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Learning Through a Mobile Device

Learning Through a Mobile Device David McDyre Dr Averil Meehan Dr Stephen Wright Overview This workshop describes the experience of developing an interactive educational game for a mobile phone. David McDyre MSc Computer Games – Dissertation topic.

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Learning Through a Mobile Device

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  1. Learning Through a Mobile Device David McDyre Dr Averil Meehan Dr Stephen Wright

  2. Overview • This workshop describes the experience of developing an interactive educational game for a mobile phone. • David McDyre MSc Computer Games – Dissertation topic. • Outlines the tools used, the resulting game, the results from trying it out • Considers what issues that are important to consider when developing educational games

  3. Example of an Educational Game While the game was written for school aged children, many of the problems encountered and solutions developed are also applicable to mobile game programs developed for students of all ages.

  4. Range of Mobile Games • What do we mean by a mobile game. • These can range from text based programs such as simply answering questions to more interesting games using graphics.

  5. Keep them interested • This is the aim of educators at all levels of the educational system • Students now are used to flicking from screen to screen, web page to web page, so keeping interest can be challenge. • As most students now use a mobile phone, games developed for a mobile device that also reinforce pedagogic aims specific to a course of study are potentially a useful way to teach skills while keeping students interested.

  6. Mobile Technology • The current generation of handheld computers and mobile phones have increasing power making this an increasingly viable approach.

  7. Practical Artefact • J2ME mobile phone game • Morrison’s High Seas Example • Tile and sprite game • Mixes game and educational elements • Teach geography of Ireland to National School children • Issues: - Understanding and adapting Morrison's example into an educational game • Reuse sprites • Memory Management

  8. Screenshot of Example Game

  9. Technical • Tools Used: • J2ME, • J2ME Wireless Toolkit, • Mappy, • Paint Shop Pro

  10. Case Studies • Practical artefact in its real world environment • Testing process – tweak for intended users • 2 schools – 24 students, Age 7-9 • Evaluation was Observation and questionnaire based

  11. Results of Case Study • Re-iterated a number of issues in the literature: • Educational games and mobile devices pose challenges • Students are more enthusiastic about learning • Special needs students are especially receptive

  12. Practical Considerations • Programming • Working with an emulator • Varying specifications among different mobile phone manufacturers • Limited available memory • Deployment of developed game

  13. Programming • Requires knowledge of a programming language such as Java or C++ • Due to limited resources, the programming language is adapted to enable it to run on a small device. Most of the language classes are available, but some may be modified. • Choice of language may be based on knowledge of a particular language or on technical or security considerations

  14. Sun Java™ Wireless Toolkit is small

  15. J2ME profiles and configurations

  16. Graphics and Animation • 2D graphics primitives • Lines, rectangles, ellipses etc • Animation • Supports Sprites (images that can be moved and animated) • Sprite collision detection • Tiles layers • Used to create larger backgrounds – aids reuse and so helps conserver memory

  17. Adding Interest • Sound in mobile games • Playback of audio (and also video) • Networked games • Java was designed for networked programs • May add cost to running program • Makes updates easier • Helps memory resources – e.g. if data stored in file or database on a web server

  18. Using Emulators • The easiest way to develop a mobile game is to use an emulator. • Unfortunately, different mobile phone companies use different technologies, so that a program developed on a generic emulator will not necessarily work the same on all phones. • Using a custom emulator has the disadvantage that the game developed will work best (and possibly only work) on one brand of phone.

  19. Varying Mobile Specifications • Even if the program works, • differing screen sizes and • different levels of available memory found on different brands of phone • mean that games may appear differently and even work differently on one phone than on another.

  20. GUIs for Small Devices • Input can be by keypress or touch screen.

  21. Default emulator

  22. Memory • While the memory on mobile phones is increasing with each release, so too is the range of items that can be stored on it. • Phones double as MP3 players, download emails and internet information, hold photographs and even videos. • All this leaves less memory available for running educational games.

  23. Profiling Memory Usage

  24. Security • MIDP 2.0's Security Architecture http://developers.sun.com/techtopics/mobility/midp/articles/permissions/ • Public key cryptography: MIDP Application Security 1: Design Concerns and Cryptography http://developers.sun.com/techtopics/mobility/midp/articles/security1/

  25. Additional Tools • Mappy for PC - A utility for creating flexible 'maps' for 2D and 3D tile based games • http://www.tilemap.co.uk/mappy.php

  26. Deployment • Because of the range of differences in screen size and memory to run programs found on different phones, • It is important to port the game once it is developed onto the various phones used by the students to test out how it appears on each model. • This porting of the example program was found to be problematic on some phones

  27. Deployment • The example game was deployed to 3 leading phone manufacturers: - Motorola, Sony Ericsson, Nokia • 2 successful remote deployments: • Via SD memory card, • USB cable • Not all attempts at deployment were successful

  28. Recommendations • Recommendations based on literature, case studies, development and deployment • Use J2ME and J2ME Wireless Toolkit • Use a map building tool • Monitor size of application • Reuse sprites / objects • Change images to .png format • Deploy locally

  29. Conclusions • Overall the high interest and enthusiasm shown by the students suggest that this is a viable way to teach or revise skills. • However there are challenges in the development of such games that need to be considered to make optimum use of this innovative medium.

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