TED-Ed

TED (technology, entertainment and design) is embarking on a new project. Known for there inspiring videos on a wide variety of topics, TED is now targeting education. Launching a new youtube channel, TEDEducation, TED hopes to bring the best lessons teachers give to more people than those sitting in class, probably not even paying attention. TED hopes to bring together teachers along with animators in order to make these lessons as engaging as possible. Currently they are looking for teachers and artists to join with them in this new experiment and people can nominate those they feel deserve a shot. intro video and a little more info here: http://www.engadget.com/2012/03/13/ted-launches-ted-ed/

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?

Puzzle Shooters? (spoilerish alert)

Jump to the bottom to see the pretty videos, if you’re like me and have no patience…

I just wanted to point out some new games that have come out in the last two weeks that defy standard catergorization, by being creative and putting new twists onto an old game:  the FPS.  You see, I’m not really taken in by the “novelty” of being more real.  COD?  How is Black Ops REALLY that different from the first COD?  How are the newest sports games REALLY different from past ones?  How are the newest fighting games REALLY different from the old ones?  More real, more complex.  (Though I have to say that I found the insanity of the combat and storyline in COD:BO, to be rather… unrealistic, and the people I know who spent time in the Army agree.  I mean, really?  One or two people versus a hundred – or more?  I don’t think so. Special ops only works in real life when they don’t know you’re there!)  Anyways, one way that “new” game types are created is by combining genres.  In this case, FPS and puzzles, as in the two games below. 

In case you haven’t been inundated with the ads yet (I’m sure most computer gamers already know about this, at least) Portal 2 came out yesterday.  Portal 1 was what I have best seen summarized as a “glorified tech demo” in which the developers played with the idea of having a gun that can create a portal you can walk through on (almost) any surface, to (almost) any other surface.  It’s a FPS, but only in that you have a gun that shoots something – but not people, just portals.  In fact, in the entire game, you character is the ONLY human you see the entire time and then almost only through the portals (see about 1:25 in this vid where the character is literally chasing themself through some portals.  Worse than a dog chasing its tail!).  It’s really a puzzle game, in which the goal is to get through multi-dimensional mazes.  The premise is that you are a “test subject” in an Aperture Labs facility, and you learn more and more sophisticated ways of using the portals (and learning about 3D thinking, momentum, velocity, frames of reference, gravitational acceleration, etc.).  You then use this new knowledge and your convenient portal generating gun to escape from GLaDOS, the evil supercomputer AI that is trying kill… ahem… I mean test you.  Spoiler alert:  You DO escape (assuming you win) and leave GLaDOS in a sorry state.  (Destroyed?)

Nope.  Not destroyed.  Portal 2 brings us back to the lab, where we find ourselves as test subject AI robots, that can now work cooperatively to pass the tests… and then what?  I don’t know.  It’s also cool because there is a cooperative mode, where two people have to work together to get to the end.  Finally, there are challenges, for time, fewest steps taken, etc.  Motivation to earn them all, I would say.

Sanctum is the newest and most interesting Tower Defense game I have ever seen.  Again, the developers add the 3D FPS aspect to the game, and learn by trying the puzzles over and over again.  This game has a fair amount of “just in time” info provided, and again, in a first for tower defense, I believe, there is a cooperative mode.  There is also an “infinite” mode in which you try to last as long as possible against wave after wave of alien destruction, which of course is tied to the leaderboards… motivation, anyone?

Both games meet more of Gee’s principles than you can shake a stick at, opportunities for Flow, ways of “cheating” (or is it?), problem solving, identity issues, motivation (intrinsic and extrinsic), reflection, and enough other “educational” aspects that you could make a career of studying them… or at least until the next big thing comes out…

Two Great Videos about Education and Motivation

When we were discussing Ender’s Game in class last week, my team touched upon the idea that Ender completely rethought everything about the game.  He didn’t say “what new formations can I create”, he said “formations are stupid” and analyzed every aspect about the game, discarding ideas that other people took for granted.  In applying this to education, it occurred to me that we should do this with education: why do we set up a classroom the way we do?  Why do we use powerpoints and lectures and tests?

I’m housing an exchange student from Austria this semester (a cultural education in itself), and he introduced me to RSA Animate, which animates lectures by the RSA, and are completely addicting.  I found two I thought were relevant to what we’ve been talking about.

The first is about reforming education, and talks about how schools seem more like a factory these days, the increase of the diagnoses of ADHD, and how culture plays a role in our education.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

The second focuses on how people are motivated.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc

 

Enjoy!

Video Games Help Kids Learn

I read a recent article called Do video games help kids learn? Yes, and no . A survey/study was conducting where they gave video game systems to a number of families and then another few that did not receive one. They found that the kids who had the game system scored better on math and science test. I don’t find this surprising because games require players to have strategy and problem solving. The brain is constantly and quickly making decisions. Players are actively using their brains! To support this I noticed a large number of genius computer programmers play video games. So playing games help kids succeed!

Google Science Fair

Really??? Google doing online science fairs?

http://www.google.com/events/sciencefair/teachers.html

Yup.  This was advertised on the edutopia.org website, and while I don’t normally follow advertisement links, this was intriguing.  Since it’s a competition with rules, a clear outcome, and a “space” it operates in where people are willing to change the rules of reality and take on a new role – that of scientist – I consider it a form of a game, although not a video game.

Students learn not only the science of their project, but also digital publishing skills since they have to post either a 20 slide powerpoint, or a 2 minute presentation online, or even make android or web applications!   For some students, this gives a meaningful context to the learning  – their work is displayed beyond the classroom.  YOU could apply to be a judge!  They have lists of links for advice, and even give tips for motivating students.

It’s still science fair… but it seems pretty darn cool, to me.

Math Education Replaced by Video Games?

Some aspects of education — especially mathematics, which requires repetitive practice — seem like they could easily be adapted to the video game format, where players are encouraged to play over and over again until they master new skills.

A study of the effectiveness of one video game designed to teach linear algebra, called DimensionM, revealed a significant difference between a control group, who received traditional mathematical instruction, and a treatment group, who played the DimensionM game.

Owing perhaps to the limited statistical power of their study (which included about 200 kids), the researchers don’t make any attempt to quantify the difference that the game made, other than to say that the students who played it in school did better. Past studies have revealed mixed results for the use of games in the classroom, but the authors argue that this is precisely the point — any game that’s to be used in school should be evaluated in a controlled study first.

In terms of the larger implications for education, it’s worth noting that this school district, which was somewhere in the Southeast U.S., was relatively low-achieving to begin with. So arguably the study’s results are more likely to generalize to similar districts. In fact, a growing body of educators are already arguing that the world’s worst-off children are better off being educated by machines.

Educational games have come a long way since the Cave of the Word Wizard and Dungeon of the Algebra Dragon, and DimensionM typifies the changes that have taken place. Not only does it take place in a three-dimensional world, but it’s also multiplayer, tapping into kids’ natural inclinations to both compete and cooperate.

Given the level of math phobia present in American schoolchildren and the sorry state of financing for education, it’s worth asking whether or not the trend lines of declining quality in education and increasing quality of educational games have already crossed for a significant portion of American students.

NASA’s MoonBase Alpha

In this week’s reading from Edge, it talks about a STEM-education-related game being developed for NASA. They also mention that part of the game, MoonBase, is available on Steam. I did a quick search and turns out it is!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/39000/?snr=1_4_4__13

I haven’t been able to download it yet (I rarely boot my MacBook Pro into Windows and the game isn’t available for Mac yet) but if you get a chance you should check it out and let us know how it is!

More Options for Curriculums

I read an article on Sciencenewsforkids.org called What Video Games can Teach Us. James Gee was interviewed and the artcile explained the many pros about children playing video games. One specific example was that video games help with keeping the attention of children who have ADHD at least 9 hours. I thought this was interesting because today we talked about motivation and this seems to have some connection. Children with ADHD have trouble focusing in school as well as certain activities that most people may think are entertaining.  Playing video games brings out a motivation to stay focused and play the game for a longer period of time instead of moving on to the next thing. It would be interesting if they would bring this idea into ways of training children with ADHD to focus on things through motivation. This should very well be experimented as a curriculum with the classroom. Children should play games in the classes room instead of sitting at the desk listening to the teacher’s lesson. Children would be motivated to learn more in school.

It was also interesting to read that playing video games can encourage kids to try new things. For example if a child loves playing a game that has science fiction, they may take more interest into the subject and will decide to read books and join activities involving science fiction. This in hand would help children practice and improve their reading skills.

I raise the issue that schools across the country should be trying new lesson plans that involves playing video games. As humans we are always doing research to find new ways to improve our way of lives through technology. Playing video games in the classroom may enhance the learning curve and increase motivation in children at a early age. We should NOT be content with the current basic curriculum. Experimenting and change is key to improving.

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