Integrated Game-based Learning in an Informatics Secondary

Course: Is There a Difference between Girls’ and Boys’

Achievements?

Daniela Tuparova

1 a

, Emilia Nikolova

2 b

and Elena Tuparova

3 c

1

Department of Informatics, South-West University Neofit Rilski, 66 Ivan Mihaylov Str, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

2

High School for Mathematics and Natural Science, 4 Maritsa, Blagoevgrad, Bulgaria

3

Sirma AI trading as Ontotext, 135 Tsarigradsko Shose Bul, Sofia, Bulgaria

Keywords: Game based Education, Introductory in Programming, Secondary School, Boys and Girls Differences, K-8.

Abstract: Informatics subject is a compulsory course for Bulgarian high school students with specialisation in Computer

Science, Mathematics, and Natural sciences. The subject starts in 8

th

grade and in fact it is an introductory

course in programming. According to the national syllabus of the subject, teachers can choose one of the

following programming languages: C#, Visual Basic or Java. The content of the course is too abstract for the

14 years old students. To reduce the level of abstraction and to motivate the students we implemented

integrated game based model for teaching programming. The model is based on usage of educational

computer games for introduction of main concepts, experimenting with already developed games, usage of

“half baked” tasks and programming of games. Also, game based approach is combined with problem solving,

project based and e-learning approaches and technologies. The implementation of integrated game based

model was experimented with 126 8

th

graders at Mathematics and Natural Sciences High School. In this paper

we analyse and compare the achievements of the boys and girls that participated in experimental training.

Also the achievements of the students from the experimental group are compared with achievements of

students from the same school that have not been trained with the discussed approach. This group is used as

control group. Boys and girls that have been taught according to the proposed model show the same

achievements. The statistically significant difference exists between achievements of girls form experimental

and control group. Girls from experimental group demonstrate higher achievements in programming and

practical problem solving than girls from control group. Also the boys trained via integrated game based

approach have higher results than boys in control group. The obtained results show that the implementation

of integrated game-based learning influences the performance of both boys and girls in a positive manner.

1 INTRODUCTION

The rapid development in the technological area has

directly influenced not only the economy, but also

many other areas of everyday life. When it comes to

education, many countries have introduced some

changes to their school curricula, which allow them

to train much needed technologically qualified

specialists. Meanwhile another trend is also observed

– students’ motivation and interest in studying

science and technology is constantly dropping. This

raises the need of active researching and developing

a

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-0358-0648

b

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1969-5765

c

https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3222-4482

new education models that correspond with the

interests and requirements of the contemporary

students.

A lot of effort is put into growing young people’s

interest and abilities to succeed in the area of

computer science. Games are seen as tools for

introduction of basic programming skills (Gee &

Tran, 2015). Educational computer games provide a

safe environment, in which students can learn and

have fun, while playing.

In the article we present some experimental

results from implementing integrated game-based

702

Tuparova, D., Nikolova, E. and Tuparova, E.

Integrated Game-based Learning in an Informatics Secondary Course: Is There a Difference between Girls’ and Boys’ Achievements?.

DOI: 10.5220/0009818407020709

In Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Computer Supported Education (CSEDU 2020), pages 702-709

ISBN: 978-989-758-417-6

Copyright

c

2020 by SCITEPRESS – Science and Technology Publications, Lda. All rights reserved

learning in Informatics classes. The experimental

training was conducted with 8

th

-graders (14 year old

students). We compare the achievements of students

trained in integrated game-based learning (IGBL)

approach and those that were not trained in the game-

based learning (GBL). We focus the comparative

studies on the girls’ and boys’ achievements in both

cases – IGBL and non GBL. Students that were

trained in IGBL we call experimental group (EG) and

those that were not trained in GBL we call control

group (KG). In section two we present the current

status of education in Computer science in Bulgarian

schools. Section three deals with the model of

integrated game based learning in Informatics in

secondary school. A set of research questions

regarding differences in achievements of boys and

girls in both groups are outlined in section four. Also,

in section five comparative analysis and results are

discussed.

2 EDUCATION IN INFORMATICS

IN BULGARIAN SECONDARY

SCHOOLS AND HIGH

SCHOOLS

Bulgarian secondary schools have a long history in

education in Informatics. (Assenova, Nikolov,

Stanchev, & Koleva, 1996), (Azalov, 2019). First

courses in programming have been launched in late

1960s in some high schools with intensive study of

mathematics. From school year 1986/1987 on

Informatics has been involved as a compulsory course

in all upper secondary schools. “Bulgaria became the

fourth country in the world to introduce Informatics

as a compulsory subject.” (Garov & Tabakova-

Komsalova, 2017) During the years several changes

in number of classes per week and subject content

have been done.

Nowadays in Bulgarian schools there are two

subjects related to computer science – Information

Technology and Informatics. Information technology

(IT) is a compulsory subject for students from 5

th

grade till 10

th

grade. Informatics is a compulsory

subject for students in 8

th

grade from 2017/2018

school year on and in 9

th

and 10

th

grades up until

2016/2017 school year. The subject Informatics is

focused on algorithms and programming languages

and data structures. The subject Information

technology deals with development of digital

competences using different software. It covers topics

like computer systems, operating systems, word-

processing, computer graphics, spreadsheets,

computer presentations, internet communication,

networks, internet safety, copyrights etc.

Currently programming is being taught in the

compulsory courses Informatics (in high school) and

Computer modelling (in primary school). Moreover,

every school can provide elective or extracurricular

courses related to the development of programming

skills. As of 2020 the Ministry of education has

started a new school programme called “Education

for tomorrow day”. It is directed towards developing

and increasing the digital skills of the students in the

secondary schools in Bulgaria.

As it was already mentioned, the school subject

Informatics is a compulsory course in 8

th

grade for all

high schools with specialisation in mathematics,

computer science, natural sciences, economics and

entrepreneurship.

The compulsory course Informatics for 8

th

grade

is an introductory course in programming; it is

planned for 72 hours (2 hours per week) and consists

of four modules according to the national syllabus

(Ministry of Education and Science, 2017):

“Fundamentals of Informatics” module

includes basic terms in Informatics/Computer

Science, computer representation of the

numbers, algorithms and programming

languages.

“Visual Programming Environments” module

with topics in application of integrated

development environment (IDE) for visual

programming, basic stages in designing and

running of computer program, and designing of

graphical user interface.

“Programming” module includes some

classical topics from introduction in

programming courses like data types,

programming structures for implementation of

branching and looping algorithms, data

structures like one-dimensional array, program

testing and verification.

“Development of a Software Project” module

includes simplified basic topics from software

engineering area – analysis of requirements,

design, implementation, verification and

testing of computer program, preparing of

documentation, team working and project

presentation.

According to the syllabus, teachers can choose

C#, Visual Basic, or Java as a programming language,

with an appropriate IDE, to implement the above

mentioned modules.

The content of the course is too complex, abstract

and difficult for students in 8

th

grade. Therefore, the

teacher needs to apply different approaches and

techniques to engage and motivate students more

Integrated Game-based Learning in an Informatics Secondary Course: Is There a Difference between Girls’ and Boys’ Achievements?

703

effectively and as a result to increase their

performance. To achieve this goal, a model for an

integrated game-based approach was developed and

applied.

3 INTEGRATED GAME-BASED

MODEL FOR TEACHING

INFORMACTICS IN

SECONDARY SCHOOL

The proposed model is based on the integration of

game-based learning, project-based learning,

problem-solving, and cross curricular links. The

course in programming is based on C# in Microsoft

Visual Studio 2017.

Game-based tasks gain more and more popularity

in computer science education, where the game

design is seen as a tool for introduction of basic

programming skills (Gee & Tran, 2015) (Sung,

2009), (Morrison & A. Preston, 2009). Game-based

learning is a possible solution to the problem with the

main difficulties students meet when studying

programming (Shabalina, Malliarakis, Tomos, &

Mozelius, 2017). Games motivate students to actively

participate in the educational process (Malliarakis,

Satratzemi, & Xinogalos, 2014) and to develop

problem-solving skills (Maraffi, Sacerdoti, & Paris,

2017).

In the papers of (Wolz, Barnes, & Parberry, 2006)

(Shabalina, Malliarakis, Tomos, & Mozelius, 2017)

the authors suggest two approaches for inclusion of

digital games in computer science curriculum.

In the current study the game-based approach in

Informatics classes is implemented by conducting the

following stages:

Using existing educational computer games

(ECG):

o for knowledge and skills acquiring,

motivation of learning activities,

development of algorithmic thinking;

o for experimenting with existing ECG to

inquire of game rules, interface elements

and their properties and events;

Designing and developing ECG including

mathematical model of the game, design of

graphical user interface (GUI); coding, testing

and verifying.

The games and tasks are related to well-known

games like “Rock, paper, scissors”, “Guess the

number”; real-live everyday activities; cross

curricular content with maths, physics,

entrepreneurship, biology, etc.; quest-based games

related to different school subjects.

One example of a game that is used in the

beginning of the course for acquiring and assessment

of knowledge about numeral systems is the game NS

(Numeral systems) Fig.1.

Figure 1: Start of the game NS.

The learning objectives of the game are related to

the transformation of numbers from one numeral

system to another, and to the addition and subtraction

in binary numeral system. The game enables to be

implemented cross curricular relationships between

informatics, mathematics, and information

technology.

The NS game consists of 16 levels – four levels

for numeral systems with bases 2, 3, 4 and 5. The

items in every level are four and are with an

increasing level of difficulty. All tasks use random

numbers in decimal numeral system: for level one the

number is in [0;63], for level two - [64;127], for level

three - [128;192], and for level four - [193;255]. In

case of wrong answer a new item with the same

difficulty level appears.

If the player has four errors, the game is over.

Level one is directed to the transformation from

decimal to binary numeral system. On the screen are

shown ten buttons (Fig. 2.) labeled with either 0 or 1.

When the player is clicking on the button, the label is

changed from 0 to 1 and from 1 to 0. Using the

buttons the player has to obtain the binary

representation of the decimal number in the task. As

a hint over every button is written the value of two to

the corresponding power.

Level two (Fig. 3.) is purposed for transformation

of a number from binary to decimal numeral system.

In this item the player should write the decimal

number in the text box.

Level three (Fig. 4.) is related to addition in

binary system.

Level four (Fig. 5.) is related to subtraction in

binary system. The next levels are similar but the base

of the numeral system is higher.

For each right answer, the player obtains one

point. Also, the game takes into account the time.

This could be used as an additional criteria in case of

knowledge evaluation.

New Game

How to Play?

Close

GonCPL 2020 - Special Session on Gamiﬁcation on Computer Programming Learning

704

The game is developed using C# in MS Visual

Studio 2017.

The model of the game is used in the topics:

“Design of GUI” – for creation of start screen

of the game;

“Programming construction for branching and

loops”.

The syllabus for 8

th

grade does not contain topics

related to processing of more forms. Therefore the

students do not join all game levels in one form.

Also the course is supported in the e-learning

environment Moodle, where students can find

additional learning content, examples, can upload

home works and projects, make self-assessment and

assessment.

At the end of the course students works on group

projects. In the frame of the final project students

have to develop game, prepare documentation and

present it. The projects are divided in two main

groups: Development of game from scratch and

development of game with a “template” given in the

tutorials at web site https://www.mooict.com/ .

In the first type of projects students have to:

propose game plot; model GUI; find pictures for

graphical design; develop appropriate algorithms;

code the game; prepare documentation and project

presentation.

In the second type of projects students have to:

develop a game following instructions in the tutorial

(it is not possible to use “copy-paste”); translate from

English to Bulgarian all directions for project

development suggested in the tutorial and to add

images from their own project; prepare project

presentation.

4 EMPIRICAL STUDY OF BOYS’

AND GIRLS’ ACHIVEMENTS

The model was empirically tested with 126 students

in 8

th

grade from High School for Math and Natural

Science, Blagoevgrad. We obtained data from a final

assessment – Paper based test and Practical task, from

68 students in EG and 58 students in CG. Data was

analysed using RStudio.

The test consists of 17 items, of them items with

multiple choice are 13, open answer – 4. The tasks

with open answer require finding errors in the code,

to predict results in given code. The practical task

requires students to describe steps to solve task, plan

user interface, name the objects in the form and

describe purpose of events and properties of the

objects in the form.

Figure 2: Level one.

Figure 3: Level two.

Figure 4: Level tree.

Figure 5: Level four.

Subtract the binary numbers.

Calculate the sum of the binary numbers.

Find the decimal number presented in the binary system.

Level

Errors

Points

Time

Check

Transform number 152 from decimal numeral sytem to number in

binary numeral system.

Integrated Game-based Learning in an Informatics Secondary Course: Is There a Difference between Girls’ and Boys’ Achievements?

705

We set the following research questions:

RQ1. Is there a statistically significant difference

between the results from Test in CG and EG?

RQ2. Is there a statistically significant difference

between the results from Practical task in CG and

EG?

RQ3. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Test in EG?

RQ4. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Practical task in

EG?

RQ5. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Test in CG?

RQ6. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Practical task in

CG?

RQ7. Is there a statistically significant difference

between girls’ results from Test in CG and EG?

RQ8. Is there a statistically significant difference

between girls’ results from Practical task in CG and

EG?

RQ9. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ results from Test in CG and EG?

RQ10. Is there a statistically significant

difference between boys’ results from Practical task

in CG and EG?

We used the following statistical methods:

Descriptive statistics, including mean, median,

mode, standard deviation and variance. As in

R’s standard library there is no function for

computing mode, the following method was

implemented for the purpose:

getMode <- function(values)

{uniqueValues <- unique(values)

uniqueValues[which.max(tabulate

(match(values, uniqueValues)))]

}

Determining the type of the distributions of the

analyzed samples. Given that knowledge we

can choose a suitable statistical test for sample

comparison. A Shapiro-Wilcoxon test with null

hypothesis “The distribution is normal”,

alternative hypothesis “The distribution is not

normal” and level of significance p=0.05 is

applied.

The already set research questions require

comparison of independent sample. If both

samples are normally distributed, we conduct

one-tailed t-test for comparison of the means.

If at least one of the samples is not normally

distributed, we conduct nonparametric Mann-

Whitney-Wilcoxon test.

For the purpose of the study the data is divided

into separate R data frames, as follows:

datasetEG – data about all students in EG;

datasetCG – data about all students in CG;

datasetEGFemale – data about girls in EG;

datasetEGMale – data about boys in EG;

datasetCGFemale – data about girls in CG;

datasetCGMale – data about boys in CG.

5 RESULTS

Descriptive statistics of all analysed groups for the

achievements from Test are presented in table 1, and

from Practical task in table 2.

Table 1: Descriptive statistics for achievements from Test.

Sample

Mean

Median

Mode

Standard

deviation

Variation

datasetEG

$TestPoints

24.88

25 23

5.532089

30.60401

datasetCG

$TestPoints

21.14

21 21

7.651887

58.55138

datasetEGFemale

$TestPoints

23.94

24 23

5.77491

33.34958

datasetEGMale

$TestPoints

25.85

27.5

28

5.176476

26.7959

datasetCGFemale

$TestPoints

20.40

21 18

8.087308

65.40456

datasetCGMale

$TestPoints

21.8

21 21

7.312719

53.47586

Table 2: Descriptive statistics for achievements from

Practical task.

Sample

Mean

Median

Mode

Standard

deviation

Variation

datasetEG$Practical

TaskPoints

6.45

6 14

4.98095

24.8098

datasetCG$Practical

TaskPoints

2.86

0 0

4.87500

23.7657

datasetEGFemale$P

racticalTaskPoints

5.6 5 0

4.8215

23.2471

datasetEGMale$Pra

cticalTaskPoints

7.32

6.5

14

5.06156

25.6194

datasetCGFemale$P

racticalTaskPoints

2.26

0 0

4.39923

19.3533

datasetCGMale$Pra

cticalTaskPoints

3.4

0.5

0

5.28237

27.9035

GonCPL 2020 - Special Session on Gamiﬁcation on Computer Programming Learning

706

For determining the type of the distribution of

each sample a Shapiro-Wilcoxon test with null

hypothesis “The distribution is normal”, alternative

hypothesis “The distribution is not normal” and level

of significance p=0.05 is conducted. The built-in

function shapiro.test(values) is used.

Given p >= 0.05 we accept the null hypothesis,

otherwise we discard the null hypothesis and accept

the alternative. Table 3 and Table 4 show the results

from conducting the test on the studied data and the

conclusions whether the given sample is normally

distributed.

Table 3: Type of distribution of test points.

Sample p-value

Normal

distribution

datasetEG

$TestPoints

0.177

Yes

datasetCG

$TestPoints

0.045

No

datasetEGFemale$TestPoints

0.2381 Yes

datasetEGMale$TestPoints 0.04586

No

datasetCGFemale

$TestPoints

0.2149

Yes

datasetCGMale$TestPoints 0.4601 Yes

Table 4:Type of distribution of practical task points.

Sample p-value

Normal

distribution

datasetEG$PracticalTask

Points

3.016E-05

No

datasetCG$PracticalTask

Points

7.093E-11

No

datasetEGFemale$Practic

alTaskPoints

0.002242 No

datasetEGMale$Practical

TaskPoints

0.003763 No

datasetCGFemale$Practic

alTaskPoints

1.09E-07 No

datasetCGMale$Practical

TaskPoints

3.699E-07

No

RQ1. Is there a statistically significant difference

between the results from Test in CG and EG?

The data distribution in EG is normal, but in CG

it is not, so we conduct the nonparametric Mann-

Whitney-Wilcoxon test for comparison of

independent samples.

We use the built-in function wilcox.test(). The

results are: W = 1287, p-value = 0.0008587.

We can conclude that there is a statistically

significant difference between the two samples. The

students in EG show higher results (median = 25) in

comparison to the students in CG (median = 21).

RQ2. Is there a statistically significant difference

between the results from Practical task in CG and

EG?

Both distributions are not normal. In that case we

conduct the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon

test for comparison of independent samples.

The results are: W = 1007, p-value = 1.567E-06

Accordingly there is a statistically significant

difference between the two samples. The students in

EG show higher results (median = 6) in comparison

to the students in CG (median = 0).

RQ3. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Test in EG?

The distribution of girls’ results from Test is

normal, but that of boys’ results is not, therefore we

conduct the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon

test for comparison of independent samples.

The results are: W = 450.5, p-value = 0.08306

We can conclude that there is no statistically

significant difference between the two samples. Both

boys and girls that have been taught according to the

proposed model show the same results from Test.

RQ4. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Practical task in

EG?

Both distributions are not normal, therefore we

conduct the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon

test for comparison of independent samples.

The results are: W = 475, p-value = 0.1489

We can conclude that there is no statistically

significant difference between the two samples. Both

boys and girls that have been taught according to the

proposed model show the same results from Practical

task.

RQ5. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Test in CG?

Both distributions are normal, so we conduct a

one-tailed t-test for mean comparison. We use the

built-in function t.test().

The results are: t = -0.67912, df = 52.74,

p-value = 0.25

We can conclude that there is no statistically

significant difference between means of Test results

of boys and girls in CG. Both boys and girls achieve

equal results.

RQ6. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ and girls’ results from Practical task in

CG?

Both distributions are not normal, therefore we

conduct the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon

test for comparison of independent samples.

Integrated Game-based Learning in an Informatics Secondary Course: Is There a Difference between Girls’ and Boys’ Achievements?

707

The results are: W = 348, p-value = 0.3138

We can conclude that there is no statistically

significant difference between means of Practical task

results of boys and girls in CG.

RQ7. Is there a statistically significant difference

between girls’ results from Test in CG and EG?

Both distributions are normal, so we conduct a

one-tailed t-test for mean comparison.

The results are: t = -1.9244, df = 45.137,

p-value = 0.03031

Accordingly there is a statistically significant

difference between the two samples. Girls from EG

score higher (mean = 23.94286) in Test than girls in

CG (mean = 20.40741).

RQ8. Is there a statistically significant difference

between girls’ results from Practical task in CG and

EG?

Both distributions are not normal, therefore we

conduct the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon

test for comparison of independent samples.

The results are: W = 230.5, p-value = 0.0004194

Accordingly there is a statistically significant

difference between the two samples. Girls in EG

score higher in Practical task than girls in CG.

RQ9. Is there a statistically significant difference

between boys’ results from Test in CG and EG?

The distribution in CG is normal, but that in EG

is not, so we conduct the nonparametric Mann-

Whitney-Wilcoxon test for comparison of

independent samples.

The results are: W = 324, p-value = 0.01238

We can conclude that there is a statistically

significant difference between the two samples.

RQ10. Is there a statistically significant

difference between boys’ results from Practical task

in CG and EG?

Both distributions are not normal. Therefore we

conduct the nonparametric Mann-Whitney-Wilcoxon

test for comparison of independent samples.

The results are: W = 266.5, p-value = 0.0008828

Accordingly there is a statistically significant

difference between the two samples.

5 CONCLUSIONS

The article discusses a model for teaching

programming to students in 8

th

grade (14-year olds).

The model lies on the integration of game-based

learning with project-based learning, problem-based

learning, cross curricular links and e-learning

technologies.

The results from the conducted experimental

study show that the proposed model allows both girls

and boys to accomplish higher achievements. Boys

and girls that have been taught according to the

proposed model show the same achievements. The

statistical significant difference exists between

achievements of girls form experimental and control

group. Girls from experimental group demonstrate

higher achievements in programming and practical

problem solving than girls form control group. Also

the boys trained via integrated game based approach

have higher results than boys in control group. The

obtained results show that the implementation of

integrated game-based learning influences the

performance of both boys and girls in a positive

manner.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

The study is supported by Bulgarian National

Scientific Fund under contract DN 05/10, 2016

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