Can Facebook become the best learning platform?

Recently, I have been wondering what could be the best platform for educational games. I was thinking about gaming systems such as Xbox or Playstation. Gaming systems offer probably the best graphic experience since they are strictly designed for games, yet I don’t think they can simply do everything. However, their biggest advantage is also their biggest disadvantage. To generate this great graphic experience you need to be a developer and have some serious knowledge about programming for these systems; also to satisfy everyone, one needs to master every single gaming system which is on the market. For these reasons, I think, gaming systems are not a good platform because small developers such as students with brilliant ideas have less chance to be successful.

My next thought was about portable devices such as iPhones, iPods, iPads and Smartphones. These devices are great because we can carry them around and use them almost all the time in many of different situations. Furthermore, their situation looks better than in the case of the gaming systems; you don’t need to be a big developer with numbers of programmers and money to release your own game. However, there is still a problem of multiplatform compatibility. The game written for iOS needs to be rewritten for an Android since they use different programming languages.

Then I though about, I think, the best way of distribution, writing games as Facebook applications. Most of the students have Facebook accounts and visit them regularly. This solves the problem of access to certain gaming platforms since one can open Facebook on Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and other platforms such as Playstation, since it simply does everything, Xbox and many others. It is simpler to develop since the programmer has to write just one code that should work on all of these machines. Finally, the game has a big chance of success since its released on a big market. The only problem is whether or not people will be able to stay focused on playing the game on Facebook, while being on Facebook?

Can you become a manager after playing SimCity or Theme Hospital?

I have always loved to play strategic games. Games like Civilization, SimCity or Theme Hospital, or even soccer manager games were always one of my favorite. There is couple reasons for that, these games always were able to keep me in front of computer for hours because of opportunities they were giving me; they let me become a gubernator, or a manager of a big business. This is something that never happens in the real word in the case of a teenager.  Furthermore, these games are based on multiple Gee principles, such as the “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle, which means that I could take risk, which in real life I would never take. Because of that, I could make risky managing decisions; also you usually don’t get all achievements and honors if you are just one of many managers who always play it safe.

These games seem to have a lot of concepts included from the business world. I think that these games could be used in the introduction to financial courses in college or high school to teach students about basic managing strategies. Also, I think that this way of learning would be more entertaining and involving than learning concepts from a book or getting the New York Times to read about someone else’s successes or failures; why wont you try on your own in virtual world. I remember that my into to finance was pretty much entertaining but the most fun part of the class was playing a virtual stock market game based on the real stock market values. However, since I am not a business major, it is hard to tell me without doing deeper research if my assumptions are correct and if we could really use these games or their modified versions to teach students about the principles of financial investments, and decisions making.

Maybe some business major students would like to say something more about this subject?

Top Gear and GranTurismo4

Today I was sitting on the couch with my roommates and thinking about what I should write about for my blog post, when I started thinking about how much I like the British car TV show, Top Gear. Then I realized that in one of their episodes they did something that would be a great example of how the most advanced game productions developed over the years are still not what the reality is. They decided to race a Honda NSX over the Laguna Secca Circuit in Gran Turismo 4 on Playstation2, and then go to California with the same car to race on the track and compare their results.

The time to beat from GT4 was 1.41. Gran Turismo was always known as one of the most realistic driving games ever created. Tracks and cars in these games look almost exactly the same as in real life. The time between developers releasing new games is about two to three years because they want to make it as accurate as they can. However, Top Gear presenter, Jeremy Clarkson, had troubles to get even close to the time from the game. His best time from the track was actually over 16seconds slower than time from the game. Just to clarify his driving skills are really, really good. Since they drive a lot of different cars in this show, including actual F1 cars, the presenters have to pass a driving test that allows them to do that, something comparable to F1 drivers’ super licenses. So, the guy with great driving skills was not able to get even close the time from the game. This means that even the biggest productions out there are still not that close to the reality, as we would wish, unfortunately.

Here is the link to youtube video from this recording:

Wrong Category?

I think most of you will agree with me that the popularity of educational video games is very low compared to regular video games. Of course there are many reasons for that. One of them might be the lack of learning principles, or their wrong implementation, like the game on Nintendo DS that was presented on the first day of class that was basically an excel spreadsheet, not an entertaining math related game. However, I am more optimistic and I think that most of the educational games are not as bad and indeed there are many good games. So, if there are many good games then where is the problem, why are these games not so popular?

Well first of all, I think that there are some good educational games that are not called educational games, but might be called strategic games, such as Settlers, that teach you what humans need to do in order to survive, and how to get it. Second of all, I am not able to give a really good example of educational games that I would love to play that are defined as educational games. The reason for that is very simple; I never look at the games in this category. Why would I play a game for educational reasons when I go to school everyday for most of my life? When I go to the game store I am looking for something entertaining that does not have anything related at least in a title with school, because this game should give me a break from school. And this is where I can get to my point. The category of games called educational should be renamed or kept only for developers in order to make these games more popular. I bet that there are many students who will never tell their peers that they play educational games just because they might look like losers in the eyes of their colleagues. In some subcultures it just might not be seen as something positive that you are playing a game from a category that should teach you something, and that’s why people from this subcultures might be avoiding educational games.

These are just my random thoughts after going to AppStore in order to look for some cool games, and realizing that I would never look for them at the section designated for educational games, because how could they be fun?!

Brain Challenge

Brain Challenge is one of the first games I have downloaded on my smartphone. It is defined as a puzzle game stimulating your brain by mental exercises. The whole idea of the game is that after playing it you should be able to use a bigger percentage of your brain than before. However, this is just a description from the game developers, and it is not proved by any studies. Anyways, the game consists of many mini puzzle games that actually are pretty entertaining and addicting. They are divided in to many subcategories such as: memory, logic, math, visual and focus. In each category we can unlock a number of games that we can play at different levels of difficulty.

As it was said in our lecture that these kinds of games do not necessarily help you use more of your brain as opposed to mastering the mini games. In other words, to improve your overall result you have to play a lot to learn how to get higher scores. In many of these subcategories it is just the matter of mastering the system by simply learning the game rules. However, in the math subcategory the player has to improve his math skills and time needed to provide the correct answer. This means that if a player wants to get a higher score overall he has to also do better in math, and he actually has to do his calculations faster and more accurately.

My whole point is that I doubt if games like Brain Challenge can increase your intelligence level or help you use your brain more efficiently in every day life. However, certain mini games that are part of the game can help you improve some of the skills you are using in a every day life such as simple math calculations that we all do but in the era of computers and smartphones, people prefer sometimes to download an application to count the tip at the restaurant, rather than doing the math themselves.

Have ever played with Legos?

Last week on of my friends showed me a game called MineCraft. At the beginning I looked at him and I could not believe he could play this game. It simply looked horrible. The graphics looked like the game was created twenty years ago. However, since my friend could not stop playing that game I started watching him play to understand what was so exciting about it.

The whole idea of the game is to build your own world, by using resources that you can find. If you want to create more sophisticated items such as signs made of wood you need to cut trees to get wood and the necessary tools. You can play alone or you can play with friends.

Because I have never played that game, it is kind of hard for me to tell anything more about it. However, by looking at it kind of made me think of little kids playing with Legos; since the MineCraft world is basically build of blocks like Legos.  I started thinking about it in categories of educational games that can teach kids not only how to use computers because of it simple interface, but also how simple items are created; that you need resources that are found usually in a forest or in the field such as wood, sand, and tools to create them. I think it can be a really fun educational resource especially if played with other kids, to understand how civilization was developing. Also it lets you be creative by trying a lot of different combinations of resources and tools in order to create something new.

I bet that some of you have played that game before so maybe you can share more….

PSVita?

Today I had a chance to play with the new Sony gaming system, Playstation Vita. It is a portable gaming system, which is a more powerful version of the old Playstation Portable. Of course it has all sorts of the latest technology in it, such as quad-core processor, OLED display, touchsceen, touch panel on the back and two cameras; one on front and one on the back.  Sony says that it is the most advanced portable gaming system ever created. I think that it is a true statement, especially since besides Nintendo and Sony no one else is interested in producing portable gaming systems; Apple does not call iPods, iPhones or iPads gaming systems, even though it seems that they might have the biggest part of this market.

I played a couple games on Vita. I was truly amazed by the system. The screen was really good even though its resolution is lower than iPhone’s Retina display; Vita has a 5 inch screen and iPhone about 3.2 inches. I read before that graphics is more comparable with Playstation3 rather than Playstation2. I can agree with that statement, it is really impressive.

However, after couple minutes of playing I started asking myself a question, what could be a good reason to buy this system. I have an iPhone, where I can get hundreds of games for free; games for Vita are about $40 for the box version. I also have a PS3 so I do not really need anything that can display graphics almost like PS3. Of course the main point of Vita is the fact that it is portable, but is 3 hours of battery life a really good result? I would more call it semi-portable since the battery life won’t let me play during even half of the flight to Europe. In this aspect, my iPhone is much better. For a second I thought that maybe because of cameras, microphones and all this cool technology it could be a good device to play educational games to learn foreign languages, that gives you immediate feedback on how you did based on your accent and facial expressions; something like the U.S. Army is using to train soldiers. However, I realized that iPad could do the same job probably even better because you have more screen space and better battery life.

Now I think that in the age of smartphones and tablets, portable gaming systems such as 3DS and PS Vita do not have a lot of chance for success. Why would you buy an extra device that can only be used to play video games, when you have in your pocket a phone that can do that and you do not have to buy games for it. People can argue that serious players would buy it because there are serious games for these platforms, but I think that serious players play on the big systems such as Xbox360 and PS3. Anyways, which serious player can be done playing after 3 hours of battery life?

What portable gaming systems do you think are still going to be developed or is it the last generation of them?

Words with Friends?! Can it be an educational game?

Recently, I realized how many people are playing Words With Friends on their phones, especially on the bus on their way to class or home. This made me think about why this game is so popular and if it could be use as an educational resource.

I think that people like to play that game, because it is a game. In other words you play other people and you are getting points for words. You have a very well specified goal to beat the other person by showing your knowledge in vocabulary. Also you can play the game whenever you want since we carry cell phones almost all the time with us. This leads to another reason why people and when people play that game. As I said before, I usually see people playing that game on the bus stops or on the bus, so in situations when you are usually bored and there is nothing really to do, Words With Friends bring an entertainment in situations like that. Furthermore, I think that one of crucial factors of this game is the fact that it is called Words with Friends not Words With Random People.  This means that you play people you know. This is a great because when you get to see a person you are playing you can actually socialize just by talking about your experience with the game.

Now, how could this great idea and design of the game be used in education? I think that the same form of the game could be used in the foreign languages classes. Instead of the memorization of hundreds of words for quizzes, students could be divided into pairs and play Words With Friends International Edition that would consist of more languages.

Can you think about other way games with format similar to Words With Friends could be used for educational purposes?

Civilization

Civilization is, in my opinion, one of the best games ever made. The main reason why I believe so is that this game lets you get involved for many hours in a very entertaining learning process. If you have ever played Civ, you know what I am talking about. If not I will explain it to you. Civilization is a series of games that let you run your own civilization. I know it’s not a big surprise. However, if you want to be successful at this game you have to know a couple things. First, you should know some facts about history so when you pick what nation leader you want to be you will know your nation’s advantages. For example, if you want to run the Roman Empire, you should know that they have a great early game advantage of their military units, the Legions. Next you should be able to use your advisors wisely or else have enough knowledge in technology and economics to make sure that your country will survive harsh times of wars with other empires. You also should be able to analyze the current situation in your country by comparing your current area, profit, and number of military units etc with other countries to see if you can beat them in a war, or if you should be friends with them by making mutual protective pacts. Civilization is a very complex game with a manual about 300 pages long. In spite of this, if you like strategy games I would recommend turning on the time icon on the game screen since you can pretty easily forget about the real world and time while running your own country.

I was wondering if any of you guys who have played this game have ever logged on to the fun websites to learn even more about the strategies you can use during the game. Such as http://www.civfanatics.com/

Apple and Education part2

On Thursday, January 19th Apple announced their plan to introduce technology into the education process. Since Apple is producing an iPad, which they advertise as a product that is revolutionary, it is not hard to figure out that this product is expected to revolutionize education. The key point of their presentation was to introduce the interactive textbooks designed exclusively for an iPad. These books can be purchased directly from the device, which is very convenient compared to ordering textbooks from Amazon and waiting for them. They should also be cheaper, but since the service just started there is not much of information about the average price of textbooks. Furthermore, the biggest advantage is the book itself, since it is interactive. This means that besides the text, the user gets access to videos, animations, 3d models and other cool stuff one can play with right inside the book. It sounds pretty cool to me, so I will be waiting to see if these books will really find the place in the real world. However, from my point of view the most interesting point of their announcement is iTunes U. This simple app is supposed to be something like Ctools, but better. It should give us access to our classes, textbooks, gradebook, videos, podcasts, announcements and notes that we were taking either in class or in the interactive textbook.

Everything sounds pretty exciting if you like the newest technology in the classroom, but there are also some disadvantages of these new books. Their sizes are up to 2Gb, which might be a lot when you have a 16Gb iPad and a couple interactive textbooks loaded.

Kid Goes Crazy About His Game

I am pretty sure most of you have seen this video already, but I looked at a recent post, and I have not seen it. Personally I find it very funny, but I think it can also be an educational video.

I thought it might be a good idea to post it here since we were talking about World of Warcraft in class and how it can help you to get certain skills required to get a job. Here is a video which is not going to support this argument, but will be more of a reminder for every one to take breaks while playing their games during the semester. I think that the kid from this video might be a great example of someone who forgot to take breaks while playing his favorite World of Warcraft and completely forgot about the real world. It is easy to tell that the boy really lost control over what is going on. I think that he does not understand the problem he has. The problem is that he is not able to distinguish the difference between his real personality and his game character. It is probably the effect of not taking breaks from the game and also the fact that apparently his parents reacted too late to their son’s addiction to that game. I believe that one of the best methods of learning is to learn from someone else’s mistakes rather than committing them yourself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ijNohhowplI

Apple and education

Today I have read that Apple has sent out invitations for one of their events. The company slogan for the event is “Join us for an education announcement in the Big Apple”. It will be hosted at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City on Thursday, January 19. There are rumors that the event will mostly be about textbooks and their digital distribution. The New York Times reporters claim that there will be no new hardware announcements.

It seems to me that we will soon have access to most of the textbooks through iPads. I think it can be  great information because  it will help to reduce the cost of textbooks, which are very high. I would prefer to pay more money for an iPad, a one time cost, and then save money on the textbooks. Also it can increase the chance that more people see the iPad as a device that can combine gaming and educational functions. This will definitely lead to developing more educational games and software not only for the iPad but also other mobile devices.

What is more, it could be a great solution for all the students who have troubles getting their textbooks at the local bookstore. Can you imagine a better way of getting a textbook you need to do your first homework than just downloading it on your iPad straight from the Apple Store? Well, I can’t, and that’s why I am excited to see what Apple will show on January 19.

source: http://www.macrumors.com/2012/01/11/apples-education-announcement-scheduled-for-january-19-in-new-york-city/

CodeAcademy

Here is a website that i think is a good learning resource if you are interested in programming:

http://www.codecademy.com

If you are going to use it with friends it might work as a good game since you are getting points for completed tasks.

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