Games in Education

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Play harder: An interview with Philippe Greier

At the 2012 Pioneers Festival in Vienna, Austria, I met up with Philippe Greier. He is one of the minds behind Playmakers Industries, a real-life game development company with a presence in both Brazil and Europe, and is one of the principals behind Present-e. He designs scenarios and games to help individuals tap potentials that they otherwise thought that they would not have. As part of his organizations’ gaming elements, they tap into players’ social capital. When people feel that they are playing in a game, they are willing to experiment, make mistakes, and learn in new ways.

The short version of the interview appears above. But, it is worthwhile to watch the full-length video: (length: 18:28).

3D Simulations and Model Eliciting Activities

I am involved in an Institute of Educational Sciences project with Seward Incorporated out of Minneapolis. We are currently building a simulation to support a Model Eliciting Activity (MEA). MEAs are predominantly used in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering, and mathematic). Here is a good read on how MEAs have been used. In short, these are activities that force students to build mathematical models based on real world problems.

Check out these sample MEAs:

In short, we are building simulations to support MEAs. Currently we are building a simulation using Croquet. This is an open source technology that allows the user to create interactive 3D worlds. The current simulation is based on a paper airplane MEA. In this MEA students need to create a judging model for what makes a paper airplane a best floater, the fastest plane, most loops, the most accurate, etc, With this MEA it is impossible for teachers to replicate a data set in class. But in a simulated environment, teachers can replicate a throw over and over! Below is a screenshot of our current project:



In this environment students will be able to:

  • Launch and relaunch flights
  • Chat with other students
  • Compare and contrast flight paths
  • Change angle from judges table to top view, to sideline view.
  • Interact with the flight data using a measurement tool.

Teachers will:

  • Be able to monitor all students in the environment
  • Give feedback and probe using the chat function

We are working on the laboratory now. In that environment, students will be more interactive and will be able to play with the angle, the force, height, and plane choice to determine its impact on the flight.

If you had any experiences using / building simulations to support mathematical problem solving skills, please comment! If you know of anyone else doing this kind of work, we would love to hear about it!

AMD’s game changer?

This morning, semiconductor producer AMD announced “AMD Changing the Game,” an education initiative designed to empower youth to learn critical life skills through games with social content. The launch accompanies AMD’s sponsorship and participation at the fifth annual Games for Change festival held June 3 – 4 at Parsons The New School for Design in New York.

Starting with a limited scope, AMD Changing the Game will support the following non-profit partner organizations that serve their mission:

  • Girlstart (Austin, TX): created to empower girls in the subjects of math, science, and technology
  • Global Kids (Brooklyn, NY): seeks to transform urban youth into successful students and community leaders
  • Institute for Urban Game Design (Washington DC): teaches science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills through the hands-on creation of digital games
  • Science Buddies (Carmel, CA): offers a variety of web-based tools that help K-12 students explore science through research-based projects often done at Science Fairs and other school and community events
  • 5th Annual Games for Change Festival (New York, NY): dedicated to creating and using digital games for positive social change

…and, it appears they’re welcoming additional grant applications.

SimCity Societies introduces social modeling


SimCity Societies, the latest release in the SimCity franchise, is due for release on November 13. The game integrates a social and cultural modeling component. Characteristics of each user-run SimCity is determined by the user through development of six social, cultural, and economic factors: productivity, prosperity, creativity, spirituality, authority, and knowledge.

From EA:

Featuring an all-new, revolutionary feature set, SimCity Societies allows you to create your own kinds of cities and shape their cultures and environments. Make your cities green or polluted, contemporary or futuristic, rural or urban. Create an artistic society or a police state, an industrial city or a spiritual community—or any society you want!

Jamais Cascio notes that the game is finding real world applications, including climate education –from an unlikely source:

British Petroleum initially approached EA Games about a specialized version of SimCity that dealt with energy and global warming; rather than undertake a one-off project, EA agreed to partner up with BP to integrate these ideas into SimCity Societies. While this has elements of crass product placement — all of the gas stations in your city are BP, for example — it also suggest an intriguing opportunity to look at not just how energy and environment affect economic results, but how they change social behaviors, too.

Also read Dan DiPasquo’s commentary on the role of energy companies in games…

Games in the Classroom 7–game mechanics for creating learning

slide3.JPGOne of the big ideas from 6.0 was that kids are not naturally good at complex games. They often have the time, resources, but they do not always have the guidance of a mentor. Many kids are playing games designed by adults for adults. This is good and bad. Good in that the adult games have some complex problems and require some really deep thinking; bad in that they may just be provocative on their content without having very good game play. The point is, kids learn through play and our games are often cultural tools to transfer knowledge, develop skills, and get them ready to become adults. What we try to do as educators is pretty much the same. So why have we stepped away from using games?

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