Loughborough University
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Gamification and ocean literacy in early secondary education

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posted on 2021-03-30, 07:52 authored by Rui Leitao
Over the last years, there has been a growing acknowledgement of the ocean’s importance and its influence on the well-being of the planet and thus on climate change. Considered as the heart of the planet, the ocean has become one of the most critical aspects in the world environmental agenda with many news articles and headlines commonly featuring in the media. The integration of ocean related topics in educational contents is therefore necessary, as the health of the ocean continues to be threatened by human activity. Mobile digital technologies, and more specifically gamified applications, have the potential to support learning about the ocean as the immersive features of these platforms can involve, motivate and engage pupils with learning about the ocean and help them to visualise complex interactions between our actions and the environment.
This thesis investigates the impact of different game elements on learning and motivating pupils about marine environmental issues, by using a mobile prototype application as a research tool. It is organised into six case studies. Case Study 1 investigates if mobile platforms can be a means of assisting learning and teaching about science-related topics to understand the extent to which pupils and teachers employ technologies in educational contexts and investigates the relationships between digital media sources and ocean literacy. Case Study 2 explores KS3 pupils’ knowledge about the ocean and the sources from which they get information about the ocean. Case Studies 3 and 4 investigate pupils’ experience and the usability of a mobile game and analyse the effects of playing a mobile game about recycling and the effect on stimulating children’s motivation to learn about the ocean. Finally, Case Studies 5 and 6 evaluate the impact of different game elements on learning and on the motivation to act to protect the ocean.
The findings of this research show that the use of different game elements in ocean science education can affect the learning experience and the children’s motivation to recycle. These findings can inform decision-making in the design and development of educational mobile applications intended to enhance learning.
The innovative character of this research resides in the systematic evaluation of the distinctive characteristics of different game elements, in order to understand which ones are better suited in a secondary school science learning context. The research project has demonstrated that engaging learners in gamified experiences related to the ocean can improve their literacy and also motivate them to think about their actions in recycling to help look after the ocean. However, as supported by the literature, creating a rich gamified experience is much more than merely adding various game elements to products. In conclusion this thesis offers an overview of the range of impacts that mobile gamified technologies can have on the learning experience in a classroom environment depending on the kind of game element employed at KS3, in Portugal and the UK.


Arts and Humanities Research Council, Design Star Centre for Doctoral Training (AH/L503770/1)



  • Design and Creative Arts


  • Design


Loughborough University

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© Rui Leitao

Publication date



A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the award of the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.


  • en


Martin Maguire ; Sarah Turner

Qualification name

  • PhD

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

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