Physical activity and game-based learning: maybe your next step in engaging students

Engaging children to become physically active has become an agenda item in Danish schools. Lars Elbæk, Md. Saifuddin Khalid and Christina Meisner Jørgensen have addressed this by integrating physical activity and learning into the number one sedentary artefact: the chair.

Entering the classroom, you see students – five of them – deeply involved in their learning. They are standing on a rocking cube, tilting it from side to side, and choosing the right letter to spell a five-letter word. This artefact is designed to facilitate Physical Activity (PA) and mediate knowledge acquisition through Game-Based Learning (GBL).

We made the rocking stool of lightweight material, and the shape is ideal for standing on, tilting, rocking, or even throwing. The spelling exercise is performed using the built-in accelerometer, which communicates with a cloud-based platform on a computer device – a platform containing several academic activities and templates for teachers or students to create their exercises. The cube, called iMO-LEARN, can be used without the interactive part as well, as a chair or for analogue exercises.

Physical activity enhances executive functions – mental processes which are essential in planned and focused actions. A growing research literature shows that physically active students behave better, have better learning prerequisites and gain slightly improved academic marks. Further, traditional quizzes have proven successful in various learning contexts as a means of including game-based elements.

Our own investigation indicates that the artefact influences students’ learning via built-in engaging problem-solving activities. When the game functions appropriately, the PA-GBL artefact is perceived as a co-player in the learning environment. It makes the students more motivated to learn, and so potentially mediates playful academic learning and promotes a positive learning environment.


Md. Saifuddin Khalid and Lars Elbæk (lelbaek@health.sdu.dk) are Associate Professors in digital design and movement at the University of Southern Denmark. Together they collaborate with business entities, clubs, and educational institutions on design research. Christina Meisner Jørgensen is a physiotherapist and a movement entrepreneur, who assisted in evaluating the use of the PA-GBL cube concept as a Master’s student.