Monday, July 2, 2018

PCaRD (and ICCE) for learning design

In my book chapter "ICCE for the creation of engaging edtech lessons" I describe the ICCE framework for Games-based Learning developed by Foster and Shaw (2015) and argue how the framework could also be used for a number of other types of tech that may not be used widely or long enough to merit their own specific framework for implementation. ICCE concerns itself with four elements: Inquiry, collaboration, construction (of knowledge) and expression.

ICCE is part of an "ecological" model Foster and Shah (2015) refer to as Game Network Analysis, or GaNA. It is ecological in the sense that GaNA concerns itself with the various factors both inside and outside of the classroom that affect how games are used for learning. GaNA includes ICCE, TPACK, and PCaRD (see image).

Game Network Analysis diagram (Foster & Shah, 2015).

PCaRD, or Play, Curricular activity, Reflection, Discussion really stood out to me when reading in preparation for my group's presentation on Gamification and GBL. I liked what I read so much that I entirely changed my chapter topic so I could dive deeper (I had already begun work on a chapter on a different subject and tossed it aside).

Where ICCE is used mostly to analyze the educational value of a game (or other techs), combined with PCaRD, they become a powerful tool both for the analysis and lesson design using different educational technologies. ICCE helps a teacher or instructor select effective learning tools, and PCaRD helps design how they will be used to assist learning, and identify activities to bridge gaps where the tech tool does not meet all of the learner's needs.

Diagram illustrating the interaction of ICCE and PCaRD for technology analysis AND learning design (Foster & Shah, 2015).


As a K12 teacher, a HUGE push in my school division the last several years has been on inquiry-based learning. From my personal experience, traditional inquiry-based learning works very well in early and middle years where teachers have their students for a full day and interdisciplinary connections are more natural (because the same teacher usually teachers their class all of their subjects) but a tougher sell for high school staff. In high school, we only have our students for an hour a day for one semester, and we have to concern ourselves with exams at the end of that time. The most significant barrier isn't that teachers don't see the value of inquiry - it's that, with time and space constraints - it is not their priority.

This is the beauty of a PCaRD-style lesson plan. Teachers don't have to invest weeks of class time to scaffold inquiry in their classrooms or have inquiry projects become an overwhelming "thing" teachers and students must manage; they can make it a portion of each lesson with specific learning outcomes still the main goal. It breaks down as follows:

Play: This part of the lesson gives students time to explore and interact with their learning tool. The framework is designed for games, but this could also easily involve another tech like virtual reality, makerspaces, or robotics. This ties directly to the inquiry portion of ICCE - students should be asking questions and solving problems.

Curricular Activity: This is where the teacher connects what students do during play to their learning goals and curriculum. It might be done as a stand-alone activity after students finish playing, or embedded into their play.

Reflection: Students reflect on their play and activities. Students should record their reflections in a space where they can look back on past observations and keep examples of their work - a portfolio or blog would be great choices. Students should identify their strengths, challenges, and questions.

Discussion: Based on data collected from student reflections, teachers lead a class discussion to scaffold student learning, provoke questions, and support students' ideas. The discussion should help students identify further questions and problems that they can explore during their next play session.

When our group presented on Gamification and GBL a couple of weeks ago, we decided to try out the PCaRD method with our class. Here is how we set it up:

Play: We gave our classmates three games to try out, with 15 minutes of play time each. We did not want to be overly prescriptive with their time so they could explore and get a 'feel' for the games.

Curricular Activity: We instructed everyone to consider the ICCE and CSAM elements as they played the games. They were asked to consider how well each game fit the framework. This activity was chosen because we wanted everyone to practice evaluating games and were less concerned about specific subject areas (because our areas of practice in the class are so diverse).

Reflection: Because this was a one-time lesson and not something we would be able to re-visit with the group, setting up a blog post or portfolio wouldn't be appropriate. Instead, we polled the class for each game. They gave each game a score of 1-4 for adherence to the CSAM and ICCE frameworks (one point for each element the game fit). This encouraged everyone to keep the learning theory in mind and practice using them.

Discussion: During our discussion to wrap up our lesson, we asked the class if they saw more value with one framework over the other, which lead to some chat on the different elements. We then displayed the results of how everyone ranked the three games. This question was less about choosing a preferred framework, and more to encourage critical thinking about how to evaluate games for learning.

We found that using the PCaRD framework to set up our lesson worked extremely well. We kept the class actively engaged, allowed for individual exploration of our topic, and ended with a lively discussion. It certainly did feel like a risk using 45 of the 70 minutes we had to present to let everyone on their own to try the games (with a group member in each breakout to answer questions, just in case). But the hands-on time, I think, helped everyone connect with our content much more meaningfully if we had only described our games via slides or video.


Fiarchuk, J. (2018). ICCE for creating engaging edtech lessons. In Power, R. (Ed.), Technology and the curriculum: Summer 2018. Surrey, BC, Canada: Power Learning Solutions. Available from

Foster, A. & Shah, M. (2015). The ICCE framework: Framing learning experienced afforded by games. Journal of Educational Computer Research, 51(4), 369-395. doi: 10.2190/EC.51.4.a

Power, R. (2014). Creating mobile reusable learning objects using the CSAM learning design framework. Retrieved from

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