Monthly Archives: April 2008

US kids want games for learning

Alexandra Matthews has been busy collecting and collating stories related to games based learning from around the blogosphere, and from her ‘Heated debate on Game-Based Learning‘ post, I followed the link through to the article on NetworkWorld: ‘Most kids want educational video games in school, survey shows. … So?’

The original article by Paul McNamara is a fairly balanced report on the Project Tommorow finding, but the comments contain a fair bit of heated debate – some heavily biased against games, some comments going a little far the other way:

education shouldn’t be seperated from entertainment

I respectfully disagreed. Not that education can’t be entertaining or fun at least some of the time, but education shouldn’t focus overmuch on entertaining. My full reply:

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CFP: Digital Games and Intelligent Toys Based Education (DIGITEL 2008)

I’m unlikely to manage Canada in November, but this looks very promising:

The Second IEEE International Conference on Digital Games and Intelligent Toys Based Education (DIGITEL 2008)

November 17-19, 2008, Banff, Canada
http://www.ask4research.info/digitel/2008/

Sponsored by IEEE Technical Committee on Learning Technology

The Conference Proceedings will be published by the IEEE Computer Society Press.

Submissions due: 30th May

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CFP: Researching Learning in Virtual Environments – ReLIVE 08

It’s not often that I get to say “I hope to see you in Milton Keynes in November”, but this is one of those rare times…

Researching Learning in Virtual Environments – ReLIVE08

20th and 21st November 2008.

Keynote speakers: Edward Castranova and Roo Reynolds.

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A grand proposal

In this month’s IGDA Culture Clash column, ‘A modest proposal‘, Matt Sakey writes about the use of games-based learning – but goes somewhat overboard, and basically proposes replacing everything with games:

Experts say that games can’t completely replace other forms of pedagogy. Maybe not, if you simply take games and try to stuff them up the current model for education, a model based mostly on rote memorization through lecture, and less on interpretation and application. You’re told that Animal Farm is a commentary on Socialism, told where Bhutan is. Games don’t work that way; they are experiential. Players draw their own conclusions from the context, which is why games couldn’t totally replace the system as it exists today. Redesign the model to focus on experiential learning, though, and games would be a perfect fit. Of course, the games would have to be very well-designed.

So, there we have it – re-work all of education into experiential education, then make games of it all. This is all rather extreme and very idealistic – although not ideals that I subscribe to myself. It’s a shame as there are a number of points that Matt makes that I would agree with. There is, for example, some evidence to support the assertion that:

So teachers simply help their students memorize what they know will appear on the standardized tests. The result: a generation that can take the crap out of a test but has no idea what anything means.

And then Matt says:

People learn when they think about things, and that’s really what games make you do.

In fact, numerous reports on game based learning (several I’ve mentioned before on this blog, apologies for not linking to them just now – I may return and add the links later) emphasize the need for teachers to facilitate reflection when games are used in class. Why? Because in most cases playing the game alone is not enough to make students think things through.

OLPC Laptop vs. Intel Classmate

Perhaps not the most balanced and thorough review ever, but still it’s illuminating when a One Laptop Per Child XO laptop and an Intel Classmate are both given to a 9 year old boy to review (caveat: He may well be 10 now, it isn’t clear!)

See it here on the BBC dot.life blog.

OLPC clearly holds its own, though – and does prove the kids don’t really mind another operating system that isn’t Windows.

Games on the curriculum

I spotted this intriguing piece earlier in the week -” ‘Games’ to be taught in Scottish Schools”

The article doesn’t reveal much in the way of details but claims:

Scottish schoolchildren are to be taught the basics of video game design as part of the country’s new national curriculum – dubbed the ‘Curriculum of Excellence’.

According to the Press Association, the move is to designed to ‘create the next generation of young programmers’.

Schools minister Maureen Watt unveiled the scheme … and added that the new lessons will teach children how to use computer software to create animations and feature films.

The typo there is that it is the Curriculum for Excellence, not of Excellence. But more frustrating were my attempts to learn more about this. Eventually via an enquiry to LTS I found the relevant details here. I’ve had a chance to briefly review these, searched out the references to games, and given this a little thought…

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More games please!

I’m starting to think that more of Prensky’s ideas about digital natives are becoming reality, albeit not for the generation he originally identified. While often technologically naive, game playing (and social virtual worlds) are perhaps now so commonplace amongst younger age groups (say six to 16) in the UK that the term ‘gamer’ is likely to become somewhat obsolete – or restricted to those who play the ‘hardcore’ games while other induldge in more casual gameplay.

Via PacRimX and simultaneous email from my friend Chris, a US survey has found that more than 50% of students in grades 3-12 would want to see more educational gaming in school. The figures still do reveal a divided audience however:

In fact, 64 percent of students in grades K-12 say they play online or electronic-based games regularly.

So, 36% don’t play digital games regularly. Still a substantial number, and a case against sweeping generalisations. My own (limited) experience of schools in the Glasgow area makes me believe the figure locally might be something like 90% regularly play digital games (ages 6-12), but I have no real figures to back this up.

More commentary here on eSchool news, or get the Project Tomorrow report itself.

Game Playing and Asperger's

Should have blogged this last week…

Skewed coverage of academic report in the Dire Mail (sorry, Daily Mail) : Computer game addicts warned they could start behaving like autism sufferers. Of course the report warns no such thing, as discussed here at Spong: Daily Mail muddles cause and effect .

According to Spong, the original paper basically imagines a line ranging from ‘autistic’ to ‘not autistic’, and notes that game players (along with the likes of engineers!) are found closer to the autistic end of the line than non-gamers.

Rewards for chores goes virtual

(Handipointa found Via Dusan Writer)

Handipoints is taking the use of star-charts and scorecards for children’s good behaviour and help with chores around the house into virtual worlds. Combined with tools for creating scorecards, and helping parents with developing reward schemes is a virtual world with cat avatars. Sign up as a family – parents get to set tasks and rewards. Rewards can be linked to rewards from real shops (parents pay for these, as ever!) or to virtual rewards for the child’s avatar.

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Channel 4 sponsors Dare to Be Digital… Introduces education as a theme

Channel 4 has announced sponsorshop of the Dare to Be Digital summer game development competition. Announced here.

As part of their sponsorship (which apparently is for a significant sum of money to support the competition), a brief to develop games with an educational or serious ‘twist’ has also been provided:

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