George Triantafyllakos, PhD | Academic work 2004–2010

We!Design&Play is a framework for the development of collaborative design games that can be employed in participatory design sessions with students for the design of educational applications. The framework is inspired by idea generation theory and design games literature, and guides the development of board games which, through the use of adequate stimuli, rules and props, facilitate students in extracting and expressing their needs, desires and prospects regarding future educational software.

The We!Design&Play framework proposes an exploration approach that is based on three complementary perspectives. These perspectives intend to engage students in an exploration that is respectively pragmatic, situated, and innovative.The design of the game board and props starts with the selection of appropriate stimuli for each exploration perspective. The use of verbs, nouns, imagery and questions is proposed. Each one of these linguistic and pictorial structures serves a different purpose. Verbs can help the recollection of actions or abstract functions, while nouns can make explicit references to specific objects. Imagery can highlight explicit details and features of selected objects, contexts or environmental conditions, while questions, through appropriate rhetorical formations, can raise specific issues and focus on people (e.g. who), facts (e.g. what), causes (e.g. why), ways (e.g. how), and spatial (e.g. where) or temporal (e.g. when) information. There are no rules for associating different types of stimuli with each exploration perspective. However, nouns and verbs seem to be more adequate for supporting the Convergent perspective, while imagery and questions could better support the Contextual perspective. All of them can support the Divergent perspective equally well.

The selected stimuli are arranged and presented to the students in the form of a board game (see diagram above). The board is round and consists of a number of positions/slices. Each one refers to a design space exploration perspective and is accompanied by a corresponding hand-sized card upon which relevant stimuli are depicted (whenever this is not possible, e.g. in the case of images or screenshots, additional printed material is provided). A part of the stimuli presented upon each card is also presented upon the board so as to capture the participants' interest and their curiosity for upcoming moves. Overall, the board plays the role of a control panel for the game and can act as an additional source of inspiration for the participants. The shape of the board and the size of the cards act as links between the design game and traditional board games, adding to the game-like character of the process. Its cyclical shape aims at creating a sense of continuity, signifying that design space exploration is an ongoing activity.

The resulting games favor a quick, broad exploration of the design space and facilitate the elicitation of numerous diverse needs and ideas, almost twice as many as produced by a typical structured approach. In more detail: (a) the predetermined design space exploration perspectives used during the design game, together with selected types of stimuli manage to provide a rich coverage of the design space; (b) the design space exploration perspectives function complementarily and in an adaptive way for the different learning domains; (c) the playful setting of the design game relaxes students and undermines the formality of the process; (d) the arbitrary way in which different stimuli are provided to the students make feasible a quick and broad dispersal of the proposed needs and enable reciprocally the exploitation of more stimuli in the limited duration of a design session; (e) the game rules, which demand the self-generation, sharing and evaluation of needs and ideas, reduce the effects of common social influences on idea generation, such as social loafing, evaluation apprehension and production blocking; (f) all of the above significantly add to the production of a fruitful set of unexpected, diverse and appropriate needs and ideas.

Find out more about the framework in the related publications (if you cannot access the papers send me an email at and I will send them to you).

Related publications:
Triantafyllakos, G., Palaigeorgiou, G., and Tsoukalas, I.A. (2010) Designing educational software with students through collaborative design games: the We!Design&Play framework. Computers & Education 56(1): 227–242.

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