Embracing Cultural Diversity in Game-Based Learning

Embracing Cultural Diversity in Game-Based Learning

Culturally-Inclusive Game Design: Bridging Education and Diversity

Slideshows in open access: Credits to the University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries for hosting this scholarwork.

As a PhD candidate in Learning Sciences, my research journey has been a deep dive into the integration of cultural elements into game design, specifically within computing education. My focus is on the WearableLearning (WL) education technology platform (Arroyo et al., 2017), a dynamic tool for teaching computational thinking (CT)(Wing, 2006) and mathematics through the innovative approach of game creation.

Cultural Signatures in Game Design

Bednar and colleagues (2010, p. 408) call cultural signatures are “socially meaningful”, as they have a say on how humans learn and interpret meanings of things in the context of their origin culture or country.

The core of my study lies in the fascinating exploration of how middle school students from the United States, India, and Argentina weave their unique cultural signatures into game designs. This aspect is crucial as it highlights the importance of cultural relevance in educational technology. Traditional sports, linguistic expressions, aesthetic standards, and unique thinking and communication styles – these are just a few examples of the cultural markers these young minds infuse into their creations. Such integration is not only about adding a layer of personal touch but about deeply embedding their cultural identities into their learning processes.

A Culturally-Responsive Coding Guide

To systematically evaluate these cultural markers in game design artifacts, I have proposed a culturally-responsive game design coding guide. This tool is inspired by Pusch’s (1979) framework on multicultural education, providing a structured approach to identifying and understanding the cultural elements in students' game designs. This coding guide is not just a methodological tool; it's a bridge connecting diverse cultural expressions with the technological aspects of game design in education.

Significance of Cultural Integration in EdTech, Enhancing Relevance and Effectiveness through Culture

Incorporating culture into the WL platform is more than just an academic exercise. It's about creating a more engaging, culturally-inclusive, and holistic educational experience. This approach is crucial in today's globally connected world, where understanding and appreciating cultural diversity is key to personal and professional growth. The findings from this research are not just numbers and data points; they represent the vibrant, diverse voices of young learners from different corners of the world.

The study emphasizes that considering cultural factors in game-based learning platforms is not optional but essential. It enhances the relevance and effectiveness of these platforms, making them more than just educational tools. They become a medium for students to express their cultural identities, to see themselves reflected in the technology they interact with daily.

Global Impact and Future Directions for EdTech

The impact of this research extends far beyond the confines of a classroom. It contributes to the broader dialogue on inclusive and globally relevant education technologies. The proposed coding scheme is a stepping stone toward ongoing improvements in the WL curriculum, aligning it with the diverse cultural realities of students worldwide. This alignment is not just about making education more accessible; it's about making it more resonant, more meaningful to every student, regardless of their cultural background.

Towards Culturally-Responsive Computing Education

This journey has reaffirmed my belief in the power of culturally-responsive computing education (such as Scott et al., 2015; Leonard & Sentance, 2021). By integrating cultural elements into game design, we’re not just teaching students how to code or create games; we’re teaching them how to embed their own stories, histories, and identities into their creations. It’s a way to ensure that the future of computing and technological innovation is as diverse as the world we live in.

A Mission for Inclusive Learning

As I continue on this path, I am driven by a mission to transform educational experiences into something more inclusive, more reflective of the diverse world we inhabit. This research is just the beginning of a long journey towards a future where every student can see a part of themselves in the technology they use to learn and grow. My PhD focus in Learning Sciences, with a specific emphasis on game-based learning techniques and culture, is more than an academic pursuit; it’s a commitment to creating a more inclusive, culturally-rich future in education.


Arroyo, I., Micciollo, M., Casano, J., Ottmar, E., Hulse, T., & Rodrigo, M. M. (2017, October). Wearable learning: multiplayer embodied games for math. In Proceedings of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play (pp. 205-216).

Bednar, J., Bramson, A., Jones-Rooy, A., & Page, S. (2010). Emergent cultural signatures and persistent diversity: A model of conformity and consistency. Rationality and Society, 22(4), 407-444.

Leonard, H. C., & Sentance, S. (2021). Culturally-relevant and responsive pedagogy in computing: A Quick Scoping Review. International Journal of Computer Science Education in Schools, 5(2), 3-13.

Pusch, M. D. (1979). Multicultural Education: A Cross Cultural Training Approach. Intercultural Press, Inc., 70 W Hubbard St., Chicago, IL 60610.

Scott, K. A., Sheridan, K. M., & Clark, K. (2015). Culturally responsive computing: A theory revisited. Learning, Media and Technology, 40(4), 412-436.

Wing, J. M. (2006). Computational thinking. Communications of the ACM, 49(3), 33-35.

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