Posts tagged: Game Based Learning

CityOne – IBM and Serious Games

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By , October 5, 2010 12:05 pm

There are many games out there that can be used to get students to appreciate a host of different challenges that are faced by the globe today. We can now add city planning to the mix in a game that goes beyond SimCity courtesy of IBM. CityOne challenges players to:

Solve real-world business, environmental and logistical problems. Learn how technology can revolutionize these industries. Explore ways to accelerate process change, integrate with trading partners, and control costs with a flexible IT infrastructure.

You can jump right to the game here, but you need to jump through registration – and looking at the fields, I don’t think IBM expects K-20 students to play it … Job Title? Industry – Retail/Banking/Energy/Water? Role in acquisitions?

IBM, if you are looking, open this up to at least High Schoolers (they will fake the answers anyway) and then we might have a way to really start making some of these changes and not (ironically) fall into the same trap that IBM quotes Einstein to avoid:

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Mini Games… are there any left to make?

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By , August 4, 2010 2:22 pm

Well, I’ve been at my new position at Athabasca for only a day and a half and I’m already getting into the groove of things… or so I would believe. Why do I say that? Well this is a new venue, but I’ve got an old problem to deal with. A prof wants interactivity, I’m going to suggest mini games, prof will say “cool”, but then find that for every game that is presented, s/he’s already “seen that one”. So what are we to do?

Well I’m not sure. I’ve been reading some of the new material on the subject from Epistemic Games (Graesser, Olney & Cade, 2009; Graesser, Conley & Olney, In Press) as well as Frazer, Argles &Willis (2007) and the venerable Mark Prensky, and it all seems quite compelling – we have the systems and the background to do amazing things! But… we don’t.

It comes down to how much time can an individual or team put into rolling their own game out (either a copy or a new concept) when in reality, the game is only going to be one small piece of the instructional puzzle. If the game is in reality, an engine, then you might be able to commit more resources to it and use it across multiple situations, but then it likely is going to suffer some for that compromise. Now, if we accept that these games will have compromises built in, but then understand that they are not really for direct instruction, we might be able to think of them more as distractions (Prensky). So if we can cook up a quick little game that is able to give a student a “brain break” while learning “directly” about a given topic, the break only needs to be superficially related to have some manner of impact. And not always on the pedagogic side, but perhaps more on the engagement side.

If we start to get “bang for the buck” there, then we can start into cooler things like tutoring systems and the like, but in the mean time, there is another way to deal with many of the topics that one might want to explore using some new fangled pedagogy – good old COTS (commercial, off the shelf) and some creative thinking…

Save the world! And learn a few things doing it

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By , March 5, 2010 4:29 pm

EVOKE trailer (a new online game) from Alchemy on Vimeo.

I spotted this in OLDaily and it certainly looks interesting. It also has a supporting site. I might just have to find a way to make time for it.

Rapid “digital” Game Creation helps kids

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By , January 25, 2010 1:48 pm

I forgot if I found this through RSS or Twitter, but here it is:

Rapid digital game creation for broadening participation in computing and fostering crucial thinking skills
Nikunj Dalal, Parth Dalal, Subhash Kak, Pavlo Antonenko, Susan Stansberry
International Journal of Social and Humanistic Computing 2009 – Vol. 1, No.2 pp. 123 – 137

I haven’t been able to get to the article as the library system is having issues right now, but according to the abstract and the lay articles that it’s generated, the use of non code based creation systems is a good thing for kids of all ages. This seems to be a no brainer, but thankfully there is now research to back it up. If you give people access to generate content in an media that they are comfortable with, you are more than likely to see good things come about. The important thing here is that the researchers have removed that complicated UI layer (like I was talking about in the last post) and have allowed the creators to work in an environment that more closely resembles the finished product.

I was thinking over the weekend about photography and how previously, you almost needed to be a chemist to get the most out of your images and thinking about how removed that was from the actual act of photography and how “digital” has changed that. Now someone takes a shot and can use it immediately and often with the same device that created the image, no black box required. Systems like the Rapid Dev environment would seem to do the same thing. People build in an environment that mimics the environment that they are going to experience when the project is finished effectively this research tells me that maintaining the “vocabulary” certainly helps when you are trying to get people to explore. If all you are wanting to get out of a game that you create is move A from 1.1 to 1.2 and have it explode, you don’t need to worry about the physics of collision detection and optimizing the math behind the path finding. Just like when you snap a picture, you want to be able to take it and share it quickly – you don’t want to deal with fstop and the rest – after all, the camera likely has hidden that from you. If however, your camera tells you all that, you have a vocabulary that then makes sense when you use tools that can then go and manipulate those settings.

Mini Games

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By , December 22, 2009 12:18 pm

I spotted this on OLDaily – and looking at the conclusion…

Mini-games are fast becoming an effective and relevant method to deliver game-based instruction. They should no longer be considered as just simple quiz-style games embedded in a conventional course to break up the monotony of the information. While they certainly can be included in a web-based course, they can also be delivered in the context of a larger game or simulation, or combined with other mini-games to build a training experience with greater depth and breadth than was previously possible. Furthermore, mini-games have become sophisticated enough to stand on their own as a legitimate method of training and education.

… I like the idea of stringing these small chunks of novelty together into a larger whole. Entertainment oriented games have been doing the mini game thing for a while and even though Nintendo has made a mint on it, I haven’t really seen much from people doing educational mini games. Of course, this might be semantics – we might have strung together a farm sim with a peace maker game and used it to deliver concepts in a course before but I don’t think I’ve seen anything calling these individual object “mini games” yet. To borrow a term from my Education training, the mini games are essentially manipulatives then that help students “play with the idea”. While doesn’t seem convinced by the cognitive grounding, I think it makes sense – if you take a bit of a K-12 view of the games.

Immune Attack

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By , December 10, 2009 3:23 pm

Meant for High School Biology, Immune Attack seems to be another in a long line of resources that, if nothing else, engages students in a topic and presents material to them in a way that they have some control over. What I like about this, is other than the theme, this isn’t “edutainment”. It’s a FPS with you as a player… you just happen to learn things along the way.

The Great Flu – the game

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By , August 17, 2009 2:47 pm

With all the interest around viruses of one flavour or another going around, it’s timely to see a Flash game on the topic. The Great Flu is a somewhat advanced (Grade 6/7 and up) look at what is behind the spread of an infection and what can be done to prevent or beat it back. I haven’t been able to do either yet.

Girls game less ’cause they have less time?

By , July 24, 2009 12:43 pm

This is something that I didn’t think I’d see come out – a study (Gaming, Gender, and Time: Who Makes Time to Play? Jillian Winn & Carrie Heeter – Sex Roles (2009) 61:1–13 DOI 10.1007/s11199-009-9595-7) that links the lack of time spent gaming with a lack in leisure time. Whoa… I gotta sit down. But all joking aside, it does look at some interesting gender differences.

The study also suggests that a lack of interest in gaming could also impact the number of women going into technology related fields:

Girls’ lack of interest in gaming has the potential to widen the gender gap in gaming and occupations in game development, computing, and technology. Playing games can increase technical and computer skills, plus self efficacy in these areas…

Additionally, more and more learning games are entering the classroom as alternative teaching tools, which are thought to be more “fun” and interactive than traditional instruction. If girls are less engaged by games than boys, they may miss out on opportunities in the classroom, workplace, and even society as games grow to be a part of our culture. It’s time girls got into the game.

Some might think, wait, but girls/women are into casual games as well – aren’t they massive time sinks?

Casual online games are playable in small chunks of time, as little as 5 to 10 min. According to the IGDA Casual Games White Paper, market research shows the majority of the casual online game audience today is women 30–45 years old (IGDA 2006). Popcap Games (Information Solutions Group 2006) reports that over 76% of its players are female, and 89% of its players are 30 or older. Females spend more time on average playing online casual games (9.1 h per week) than do males (6.1 h per week). Although combining across game genres, men spend more time playing than women do (IGDA 2006). Looking across studies, gaming behaviors are strongly related to both age and gender, although this relationship has not been systematically examined. What is it about casual games that are especially attractive to older women, who could not have grown up playing digital games?

Speakers from industry and academia speculate the reason adult women are such avid casual gamers is because women have less available time to spend playing games and thus can best play in small chunks (Beyond Barbie Workshop 2006; Girls ‘n’ Games Conference 2006). However, this common sense expectation of a relationship between available time and casual game play is conjecture, not confirmed by research. Women 35 and older spend more time playing casual online games than younger women, and than men and boys (Information Solutions Group 2006).

Ok, so we know girls/women are playing differently, but then how do you account for how they use phones and other gadgets seemingly just as often, if not more so than men?

Games have the potential to be highly attractive for women. Genevive Bell, a cultural  anthropologist at Intel, observes that women use technology as often as men, but in different ways. “Women tend to use technology in ways that make busy days more manageable, which is why cell phones, laptops and wireless Internet access are popular” (Sidener 2005, Time Management section, 1). The availability of laptops and faxes increases the ease of mixing work and leisure activates (Floro 1999). A study by Apt and Grieco (1998) determined women benefit from distance education, which allows them to have more flexible school schedules. Distance Education worked well for women in particular because lessons could be delivered in components,
accessed remotely, completed incrementally, and available at anytime. These features encouraged time management, allowed tasks to be completed over multiple chunks of time, and provided an influx of flexibility (Apt and Grieco, 1998). The features of distance information technologies that are attractive to women can be used to understand women players’ needs in games. Although some women are satisfied by today’s games, women who are not attracted to typical digital games may prefer games that are designed in component forms and can be played in an incremental manner rather than in a one-time block mode.

So again we see this reference to girls/women (and in this case specifically women) the reference to being able to do things in smaller chunks of time as opposed to one large chunk. It also seems that so far this article, other than talking about gender and gaming wouldn’t be of much interest to those reading an edtech blog right? Well there is one more interesting piece:

A female player who knows she can spend as little as 10, 15, 20, or 30 min can more easily justify spending her time with a game. Quite likely it is useful to be able to know and control exactly when the play session will end, to facilitate time management and to permit temporary concentration on
the gaming experience without the worry of being sure to stop on time. More time in a play session is not better, for the typical adult female player.

If we want to design instruction like we design games, it might do us good to keep thinking about how to ensure that instruction, fits into the lives of students. Women are taking advantge of distance education because it affords them flexibility. This seems to be the same reason why casual games are successful for this demographic.

In the end, this study reminds me that we should really think about how long any given learning task should take and we should try to ensure that those tasks are able to fit into the time slots that are available for our “typical” student. We certainly should no longer think that there are professional students out there who can dedicate 8-12h/day on a single course as being the norm.

Game Inspired eLearning

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By , July 6, 2009 9:28 am

Other than the fact that this paper uses “e” and “digital” to describe learning and games (person peeves), it (Charles, M, Bustard, D, and Black, M. “Game Inspired Tool Support for e-Learning Processes” Electronic Journal of e-Learning Volume 7 Issue 2 2009, (pp101 – 110)), it does provide an example of how not all games for learning need to be “new age/electronic/whiz bang”. Games can be as simple as forming teams and providing feedback, authentic tasks and using low risk assessment.

After reading this, I’m thinking that we might be better served by talking about “game based learning” as “engaging learning”. This turn of a phrase may be what is needed to get people away from thinking about games as merely entertainment vectors. Of course, we already use engaged learning, but if we move to include some of the gaming ideas/ideals into it, future work might be easier to start or to disseminate.

Joan Ganz Cooney Center – gaming and mlearning

By , June 26, 2009 11:27 am

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center has a couple of reports that might interest many of you out there. The latest is a report (Game ChangerSummary) on using games to learn that recommends:

  • Implement R&D initiatives at federal and state levels to identify learning gains through games and other digital media, develop metrics and set research goals. This includes funding research into alternative assessment.
  • Government should create partnerships with technology partners and game developers to develop games, using philanthropy and funding as a means to offset costs and potentially provide profit (my reading between the lines there).
  • Support adult guidance through professional development for teachers on these new ideas and resources.
  • Modernize public/education media (remember these are the people behind Sesame Street)
  • Create a broad public dialogue on digital media and games to help educate everyone on these new literacies (they have a report on that as well – The Power of Pow! Wham!: Children, Digital Media and Our Nation’s Future).

The other paper is Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning (Summary) that lists the opportunities, challenges and goals for mLearning:


  • Encourage “anywhere, anytime” learning
  • Reach underserved children
  • Improve 21st-century social interactions
  • Fit with learning environments
  • Enable a personalized learning experience


  • Negative aspects of mobile learning
  • Cultural norms and attitudes
  • No mobile theory of learning
  • Differentiated access and technology
  • Limiting physical attributes


  • Learn: Understand mobile learning as a unique element of education reform
  • Develop: Build mobile learning interventions
  • Promote: Engage the public and policy-makers in defining the potential of mobile devices for learning
  • Prepare: Train teachers and learners to incorporate mobile technologies
  • Stimulate: Generate new leadership support for digital learning

It certainly is nice when there is a thinktank out there that is thinking the same way you do eh?

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