Serious Fun: Game Design to Support Learning about the Surrender of Singapore

Serious Fun: Game Design to Support Learning about the Surrender of Singapore

Chronology, or putting past events in temporal order, is a starting point for making sense of the past (Seixas & Morton, 2013). However, sequencing the past into chronological order requires more than the memorization of events and their dates. Chronological thinking is central to historical reasoning because it enables us to organize our thinking about the past, consider relationships between events, determine cause and effect, and identify the structure or “plotline” of stories told about the past (i.e., those contained in accounts or historical narratives). It entails more than simply filling out a timeline, although timelines are essential tools for helping students understand chronological order and cause and effect relationships, and other patterns in history.

In this article, we highlight the development of a game, Singapore Surrenders!, collaboratively designed by a group of historians, history education specialists, and game designers to help students develop their chronological reasoning skills and to learn about events leading to Singapore’s surrender during World War II. We outline our conceptualization of the game, the process of designing the game, and its implementation in an undergraduate course on Singapore history.

The Thinking behind the Design

The Singapore Surrenders! game was conceptualized as a part of The Historian’s Lab, an effort initiated by the Humanities and Social Studies Education (HSSE) Academic Group at the National Institute of Education.  The theoretical framework which defines The Historian’s Lab has been generally influenced by the work of Vygotsky (1978) and Bruner (1977), especially with regard to their views on the child as an active problem-solver, having his or her own ways of making sense of the world, and whose level of psychological development can be potentially improved under proper adult guidance or collaboration with more capable peers. In these classrooms, the teacher designs and facilitates dynamic learning experiences and supports the child’s construction of knowledge by encouraging active participation and collaboration (Mercer, 1991). Notions of constructivism, situated learning (Lave, 1988; Lave & Wenger, 1991) and cognitive social learning (Rogoff & Lave, 1984; Rogoff, Matusov, & White, 1996) have guided the Lab’s design of curriculum materials and rich tasks to support student learning. These ideas may be summarized by the four principles that undergird the project’s approach to learning and knowledge construction, namely: a) that learning is interactional and collaborative in nature; b) that learning occurs through participation in a community; c) that knowledge is socially constructed within specific contexts and social engagements; and d) that learner competency can be progressively developed through the co-sharing of knowledge and the design of appropriate scaffolding and guidance.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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