.” This is where you believe that society drives technology based on the history of human actions. You would say:

  • Why was this piece of technology created?
  • Who created it and why did they need it?

Turning the tables, I’m going to go “hard” left. As a society, we should rethink what the word “need” means. A piece of technology that is needed by our society would be the wheelchair. An individual who has difficulty walking, has a physiological or physical illness, injury, or a disability needs a wheelchair in order to build self-awareness and self-efficacy to live independently within a community. Do people really need the iPhone 7 or the iPad mini 4? This Apple technology has gone through the iterative design process, only improving and advancing technology, making it more powerful than ever because it can. This is Moore’s law, Moore’s Law and Technological Determinism by Ceruzzi, to a tee:

“Every three years, as chip capacity quadruples, a new generation of electronic products appears, along with new versions of existing software or new software products. Six years from now probably half the devices in my list of current hardware will be superseded.”

Thank goodness I read this last article by Bruce, Technology as Social Practice, because it put a lot of these arguments into perspective. Reflecting back to my previous blog post, “Why is the Machine Changing Us?“, I want to focus my research on why student’s use technology. If we, as educators, don’t fully understand why and how technology becomes part of a student’s life, how are we going to help them use technology effectively? In my last post, I did not include the educator’s role in teaching student’s how to use technology or even think about how educators view technology. Putting on my educator lense, teachers need to question why the tool is being used rather than focusing on how to effectively use it in the classroom.

“We encode social relations into our technologies, but we also encode technologies into our social relations.” – B. Bruce

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you are “hard” or “soft.” As leaders, in the forefront of educational technology, what’s important is to consider how we are going to shape social practices for students to use in the future!



Why is the Machine Changing Us?

Graduate School, Information and Communications Technology

It’s important to understand why. Why is this new media being used by people? Is it because of the feeling of autonomy or authenticity? Perhaps researching the bigger picture and overall pattern of society may help tell a clearer story of why children use new media technology.

As a former middle school and high school educator, I saw first-hand the consequences that media technologies brought upon students and the school community. It is so simple to misconstrue what others really mean, especially when texting and IMing. Take this conversation between my husband and his friend, JP.


Do you think Esteban was being serious when he stated, “Sorry man you’re going to have to wait until next Saturday,” or was he joking? Below is what he adds to the conversation:


He uses the emoji to mediate the conversation, adding emotion. This indicates that he is joking.

I worked with many teachers who believe that media technologies affect students in negative ways, from self-esteem and identity issues to short attention span. This reminded me of the video lecture by Michael Wesch when he described the “MTV Generation.” This is not too far from what educators believe of the “Generation Me” students of today. See below:

Short Attention Span Short Attention Span
Materialistic Materialistic
Narcissistic Narcissistic
Not Easy Impressed Not Easy Impressed

From video gaming systems to Facebook, each medium of communication has underlying social rules that we all follow, including children. This leaves me wondering, why do children follow these rules? Most importantly, who created these rules? Have we, as a society, shape the use of media technologies or do the head honchos of these powerful billion dollar technology corporations create them? We can go on forever debating this question but in the end, we do have a social responsibility as a community to address the consequences of ICT. We have to be conscious and responsible for our actions and relay this message to future generations.

As a graduate student pursuing a degree in design and development of digital games, I want to understand why children use this new media technology, specifically in video gaming systems and online gaming communities that enable online chatting. I feel that it is part of my responsibility to evaluate the social shaping process of these media technologies in order to inform teachers, parents, and schools to take action to better serve the community.

Watch the videos and read the article below! What do you think? Comments are always welcome.

Introduction to the Updated Student Edition” by Lievrouw & Livingstone (2006)