Category: NEWS

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. The step-by-step plan is based on scientific design-based research of Vanderhoven, Carrillo, De Latter (2018). 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. The model is called Game.Learn.Grow.Create and it can be used as a framework for game-based learning in different contexts. STEP 1: MAKE AN OVERVIEW OF THE INITIAL SITUATION 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?
STEP 2: DETERMINE THE FOCUS 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?
STEP 3: DETERMINE THE GOALS 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?
STEP 4: CO-CREATE YOUR GAME ACTIVITY 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?
STEP 5: EXECUTE YOUR GAME ACTIVITY. 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?
STEP 6: EVALUATE YOUR GAME ACTIVITY. 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?
STEP 7: REDESIGN YOUR GAME ACTIVITY. 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. STEP 8: FINISH! 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 Bibliography:
  • 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

Connecting again – in Sweden!

Connecting again – in Sweden!

The second CONNEXT transnational partner meeting took place in Karlstad with 50 participants from Belgium, Finland and Sweden. The aim was to continue learning from each other, share knowledge and experiences as well as get further training on game-based learning.  

Day 1

The first partner meeting day focused on everyone getting to know each other and in the morning Artevelde and Metropolia hosted some fun and energetic getting-to-know-each-other exercises. We found ourselves speed dating, innovating new ways to use pantyhose and building human pyramids.

Sofia, who teaches Swedish for immigrants, introduced #WORK Sweden and talked about the local adaptations made to the game as well as her experiences with the game, and the challenges and possibilities that she sees. We got to meet two of the participants in CONNEXT Sweden who have been part of the #WORK co-creation process.

After lunch it was time for everyone to experience #WORK for themselves and the Swedish Core Trainers hosted a Game Session with 15 missions and 14 teams, and for a couple of hours the center of Karlstad was filled with people competing and talking about work!

The local radio station accompanied one of the teams and made an interview with one of the Swedish Core Trainers (in Swedish).

The local news paper also followed one team and published an article. The feedback and evaluation session after the game showed that people had enjoyed themselves and that they had bonded with their fellow team members.

A fun and intensive first day ended with an informal get-together with a buffet and a beautiful Luciatåg with children singing traditional songs, paving the way to Christmas.

Day 2

The second day had two parallel programs that merged in the late afternoon. The Swedish delegation had a special program for train-the-trainer for the 8 Swedish Core Trainers in combination with training for 13 new Game Masters.

In the meanwhile, the Flemish and Finnish delegations were working on topics related to the learning network in CONNEXT. The aim was to create a common understanding of the learning network, as well as discussing different themes in relation to working with gamification with migrants. The role of gender in game based learning was also addressed. Discussions from these working groups will be documented in a handbook published towards the end of the project. In the late afternoon the sessions merged, and we had a very fruitful session working together on the learning network.

Day 3

The third day was busy with many different topics, workshops and study visits on the agenda. Before lunch we got to listen to good practices in relation to games and we had one workshop on measuring impact, and one workshop on co-creation in games.

After lunch the participants had a choice to visit ESF-projects and other places working with migrants and youngsters. For example in Värmland Tillsammans project we heard about intensified support provided to migrants far away from the labourmarket and different ways of learning Swedish. Followed by project Värmlands Framtid an educational material called 7TJUGO® is still in use providing youngsters meaningful things to learn for 16 weeks. We ended the day with a study visit at Plaza Hotel, which gives on-the-job-training to newcomers as part of Match2job project and made a brief evaluation of the three days together.

Day 4

On the fourth day the transnational project team and steering group had a meeting to, among other things, talk about the project meeting in Karlstad, work on assessment and evaluation, discuss the handbook and dissemination of the project and plan for the next meeting in Helsinki in March 2020.

Text: Marie Andersson, Municipality of Karlstad

Pictures: Griet Van Herck and Mai Salmenkangas

Finnish approach: Many games for many purposes

Finnish approach: Many games for many purposes

The aim of the Finnish CONNEXT has been to inspire many professionals and organisations to develop their own games or single missions, creating a pedagogical movement of game-based learning. All games have had something to do with supporting youth from migrant communities to find their path in the new society.


Games throughout the summer


It’s quite common to use serious urban games with a strong supervision and a time pressure. YMCA Helsinki wanted to experiment something else. They used a game to motivate and orientate approximately 40 young summer workers to their first summer job and the working environment in YMCA.

“The most interesting thing was,” stated one of the game masters Tiina Lehto-Lundén from Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, “that the game wasn’t only a one time thing. The summer workers had a possibility to continue playing the game and carry out missions related to their job independently throughout the summer.”


As a conclusion, Tiina said: “This gave a splendid opportunity to both the youngsters and the supervisors to learn and test something new.”



Gamifying an existing training


The Sports Federation of Southern Finland expressed creative thinking when converting an existing training “Järkkää tapahtuma” (Organise an event) into a game. Instead of listening to a lecture, the participants now had the responsibility to solve tasks and come up with solutions to the given problems.


The training was first tested by tutors in Omnia vocational school. The students wanting to be tutors and help new students were invited together. They were given a yellow backpack with juggling balls, plastic cones, and a jump rope. Finally they were sent outside to do different gamified tasks.


“The tasks reminded me of similar things I did in Montessori kindergarten and up to the 6th grade. I think refreshing my memory with these games will help me in the future with tutor groups and will give me things to do with the new students, they were good icebreaker games,” one of the participants, Lemley said.


As a result, the tutors were inspired to arrange an Independence Day event in for the preparatory classes in Omnia, mainly consisting of youngsters from the ethnic communities.



Explorations in the city 


Boy’s House has developed a game called “#stadistartti” (Get started in the capital city), which was first tested among pupils of 13-17 years of age. It consists of various kinds of tasks, such as count the steps next to the Senate Square, search for a 3D printer in the library Oodi, interview by-passers, send a letter to the school and so on.


 ”I feel that the game was a good tool in supporting language learning. Reading instructions and carrying out tasks gave an opportunity to the participants to practice their Finnish skills in a versatile way,” stated one of the game masters, Tuulia Simulainen.


“To me personally it was a good reminder that also travelling time can be useful for the purposes of learning. You can for example ask game participants about the surrounding city and give an opportunity to the youngsters themselves to find their way to the next place,” she continued.


In addition to the above mentioned game contents there are various other games ready or in the making in the Finnish CONNEXT project. They have themes varying from exercises in the nature to gender awareness and wellbeing services to students. The project also warmly welcomes new game ideas and new partners!



Text: Edited by Mai Salmenkangas (contents compiled from stories written by Tiina Lehto-Lundén, Lemley and Tuulia Simulainen, some already published in Finnish)


Pictures: Nadiifo Omer and Tuulia Simulainen

Awsomeness of co-creation

Awsomeness of co-creation

Co-creation is an act of creating something together in order to jointly produce a mutually valued outcome. As part of CONNEXT, in Karlstad we have recently been co-creating together with migrants to develop a Swedish version of the #WORK game. The co-creation process was conducted according to the S_U+G® methodology consisting of three consecutive workshops called ‘Labs’:

  • LearningLab: gain insight into the specific serious theme.
  • GameLab: co-creation of stories and game mechanics.
  • TestLab: play and evaluate the game in development.
A group of people testing #WORK Sweden.
Testing #WORK ™ Sweden!

In May 2019, the CONNEXT partners Bram and Marie from [ew32] came all the way from Flanders to guide us through this process and it was truly a great experience! The Swedish Core trainers did a brilliant job in guiding over 25 migrants in these labs (with good support from [ew32]!). The atmosphere was great with buzzing energy, vivid conversations and many laughs.

With help of the structure of the labs, together with the experience, knowledge and wisdom among the participants, we got a lot of valuable input and ideas to put into the creation process of #WORK ™ Sweden. In the LearningLab we gained new insights to the theme of the game and in the GameLab and TestLab’s we got feedback on how different missions work, the level of difficulty, practical issues, ideas on how to make the missions work better, topics that were missing and topics that were the most valuable.

Selfie of the game participants. Three ladies and a man smiling.
Every game session starts with taking selfies!

We also got feedback showing us that empowerment through game-based learning is indeed possible! Although we were “only” in a co-creation process, the participants told us stories about the experience that almost put tears in our eyes. Statements like “doing it this way, I am never going to forget what I learned today, “this is the first time that I have spoken to Swedish people that I don’t know” and “now I’m no longer afraid to approach people I don’t know” really moved us. The missions that the participants appreciated the most were missions involving interactions with “strangers”. This made us realise that the S_U+G® methodology could help migrants overcoming thresholds when it comes to interacting with other people.

Co-creation is becoming more and more common as many companies and organizations have discovered the benefits of involving their customers, clients and consumers in developing ideas, products and services. We can now see why. Thanks to the feedback from the participants in the Labs, we have been able to make a lot of adjustments and improvements to #WORK ™ and are now proud to declare that we are #WORK ™-Sweden-good-to-go!


Psst! Check out Design kit tools, which can be used to support co-creation and other project activities.



Text: Marie Andersson, Municipality of Karlstad

Pictures: Marie Andersson, Maria Svärdsén and participants in the labs of CONNEXT Sweden


Motivation is the key!

Motivation is the key!

The aim of CONNEXT is to empower migrants and refugees to be part of our societies and believe in their own future. Self-determination theory (SDT) –  a theory on motivation –  serves as the basis for all CONNEXT actions: we should support autonomous motivation and game-based learning seems to be a fabulous tool to get there!

While writing the project application, designing learning labs for a CONNEXT training or playing games, the self-determination theory has served as a framework. According to SDT (Ryan & Deci, 2000) different kinds of motivation exists. When there is controlled motivation, a person feels HE HAS to do it, he feels obligated and there is pressure in order for him to get things done. On the otherhand, autonomous motivation means that a person WANTS to do it. Research has showed that autonomous motivation has more qualitative outcomes and is accompanied by more sustainable behavioral changes.

The self-determination theory argues that the quality of motivation is more important than the quantity of motivation (Ryan & Deci, 2000). Thus, the type of motivation is more important than the amount of it. The SDT defines three types of extrinsic motivation (see 1-3 in Figure 1). For example a person can be very motivated by extrinsic rewards such as money or bonuses (see 1 in Figure 1), but that is rather a less effective type of motivation. Not surprisingly, autonomous motivation (including both intrinsic and identified regulation) is most beneficial because people are motivated in their actions because of their own will. They feel psychological freedom and there well-being has shown to be better.  This is in contrary of controlled motivation, where people are obligated and feel pressure (external or internal) to do things.

Figure 1. Different types of motivation; adapted from Ryan & Deci (2000).
Figure 1. Different types of motivation; adapted from Ryan & Deci (2000).

In order to encourage the most qualitative type of motivation (namely autonomous motivation), we need to stimulate three psychological basic needs. These three needs are explained by Richard Ryan (animation by Laura Kriegel) in this short video. They are also visualized in the Figure 2 below.

Figure 2: ABC of the selfdetermination theory, inspired by Aelterman, De Muynck, Haerens & Vande Broek (2017)
Figure 2: ABC of the selfdetermination theory, inspired by Aelterman, De Muynck, Haerens & Vande Broek (2017)

In CONNEXT the aim is to support these psychological needs in a balanced way. It is done by allowing participants to define their role and actions in a game-based learning context themselves. The participants are giving a lot of choices while playing and become owner of their own game process.  They have choice in defining the group roles of each group member, they can choose the order of missions the encounter in the game, their voice is being heard and many more game elements stimulate their autonomy. Additionally it is important to carry out games together. The small group provides support and serves as an opportunity to feel connected to others and so belongingness is stimulated. Commonly, game-based learning in CONNEXT also challenge participants to become and feel competent in new tasks by expecting different challenging tasks to be carried out. In order to win a game they need to make an effort and they are challenged and perhaps even exceed themselves. This is often rewarding for all, because even if not winning, playing a game is useful and fun at the same time!


Text: Liese Missinne, Artevelde University College Ghent

Picture: Unsplash/ Kevin Jarrett


For more information:

Heart Mind Online: The ABC of Self-Motivation at



Aelterman, N., De Muynck, G. J., Haerens, L., Vande Broek, G., & Vansteenkiste, M. (2017). Motiverend coachen in de sport. Acco; Leuven.

Deci, E.L. (1975). Intrinsic motivation. New York. NY: Plenum Press.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (1985). Intrinsic motivation and self-determination in human behavior. New York: Plenum.

Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The” what” and” why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior. Psychological inquiry11(4), 227-268.

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2000). Intrinsic and extrinsic motivations: Classic definitions and new directions. Contemporary educational psychology25(1), 54-67.

Vansteenkiste, M., Soenens, B., Sierens, E. & Lens, W. (2005). Hoe kunnen we leren en presteren bevorderen? Een autonomie-ondersteunend versus controlerend schoolklimaat, Caleidoscoop, 17, 18-25.