Category: NEWS

Proud to present: Games, seriously!? handbook

Proud to present: Games, seriously!? handbook

Two years of transnational discussions, pilots and development processes related with games are now compiled in a handbook. CONNEXT is proud to present: Games, seriously!? Serious games as a tool for empowerment handbook.

Games, seriously!? handbook summaries the gamification approach of CONNEXTGames, seriously and presents practical examples of game processes and game challenges carried out. Some questions discussed in the handbook include:

  • Why should one use games as a tool?
  • What are the steps in game development?
  • How does empowerment link with games?
  • Why and how to involve participants in creating games?
  • How can one use games to support inclusion and equality?

Co-writing served as an enriching and educational process for the authors of this handbook from Belgium, Finland and Sweden. We also discovered a new concept, which crystallizes what we have been doing all along: game-based empowerment. We have noticed in practice that games have an inspirational and engaging power. We are also convinced that they can be used to support youngsters and migrant groups in a meaningful way.

We now welcome you to read the handbook, become inspired and continue exploring game-based empowerment together with us!

Handbook Games, seriously!? Serious games as a tool for empowerment

Psst! We have also published some CONNEXT game challenges on the website of Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Stay tuned, as there is more to come!

Gamified explorations in school context

Gamified explorations in school context

Can games serve as a tool in student recruitment or in orienting students to their new school environment? Facilitated by CONNEXT Finland these contexts were explored in small, agile game experiments at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.

Experiences of student recruitment

Many vocational schools and universities make a great effort to advertise themselves to potential students, Metropolia being one of them. Webinars have been commonly used as a tool, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lacking the personal experience of the campus environment reduces the attractiveness of this tool. The activation of participants in a webinar environment can also be challenging, as potential students often remain quiet and are shy to ask questions.

An element of fun was introduced through gamification into Metropolia recruiting webinars, as high-school students were able to look for answers themselves to questions relating to their future interests instead of waiting for others to tell them. The game challenges allowed the students to familiarise themselves for example with Metropolia’s videos. The picture on the background of one of the game challenges was taken during one of our high-school events at the Myyrmäki campus.  This visualisation allowed the students to see what the campus grounds look like, and this was an entertaining way to get the students excited to participate.

In the gamified Metropolia webinar, students were able to approach the topic of moving into higher education in a relaxed online setting. This allowed for increased dialogue with the participants during the webinar. The gamified webinars achieved an active rather than a passive atmosphere.

According to feedback forms collected during the gamified session, the information that Metropolia provided during the webinar was found to be interesting and informative. 61 players played the game itself during the webinars. Gamification allowed Metropolia to experiment with new techniques and develop experiential webinars for high-school students. Gamification brought value to potential students and allowed them to use recent technology while gaining important information about future study opportunities. 

Gamified orientation to studies

The start of a new course, area of study or degree programme is always one of the most exciting and nerve wracking times for a student.  The amount of new knowledge about structures and expectations that students need to be aware of in order to fully function is formidable. Every year teachers discuss how to share large amounts of information with their students without increasing their anxiety or sense of being overwhelmed. The aim is to provide them with a visual, experiential as well as an auditory, lecture-based learning experience.

During orientation studies at Metropolia, students are welcomed and immediately introduced to the group of people they will be studying with. The push to find like-minded study partners and develop friendships begins. As they negotiate their new relationships, they are introduced to the tools for their studies: the intranet page structure, how to find information, what study platforms are used, rules and regulations as well as the curriculum they will follow over the next three and a half years. As one can imagine this leads to confusion, feelings of insecurity and a sense of being overwhelmed. 

A game was developed as a solution to this challenging situation which was visualized as a ‘Learning Path’. The first step was to meet with first year students already in their second semester to test the game and garner feedback. The game challenges were meant to take new students on a visual journey through their studies. Together with the first year students, different activities such as short videos, links to internet pages and quizzes were fine-tuned based on what the players found while exploring. 

The students very actively participated and were excited about co-creating as they felt their own experiences were taken into account. The plan is to have one more focus group session with first year students during the spring semester. The goal is that with a more dynamic, visual and collaborative way to access and learn important data, students will have a fun, experiential memory of the topics and retain more information.

These gamified explorations were funded by Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and facilitated by CONNEXT for inclusion project. 

Authors:           Elsa Mäki-Reinikka and Leigh Anne Rauhala, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Pictures:          Wokandapix/Pixabay, screen shot from game platform

Wow! Is that what gamification means?

Wow! Is that what gamification means?

I participated in the Virtual Gamified Diamonds Seminar, which presented some of the activities of CONNEXT project in a gamified way and discussed digital youth work. However, what inspired me the most, were the perspectives presented by PhD researcher Lobna Hassan (Centre of Excellence on Game Culture Studies; University of Turku, Finland). I’d love to share some of them with you. 

For a long time gaming was considered a useless and time-consuming activity for socially isolated nerds and geeks. However, professionals who use games in a learning context know better!

While playing we apply diverse techniques that are also useful ‘in real life’. In this way we can develop skills such as perseverance, problem-solving, thinking and dealing with failure. Moreover, gaming provides increased intrinsic motivation and therefore a higher and longer (learning) effect.

Well, now that we have agreed that games are, not only fun but also useful, the gamification can begin. We take some elements from games such as assignments, points and nice decorations, we apply one of these elements to an event and make a ranking. If you do an assignment well, you’ll receive a virtual badge. Ready to go! 

Wrong! You won’t motivate anyone that way… It has to be said, this simple version of gamification does work, but there will only be an effect in the short term.

With game-based empowerment we aim for a long-term effect and that requires more than just giving rewards. It is about how everything comes together. The story of the games must appeal to the inner motivation. A Serious (Urban) Game always has a goal in mind. It is about achieving that goal in a way that works for the intended target audience.

An example.

The Cullman County School in the United States converted the whole school building according to a Harry Potter theme. In this way they succeeded in motivating children from socially vulnerable situations to come to school. However, it is more than just painting the walls and providing nice decors. Youngsters can recognize themselves in the story of the poor Harry Potter who did not get many opportunities from his foster parents. The teachers implement a variety of elements of Harry Potter in the daily school work: books to learn grammar, spells in chemistry, scoring systems for good behavior. Above all teachers teach the children that a good education can be the basis of a good start in life.

And it works! The children have to stay less in detention, many of them do their homework more often and love going to school. Yes, yes, this is what gamification makes possible!

Curious about all the insights of the seminar?

  • You can watch Lobna’s whole presentation on Youtube here.
  • You can get acquainted with the CONNEXT Diamond game challenges, which present some of the activities and collaboration partners of CONNEXT in a gamified way here (the link is coming)
  • Text: Marjolein Schabregs, gameWise
  • Picture: Screenshot of The Cullman County School from Lobna Hassan’s presentation during Gamified Diamonds Seminar
Fighting lockdown apathy with games

Fighting lockdown apathy with games

When teaching, hobbies and other group activities suddenly end or are turned online, it’s difficult for many of us to keep up the motivation. The exceptional lockdown experience of spring 2020 gave also CONNEXT project an incentive to develop single-player games, which can be used during a lockdown situation to support the wellbeing of youth.

In CONNEXT, we’ve learned that games are at their best when people come together physically and that increases collaboration and flock intelligence. In 2020 the emergence of COVID-19 questioned a very valuable element in games: playing, sharing, having fun and learning face-to-face with others in a group. Because of the COVID-19 situation, physical forms of reunion had to be kept to a minimum, which forced us to reconsider the possibilities of gamification and explore game ideas that can be carried out independently.

Over the years gameWise in Belgium has been developing a game called Mindfits™. As the lockdown took place, the game was opened for free access and soon spread to over to 1700 youngsters mostly in Belgium. Among them, 500 have given feedback on their experience, which seems to have been predominantly very positive. As the game has been translated to English as well, it can have a much wider audience.    

Mindfits™ Lockdown Edition: a serious game about mental wellbeing for youngsters.

In this game you’re stuck in your studenthouse during a lockdown. Get to know your housemates and learn how you can deal with difficult moments, stress, loneliness, anxiety and other taboos. Try gaining enough connection with all of your housemates to complete the game. This game was realised with the feedback and input of numerous youngsters and experts.

Mindfits ™ Lockdown Edition can be played for free (single player, webgame on Android, iPhone, Windows, MacOS).

In the meanwhile, CONNEXT Finland shared some of it’s game challenges online in order to inspire teachers, youth workers and other professionals working with youngsters to use gamification as a tool. For example Metropolia University of Applied Sciences compiled a game Keep well #isolation, which encourages participants to look around their own home and to identify tools, which can be used to support wellbeing. Another game, Ukko ylijumalan luontopeli (Nature Game of Supreme God Ukko), created by Helsinki Vocational College (Stadin ammatti- ja aikuisopisto) gave inspiration to start exploring outdoors. Practice+++ developed by YMCA Helsinki, encouraged youngsters to continue their volleyball exercises and physical activities on their own, despite the isolation.

Here are some examples of game challenges from these isolation games:

  • What do you see when you watch out of your window? Write down 5 words that the view reminds you of. Make a short poem, where you use these words in a random order. 
  • In the times of COVID-19 washing hands is essential. What else can you do for others from a distance? Send a short, encouraging message to your friend or a relative. 
  • Watch this film prepared by your coach. Make a short film of yourself doing the same exercise and download it on the game platform. Do your best, but don’t worry if you cannot be as fast or do as many movements as him – it’s really difficult to beat the coach!
  • I am Supreme God Ukko. I want you to build a high tower to honour me! Go to the nature, look for stones of different sizes, try to balance them on each other and send me a picture of your highest tower.

Most of the CONNEXT Finland isolation games are in Finnish, but you are welcome to get acquainted with the Keep well #isolation in ThingLink in English.

The interest towards gamification among teachers and counsellors has clearly increased alongside with the lockdown and other social distancing measures. At best, games can serve as a great way to draw the attention of, activate and even engage youngsters online as part of teaching or other activites. Yet, in CONNEXT we can hardly wait to the day when we can play games together again!

Text: Mai Salmenkangas, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and Bram Allegart, gameWise

Pictures: Logo of Mindfits and screeshot of Keep well #isolation game on ThingLink (original picture: Pixabay)

Step-by-step model for game development

Step-by-step model for game development

When we implement games in the classroom or in other contexts, the role of the teacher or game master is extremely important. How you design the games, determines everything! That’s why in this article we focus mainly on the important question: how can we co-create and implement games in the best way?

Here we briefly go through the eight steps you can take in implementing a game. Using a design-based research procedure, Vanderhoven, Carrillo and De Latter (2018) developed a step-by-step plan called Game.Learn.grow. It has been tested and modified by the international partners of CONNEXT project. Based on their experiences, the importance of co-creation was so significant that its role in the process has been emphasised. Our updated model is therefore called Game.Learn.Grow.Create. and it can be used as a framework for game-based learning in different contexts.


Before you start, think about the initial situation of your group. Every class or group is different, every teacher or instructor is different and also every school or context is different.

Ask yourself the following questions about (1) the target group, (2) the infrastructure and (3) the context:

  1. Who will play the game (target group)?
    • How is the group dynamics?
    • Do the players have experience in playing (technological) games?
    • How much support do they need?
  2. What infrastructure is available?
  3. In which context will the game be played?
    • Informal? Formal education? Youth work?


Think about what you want to accomplish with the implementation of games. What is the question that has to be ‘solved’ and thus the focus for your design of a learning activity with games?  It is good have dialogue also with the target group when determining the focus of the game.

Ask yourself the following questions

  • What is the main focus of the game? Why do you play it?
    • Learning goal?
    • Personal goal?
    • Group goal?


Once you know the main focus, think about the different goals you want to accomplish. Specify them more concretely. Keep in mind: to work in a goal-oriented way, goals must always come first, no matter what resources, e.g. teaching aids, technological aids or infrastructure you will use.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are all the things you want to achieve with your target group?
    • Learning goals
      • What do they need to know after playing the game?
        g. to learn something about the system of migration; education goals
      • What skills do they need to have after playing the game?
        Also think about the 21st century skills (e.g. problem solving, critical thinking, self-regulation, ICT and new media skills, creative thinking)
      • Which attitudes are aimed at by playing the game?
    • Personal goals
      • g. to let the player feel more confident in applying for a job, learning more about themselves
      • Think about: initiative, commitment and perseverance, discipline and punctuality, dealing with stress, flexibility, creativity & innovation, self-knowlegde (own motivation, strengths – weaknesses, preferences)
    • Group goals
      • g. getting to know each other, teambuilding, creating relatedness between groups, making connections / networks, communication, collaboration
    • Other goals?


Determine the game activity you want to work out, the content of the game, group organisation and evaluation. Remember to play the game elements with a test group that represent the target group. Co-creation can take place during the whole process of the game: at the start (input from the target group before making the game), during the making of the game prototype (feedback from target group) and/or and the end (as a test group).

Also think about your timing and your role as teacher or game master. In this step, also determine your resources, including the game platform that you will use. In the illustration of the game process  you can see that there is an interaction between all these elements, and that they cannot be determined linearly. At the end of this phase you have a first detailed game activity.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Which game elements and missions can contribute to the goals?
    • What content is needed to accomplish the goals (step 3)?
    • How does the input from target group direct your thoughts?
  • What organisation is needed to accomplish the goals of the game (step 3)? g. should the game be played individually, in small or big groups, everyone simultaneously or at own pace
  • What is your role as a game master?

Give clear instructions about the organization of the game. Think about:
  what is the role of every participant.

  how the results should be registered. 

  what is expected once the game missions are finished.

  how the participants can ask for help

  how the group division is

  where to find the materials

  how to start and exit the game and reboot (if necessary)


  • How will you evaluate if the goals are accomplished?
  • What resources and infrastructure are needed?


Execute your learning activity with your target group. In the meantime, carefully observe what is happening.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is everything going as planned?
  • How do your participants respond?


Executing game activities doesn’t always go smoothly. It goes with trial and error. Therefore, always reflect on your game activity afterwards. Involve your participants in this phase to evaluate the game activity from different perspectives.

Ask the following questions:

  • Goals:
    • How are the goals achieved?
    • Are there positive or negative unexpected side effects?
  • What can be improved:
    • technologically? Infrastructure?
    • on the content?
    • on the organization? Timing?
    • in the instructions?


Really good learning activities are created by refining them. After playing the game several times, you will know better and better where to pay attention to and you will be able to enjoy the use of the games. Go back to the previous steps and rethink and redesign what is necessary. Every time keep your goals in mind when redesigning the game elements.


You have now a well-developed game activity that you can be proud of!

Text: Liese Missinne, Artevelde University College of Applied Science

Picture: Artevelde University College of Applied Science


  • Vanderhoven, E., Carrillo, L., & De Latter, E. (2018). Developing good practices to facilitate the integration of digital games in the classroom: a design-based research. In Edulearn 18. 10th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technology (Palma, 2nd-4th of July, 2018): conference proceedings(pp. 7203-7210). IATED Academy.
  • Vanderhoven, E., De Latter, E. & Devis, R. (2019). Aan de slag met games in de klas. Wat? Waarom? Hoe? School- en klaspraktijk. Jaargang 60 (3), pp 22 – 31.
Gender mainstreamed – or not?

Gender mainstreamed – or not?

Acceptable behaviour for a girl, men taking care of babies, diverse career options for women, gender minorities as part of our societies… Gamification can be used to address various gender related themes. Because gender is a sensitive topic, it’s important to ensure sufficient support for reflections also when working with migrants and other newcomers.

During transnational CONNEXT meetings professionals have discussed how to incorporate gender into CONNEXT games. How to take cultural differences into account? What kind of game tasks would be simultaneously useful, effective and fun? Should there be separate games on gender or should the theme be mainstreamed in each game? 

Great need for sensitivity 

Gender is a very personal matter, which links with our values and identity in a complex and sensitive manner. It is also a very political matter, which has to do with human rights and equality. Particularly when discussing gender with newcomers and other migrants, a right balance ought to be found. While everyone has the right to formulate their own perception on gender, it’s also of outmost importance that everyone is aware of their rights and the potential new roles in view of gender they are entitled to. Connecting gamification with gender brings an additional challenge, because some perceive games as something light and playful, even superficial and childish. 

During a CONNEXT training in Karlstad participants played #Work Sweden, which supports migrants to find a job. One mission included interviewing passers-by on what kind of job contracts they had had in their jobs. One elderly woman, who didn’t speak Swedish very well, was sorry not to be able to help us, as she had never been paid for her work. 

This incident is a good reminder of the need to be sensitive. While playing a game in a diverse group, even defining what does work mean may be necessary. Somebody may have felt great pride in being a house-wife and a mother of four children, while in the new context this experience may have started to feel worthless. Through game playing the value of any activity that may have strengthened skills and given joy can be emphasised. 

In the end, #Work Sweden game seemed to be a delightful experience for the interviewed woman too. We discussed that taking care of children and the household is definitely a full-time job and very valuable as such. There was a bright smile on her face when she walked away and hopefully a hint of more courage to think about the Swedish labour market as well.

Gender game in practice

Gamification can be used to support participants to become more aware of how gender is reflected in and what impacts it has on our societies. It’s possible to get started for example with a simple game task, where a picture is shown to participants and they are asked: “What do you see?”.

This method was tested by Girl’s House in Finland in a culturally diverse group of girls with a picture of young hip hop women in a scarf. While the expectation was that the participants would pay attention to the clothing, eventually they were much more passionate about the manly postures of the women. The wrap up discussion in the end facilitated by a professional was very fruitful. What is suitable behaviour and physical appearance for a girl? Who defines what is suitable?

Everyday observations and related reflections can be powerful tools in promoting awareness on how gender is reflected in our surroundings. A game task could be for example as follows:

  • Look at the statues in the park and take at least 3 photos of them. Discuss how male and female characters are portrayed differently.”
  • “Ask three women and three men what hobbies they have or how they spend their leisure time. Does it seem like men and women do different things? Discuss why this might be.”
  • “Count how many male and female employees work as cashiers in a grocery store (or bus drivers in passing buses). Discuss the possible reasons why there may be more of one gender.”

As participants have carried out the game tasks, it’s necessary to reserve enough time for sharing observations and joint reflections. Without professional facilitation and proper closure there is a risk that the game doesn’t diminish stereotypical gender thinking, but even strengthens it. 

Baby steps towards equality

It’s common that gender isn’t perceived as a topic that needs a lot of attention. Therefore developing entire games dealing with gender may not be meaningful. Instead gender could be mainstreamed and individual game tasks on gender could be inserted in every game. For example if the game dealt with physical activity, one task could be on suitable sports for different genders. If the game introduced a city or an organization, one task could be on how different genders are portrayed or taken into account there. 

It’s good to keep gender in mind in the game preparation process for example in the following ways:

  • All missions are written in a gender neutral language (e.g. in Swedish “hen” or in English “they”).
  • Representatives for potential game companions aren’t always the same gender as one could stereotypically expect (e.g. are managers and technicians male, social workers female). 
  • When applicable, gender is discussed in final reflections..

CONNEXT is working on individual game tasks on gender and will publish them towards the end of December 2020.  

Text: Mai Salmenkangas, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Picture: Unsplash

Tips on game-based learning with migrants

Tips on game-based learning with migrants

Games are suited to everyone! When adjusting them to migrant groups, language support among other things needs to be highlighted. In CONNEXT we have worked around the topic internationally. This is a compilation of ideas on how to use gamification with migrants collected in a project partner meeting in Karlstad and in the CONNEXT Finland game sessions. Our game missions guide participants around their environment making use of different electronical platforms, but you can do yours in your preferred way!

It is meaningful to plan games keeping these three stages in mind:

  1. before playing
  2. while playing
  3. after playing

Everything starts from you as an instructor or a teacher. Get to know the gaming platform you are using and learn to use it. The best thing is when you know your group and their actual and special needs. Do the needs assessment for your group and start planning the game!

We suggest the following:

1. Before playing

  • Anticipate right day and equipment

It is important that the participants know early enough about the game session particularly if they should be prepared in some way e.g. with a full phone battery or weatherproof clothes. It’s good to keep in mind that people have different perceptions on weather and some may find for example the Nordic snow and cold quite intimidating. Weather conditions can be a big deal when playing outside, so do look at the weather forecast in advance!

  • Explain why

Although game-based learning is becoming increasingly more common, it isn’t a familiar approach to everyone. According to our experiences, some may feel it resembles too much children’s play, which may undermine the dignity of a grown-up. This can be the case particularly with some adults from migrant groups. Whatever the group, it’s important that your group knows why you are playing the game, how does it promote the aims of the group and what do the players gain from playing. You can assess the usefulness of the game also together in the end.

  • Plan groups carefully

If the group is very heterogeneous in view of language or technical skills, it’s good to plan diverse game groups, where participants can support each other in a meaningful way. However, a special attention should be paid to the division of the labour. In some mixed CONNEXT game groups we noticed that the native speakers easily took the lead, while those from the migrant groups took a more passive role. It’s important to discuss in advance that everyone has a valuable role to play and everyone has to be given an opportunity to participate.

  • Keep flexible schedule

Usually everything in a game session lasts longer than you have imagined and planned. Lack of strong common language often means giving instructions takes time. They may need to be repeated a few times. In some cases cultural habits may also affect the starting time: how to make sure that everyone will be there, when the game starts?

Especially if the game session is the first one with the group, give time for people to orientate and ask questions. You also need to give the initial info and instructions for participants and discussions after the game.

2. While playing

  • Use oral and visual instructions

Simple game missions are a good way to start, if you are playing with a heterogeneous group. In order for technical aspects not to discourage the participants nor to hamper the joy of playing, we recommend you to use plain language and to give instructions in stages. For some people listening is easier than reading. In this case recorded instructions probably work the best.

Including pictures with the equivalent word can support the understanding of instructions and simultaneously it promotes language learning. In CONNEXT we have also had good experiences with using instruction videos: if you cannot explain it, show it!

  • Choose suitable answering options

Complicated missions including many elements or long written answers may be a challenge for players who don’t have a strong common language. Therefore, you may wish to start with the simple options: take a picture, add a word, choose the right one among multiple choice options, make a film or say a sentence and record it. We have noticed that recording an answer in a game has been a motivating way to support languet learning even for those, who may be shy to speak in the class.

However, it may be easiest, if there is not too much variation in the beginning. Starting with 2-3 answering option types in the beginning gives the participants an opportunity to feel familiar and safe with them, perhaps the rest can be used next time?

  • Give support and encouragement

All people need support while playing, but the need increases in a heterogeneous group. Think in advance if your group should have instructors joining the game groups. They can guide players and support their motivation with their own example in a fair and enthusiastic way. CONNEXT has noticed that some adult players have benefited from an instructor in their group in particular, as they were concerned and even a little stressed about their level of technical skills. When the instructor joined the group, everyone could better concentrate in the contents and learning.

You may wish to have an extra hand during the game for giving feedback, guidance and support from a distance, even if instructors wouldn’t join the groups themselves. According to the experiences of CONNEXT giving feedback to the players regularly is very motivating and it gives the participants a feeling that you as an instructor are also part of the game.

  • Prepare support material

In order to support your groups, you can prepare a resource pack, which can be carried e.g. in a bag and given to all groups in the beginning of the game. It can consist e.g. of a vocabulary related to the theme of the game. The support bag of Swedish #Work game consisted of a paper with a model discussion. As the participants were expected in the game to approach a stranger on the street and ask them about their career, the participants could rehearse the discussion in advance: how to start the conversation, how to explain what you aim at etc. The paper with a model discussion gave more time for the participants to prepare and increased the likelihood that the encounter is successful.

3. After playing

It’s never just about the game session. Games can be seen as an instrument for example to learn or to become more empowered, inspired, self-aware and determined.

  • Collect feedback

It is important that the players can contribute and give feedback on the game. Feedback can be included in the game as one task. You have a choice to make: are you collecting feedback during the game, right after the game or would you like to have another session afterwards. Depending on the language skills of the participants you can choose e.g. feedback in multiple choice, audio, or video formats.

  • Share and reward

Discuss with the group about the game and its task. Share and show answers given by the groups. If there was points given in the game make sure you also reward the winners and encourage the others as well.

Gamification is all about keeping your own mind open and positive. That is contagious.


Text: Tiina Lehto-Lundén & Mai Salmenkangas, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences & Alisa Rämö, Omnia Vocational Upper Secondary School

Picture: Pexels/ Pixabay & Johanna Syrén

Virtual Gamified Diamonds Seminar 26.8.

Virtual Gamified Diamonds Seminar 26.8.

Are you interested in how gamification supporting learning and empowerment has developed over the past years?  What about how digital youth work has been done in Finland and how does it’s future look like? Virtual Gamified Diamonds Seminar was arranged to explore these questions and to have a gamified experience of the best ideas of CONNEXT for inclusion project e.g. on how to apply gamification in the following themes: 

  • working with migrants and refugees
  • gender sensitivity and awareness
  • sports inspired pedagogy
  • study and career counselling

Target group: Any counsellors, teachers, coaches, other professionals and students, who wish to understand how to use gamification to support learning and empowerment particularly with the youth

Language: Presentations, group discussions and the game platform are in English, but while playing the game you are welcome to use any preferred language



8.00               Welcome

8.15               Gamified Education: Theories, Practices and Recent Trends

Researcher Lobna Hassan (University of Tampere/Turku,

In recent years, gamification emerged as one key method to improve learning and engagement. At the beginning, we often understood gamification as introducing game elements, such as points, badges or leaderboards, to the educational process. However, as our knowledge on gamification grew, gamification started to be conceptualized as a much deeper process. Gamification designers often employ psychology theory and research, so as to understand what motivates individuals and build gamification that is able to connect to these motivations in different contexts, for example in the educational contexts. Work has additionally been done to examine personal differences in gamification, in an effort to make sure that gamification is inclusive and facilitates inclusion. This presentation briefly introduces gamification, some of the key theoretical perspectives it is connected to and provides research and practical examples of gamification.

                      Reflections on the presentation in small groups

9.15             Energizing break

9.30             Digital youth work in Finland

Planner Juha Kiviniemi (Verke – Centre of Expertise for Digital Youth Work in Finland)

Finnish digital youth work has been and is widely considered one of the most developed in the world. However, there is still much to do: while the field is highly advanced in terms of using online platforms and interacting with young people on digital platforms, we have our blind spots as well. Especially working in international contexts it is clear how different European member states have their own strengths and how much we have to learn from each other, whether it’s working on social media, tinkering with electronics or producing high quality media content. In this presentation we look at major technological developments and phenomena in the last decade and see how the Finnish youth field reacted to them. We also take a peek at the wider European context now and in the future.

                        Reflections on the presentation in small groups

10.15             Lunch break

10.45             Playing a game: CONNEXT Diamonds

Seminar participants will have an opportunity to become inspired by the gamified approaches and materials developed in CONNEXT in Finland, Flanders and Sweden through playing a game CONNEXT Diamonds. Each participant should have a mobile phone or a tablet with an internet connection.

The CONNEXT Diamonds game has been prepared in collaboration with Loisto Setlementti Girls’ House and Empowering Migrants for Employment EME project.

                        Instructions on the technical game platform

                        Independent playing of CONNEXT Diamonds game

                        Reflection in small groups

                        Wrap-up of the game experience 

12.30             End of the day


For further information on the seminar, please contact: mai.salmenkangas @

Exploring educational choices of young men

Exploring educational choices of young men

Boys and young men with immigrant background are, compared to their native peers, at higher risk of dropping out of the educational system and being unavailable to the job market later. This phenomenon is labelled as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). In Finland the CONNEXT for Inclusion project is searching for methods and ways to prevent particularly boys and young men to fall out of the education system and have a prosperous professional future instead.

To deliver supporting information on educational choices of boys, I focused in my Bachelor’s thesis on the transition process from lower to upper secondary school within the Finnish system and how choices are influenced by families, e.g. in form of transfer of socioeconomic status.

Additionally, I looked into boys’ experiences of communication between family and school, the support they get from teachers and school curators, their own suggestions on how to improve this support as well as their own experience of participation and disadvantage in society. I interviewed boys and young men from 2 different schools and made use of the Capabilities Approach developed by Martha C. Nussbaum in the analyzing process.

Importance of role models

As professionals in the social field support boys with immigrant background to find their future professional path, it is important to not only provide information on different choices, but also be available as a role model ourselves. It became obvious in my research, that boys benefit from having role models.

Throughout their process of growing up and becoming more independent from the family and parents, role models outside of the family setting gain more importance. They might also be found in organizations providing free-time activities, e.g. sport clubs. A social work practitioner might want to reach out to these players, if it seems to be of benefit for the development of the boy in question.

Certainly, family members play a role, e.g. values are being transferred and influence decision-making. This can be understood as an indication that the socio-economic status of one generation is transmitted to the next. Boys also discuss their educational choices with parents and use these discussions as reflections of their personal interest, motivation and values that lead to a certain decision on a future career.

However, the participants in this research stressed the importance of separating school and family life. Nonetheless, parents can have a motivating effect on the young men. E.g. one can make them proud by getting good grades. The young men see grading as a beneficent tool to estimate their own school performance and react accordingly in case there is a need. They could include their parents into this process. However, they did not express a need to involve their parents in a common forum with school professionals to consider questions that refer to their professional future.

Support networks for youth and families

The interviewees in my research showed high levels of participation. According to the Capabilities Approach they were able to envision their own future and apply practical reasoning skills in order to pursue a professional education (Nussbaum, M., 2011). Nonetheless, they experience disadvantage, e.g. learning Finnish is a challenge for first-generation immigrants.

The situation seems to be easier to tackle, if the experience is shared with other peers. A boy, who is embedded in a Finnish speaking class being the only non-Finnish speaker, most probably learns the language faster, but might have a rougher experience of this task and therefore needs support to deal with this phase, idealistically in form of peers, being in the same situation.

Similar phenomena can be seen in the social surroundings of the family. According to prior research, well functioning communities of minorities have a positive effect on the school performance of the children within the communities (Coles, B. et al, 2002, p.27). As social work professionals we can reach out, support the organization and structuring of these communities and include them into the support system of families. They can also be included into the decision-making process of boys with immigrant background, supporting the boys’ own network of peer support.

For more detailed information please acquaint yourself with my Bachelor’s thesis Participation and Educational Choices: Influence of Family and School on Immigrant Boys.

Text: Moritz Cartheuser, Social Services student, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences

Picture: Kat Wilcox/


  • Nussbaum, M., 2011. Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Coles, B.,Hutton, S., Bradshaw, J., Craig, G., Godfrey, C. & Johnson, J., 2002. Literature Review of the Costs of Being “Not in Education, Employment or Training” at Age 16-18. Norwich: Queen’s printer.
  • Cartheuser, M. 2020. Participation and Educational Choices: Influence of Family and School on Immigrant Boys. Bachelor’s Thesis, Metropolia University of Applied Sciences.
Assessment through Most Significant Change (MSC)

Assessment through Most Significant Change (MSC)

CONNEXT project experiments, how MSC method based on story-telling works as an assessment tool with migrants. As Vanessa, the new assessor of CONNEXT from Artevelde University College, describes there is still a lot to learn.


Since autumn 2019 I have been involved in CONNEXT. My interest was tickled from the start. My task in this project is to measure the impact of game-based learning by the methodology of Most Significant Change (MSC).


What is it all about?

MSC is a method based on collecting stories. It’s common for people to tell stories and to remember them. And it is a way of detecting unexpected changes.

There is a specific way, how MSC stories are collected and sorted out. To explain it very briefly , stories are collected from different actors that are involved in the project or program, for example participants, staff or frontline workers. Collecting the stories starts from the question ‘What is the most significant change you experienced thanks to this project? And Why?’.

The collected stories are analyzed in steps. First workers choose the most significant stories from their groups. These stories are passed on to the decision makers, e.g. a project board of members, who choose the most significant stories in their view and discuss them with the assessor. This is the starting point for discussion on what the (un)intended impact of the program is. (Davis, & Dart, 2005)

In CONNEXT, using MSC should finally result in a manual inspiring professionals in using game-based learning method in working with migrants.


Sounds like a good idea, but…

Already during the first CONNEXT partner meeting in Ghent it became clear that there are some challenges to tackle. Some participants have too little language skills to write a story. Also too short or superficial experience of the theme assessed, in this case gamification, makes it very difficult to produce a story. Several encounters and long-lasting experiences makes assessment easier. It seems that some facilitation in carrying out MSC assessment with migrants is useful. However, collecting stories should be easy and not too time consuming for professionals either.

In the second partner meeting in Karlstad I had the opportunity to get to know partners and the challenges they meet in carrying out MSC. Very fast it became clear that we should use a light version of Most Significant Change and connect it with other tools. As the partners in the project work with different target groups on different topics we are confronted with different challenges such as lack of language skills (oral and writing), different ages and the workload of professionals. So we had to look for an approach that meets these challenges. 

During a partner meeting workshop the professionals brainstormed about techniques that could work for their target group to collect information on the most significant change. They came up with different proposals to inspire others. For example support for assessment could be gained from pictures, emojicons expressing emotions or a larger group, if the whole MSC discussions were carried out in a group.  

The learning process connected with MSC is to be continued. I am already very curious to read the stories.


Further reading:

Text: Vanessa Vanhooren, Artevelde University College of Applied Science

Illustration: Johanna Syren, Puntland Society of Finland