Category Archives: Research

Not all “edu-games” are created equal.

 

Dean Groom, the Manager of Educational Development at University of New South Wales, writes that;

“The re-purposing of video games as learning tools continues to gather pace with the recent release of high-profile educational incarnations of games like SimCity and Minecraft.

Different educational games have their own different origins, and not all of them are created equal. Educational or not, schools and other institutions are being asked to place their trust in something they have historically banned or ignored.

So which games should educators invest their time and trust in?

Just games or real learning?

In the past, educational games have always differentiated themselves from commercial games – branding themselves as serious – and avoiding double-positioning of educational and commercial entertainment.

But now commercial game developers have have begun “edu-versioning” their best-selling entertainment titles, and extending sales through educational editions.

Video games are big business. It’s difficult to know exactly how big the industry is, but the Interactive Games and Entertainment Association reported retail sales for 2012 were A$1.161 billion, not including downloaded games and other downloadable content.

Interest in the potential of video games accelerated in 2008, after the Pew Research Centre reported “97% of US teens play video games.” Talk of the educational potential of games also became a popular topic for TED Talks. Jane McGonigals “Gaming can make the world better” or Gabe Zimmerman’s “How games make kids smarter” claimed games are not only educational but transformative ways to learn.

Learning re-branded

Educational video games are still mainly produced by academic institutions or by commercial developers.

Institutions have begun working with independent developers – for example, Filament Games and E-Line Media – to translate academic theories and research into games. These are usually designed for student use at school.

Online community projects – like Minecraft in Schools – editable by academics and others are in a similar category. These involve using an existing framework and adapting them to include lesson ideas and assessment tools.

Often these types of games include “teacher only” powers to enforce particular learning styles or behaviours on students. And they sit outside of institutional or commercial control, normally used independently by teachers.

Australian school teachers have taken to using educational version of Minecraft to teach spacial and numeracy skills.

Games described as educational are also sold through online stores like Apples iTunes or Google Play. Though prolific in number, they appear devoid of alignment with educational institutions and are generally cheap or free forms of entertainment.

The newest form of edu-game are well-funded commercial games retooled for education markets. There are several examples such as Electronic Arts’ (EA) The Sims, Mojang’s Minecraft and Valve’s Portal.

Portal, rebranded TeachWithPortals, attempts to combine Valve’s seminal game with school science problems. Here, non-gaming teachers can find resources for easier classroom implementation than in non-commercial open software games, which require some assumed knowledge.

But this approach is frequently criticised for fundamentally changing the nature of the game. While keeping familiar aesthetics, these adaptations shift the gaming environment to one teachers feel more comfortable with.

What is a good educational game?

Educational games are often sold as a “better than nothing” proposition, which demotivates some students, and does little to build a new understanding with educators about the extent new media like video games can play in education.

They also allow the companies developing these games to find a new educational distribution channel. For schools, this new era of educational games is a confusing mix of popular culture, social media’s ascendancy, new channels of communication, and a growing research base.

Valve has tried to leverage an existing game into an educational product, but not everyone is convinced it will helped students learn.

Numerous studies have shown teachers must feel the digital technologies are competent and reliable – in essence, trust these technologies – in order to use them with students.

To establish which game-titles are better than others requires teachers to work out how learning occurs in games – empowering students to exchange ideas rather than continue to see the games as a new way of delivering the same teacher-dominated pedagogy.

Good educational games will provide an enriched, personalised learning experience, the ability for the teacher to alter the goals, support for both formal and informal learning opportunities and the potential for social networking.

Games like Minecraft, Terraria, King Arthurs Gold offer these kinds of shared spaces, co-creation, adventure, immediacy, interactivity, persistence and community.

Teachers have become more comfortable with some long-established games – most notably Quest Atlantis – being in classrooms as part of a broader push to bring new technology to learning.

A newer example is the ABC Splash project, which combines film, book, game and live events that school-systems have struggled to sustain or maintain interest in.”

To read the full article click here;

http://theconversation.com/edu-games-hit-the-market-but-not-all-are-are-created-equal-20148

Research shows that collaborative gaming increases learning.

NDTV notes that;

Playing educational video games either competitively or collaboratively with another player can enhance students‘ motivation to learn, a new study has found.

While playing a math video game collaboratively – as compared to playing alone – students adopted a mastery mindset that is highly conducive to learning, researchers said.

Moreover, students’ interest and enjoyment in playing the math video game increased when they played with another student.

The findings point to new ways in which computer, console, or mobile educational games may yield learning benefits.

“We found support for claims that well-designed games can motivate students to learn less popular subjects, such as math, and that game-based learning can actually get students interested in the subject matter?and can broaden their focus beyond just collecting stars or points,” said Jan Plass, a professor in New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and one of the study’s lead authors.

“Educational games may be able to help circumvent major problems plaguing classrooms by placing students in a frame of mind that is conducive to learning rather than worrying about how smart they look,” added co-lead author Paul O’Keefe, an NYU postdoctoral fellow at the time of the study.

The researchers focused on how students’ motivation to learn, as well as their interest and performance in math, was affected by playing a math video game either individually, competitively, or collaboratively.

Researchers had middle-school students play the video game FactorReactor, which is designed to build math skills through problem solving and therefore serves as diagnostic for learning.”

To read the full article click here,

http://gadgets.ndtv.com/games/news/playing-video-games-collaboratively-competitively-can-boost-learning-study-443517

APA touts the benefits of Video Games

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From APA Press Release on November 25, 2013;

Video game play may provide learning, health, social benefits, review finds

Authors suggest balancing questions of harm with potential for positive impact

WASHINGTON – Playing video games, including violent shooter games, may boost children’s learning, health and social skills, according to a review of research on the positive effects of video game play to be published by the American Psychological Association.

The study comes out as debate continues among psychologists and other health professionals regarding the effects of violent media on youth. An APA task force is conducting a comprehensive review of research on violence in video games and interactive media and will release its findings in 2014.

“Important research has already been conducted for decades on the negative effects of gaming, including addiction, depression and aggression, and we are certainly not suggesting that this should be ignored,” said lead author Isabela Granic, PhD, of Radboud University Nijmegen in The Netherlands. “However, to understand the impact of video games on children’s and adolescents’ development, a more balanced perspective is needed.”

The article will be published in APA’s flagship journal, American Psychologist.

While one widely held view maintains playing video games is intellectually lazy, such play actually may strengthen a range of cognitive skills such as spatial navigation, reasoning, memory and perception, according to several studies reviewed in the article. This is particularly true for shooter video games that are often violent, the authors said. A 2013 meta-analysis found that playing shooter video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions, just as well as academic courses to enhance these same skills, according to the study. “This has critical implications for education and career development, as previous research has established the power of spatial skills for achievement in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Granic said. This enhanced thinking was not found with playing other types of video games, such as puzzles or role-playing games.

Playing video games may also help children develop problem-solving skills, the authors said. The more adolescents reported playing strategic video games, such as role-playing games, the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013. Children’s creativity was also enhanced by playing any kind of video game, including violent games, but not when the children used other forms of technology, such as a computer or cell phone, other research revealed.

Simple games that are easy to access and can be played quickly, such as “Angry Birds,” can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation and ward off anxiety, the study said. “If playing video games simply makes people happier, this seems to be a fundamental emotional benefit to consider,” said Granic. The authors also highlighted the possibility that video games are effective tools to learn resilience in the face of failure. By learning to cope with ongoing failures in games, the authors suggest that children build emotional resilience they can rely upon in their everyday lives.

Another stereotype the research challenges is the socially isolated gamer. More than 70 percent of gamers play with a friend and millions of people worldwide participate in massive virtual worlds through video games such as “Farmville” and “World of Warcraft,” the article noted. Multiplayer games become virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group, the authors said. People who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively, a 2011 study found.

The article emphasized that educators are currently redesigning classroom experiences, integrating video games that can shift the way the next generation of teachers and students approach learning. Likewise, physicians have begun to use video games to motivate patients to improve their health, the authors said. In the video game “Re-Mission,” child cancer patients can control a tiny robot that shoots cancer cells, overcomes bacterial infections and manages nausea and other barriers to adhering to treatments. A 2008 international study in 34 medical centers found significantly greater adherence to treatment and cancer-related knowledge among children who played “Re-Mission” compared to children who played a different computer game.

“It is this same kind of transformation, based on the foundational principle of play, that we suggest has the potential to transform the field of mental health,” Granic said. “This is especially true because engaging children and youth is one of the most challenging tasks clinicians face.”

The authors recommended that teams of psychologists, clinicians and game designers work together to develop approaches to mental health care that integrate video game playing with traditional therapy.

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Article: “The Benefits of Playing Video Games,” Isabela Granic, PhD, Adam Lobel, PhD, and Rutger C.M.E. Engels, PhD, Radboud University Nijmegen; Nijmegen, The Netherlands; American Psychologist, 2013.

Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office.

Contact: Isabela Granic at i.granic@pwo.ru.nl, cell: 011.31.6.19.50.00.99 or work: 011.31.24.361.2142

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States. APA’s membership includes more than 134,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance the creation, communication and application of psychological knowledge to benefit society and improve people’s lives.

http://www.apa.org

PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
25-Nov-2013

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Contact: Lisa Bowen
lbowen@apa.org
202-336-5707
American Psychological Association

Video games teach empathy – and many other good things!

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Video games are often blamed for much of the pathology in modern society, but Nic Fleming, of the BBC writes that;

“A growing body of research is showing the flip side, though – video games can help people see better, learn more quickly, develop greater mental focus, become more spatially aware, estimate more accurately, and multitask more effectively. Some video games can even make young people more empathetic, helpful and sharing. As public debate on the subject is often highly emotive and polarised, and as more and more of us are becoming gamers, researchers say it is important to move beyond the generalisations that characterise much of the discussion.

“We know there are good sugars and bad sugars, and we don’t discuss whether food in general is good or bad for us,” says Daphne Bavelier, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester, New York. “We need to be far more nuanced when we talk about the effects of video games.”

Douglas Gentile at Iowa State University, US, agrees. “Game research has tended to get sucked down into a black hole of people yelling at each other, saying either games are good or games are bad,” says Gentile, who studies the effects of video games on physiology and behaviour. “I think we are starting to move beyond this inappropriately simplistic idea to see games can be powerful teachers that we can harness.”

Multi-level field

Part of this has stemmed from the fact that 20th-Century video gaming research often failed to distinguish between game genres. Studies lumped together the different brain processes involved when racing cars, shooting baddies, street fighting, and completing puzzles. But with the benefit of hindsight, researchers now recognise they hold only limited insights into the impacts of video games.

Bavelier stumbled upon the particular effects action games may have on the brain by accident. She was designing a test to probe the effects of congenital deafness on visual attention, and while trialling it a young researcher in her department, Shawn Green, and his friends repeatedly scored far higher than expected. Eventually they realised their exceptional performance could be traced to their fondness for the action games Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic.

Bavelier and Green hypothesised that this type of game had distinct effects on the brain because achieving a high score requires players to react quickly, while processing information in their peripheral vision, multi-tasking, making predictions and processing the constant player feedback. In research published in 2003, they used a series of visual puzzles to demonstrate that individuals who played action games at least four days per week for a minimum of one hour per day were better than non-gamers at rapidly processing complex information, estimating numbers of objects, controlling where their attention was focused spatially, and switching rapidly between tasks.

Was this cause or effect, though? Were the games improving people’s focus or were people with good attentional focus simply more likely to play action video games?, Bavelier and Green asked non-gamers to play the first-person shooter game Medal of Honor for one hour a day for 10 days, and found their ability to focus on environmental cues improved much more than those in a control group who played the classic puzzle game Tetris. Additional tests from other researchers came to similar conclusions. For instance, Joseph Chisholm, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, Canada, found action video game players were better able to identify distraction and quicker to return their focus to the main task.

Bavelier wanted to pin down more precisely why action gamers appear to have better focus. She placed electroencephalography (EEG) headsets on gamers and non-gamers, and asked them to watch a screen on which three rapid sequences of letters appeared simultaneously. They were told to focus on one of the three and press a button when numbers appeared, while ignoring distractions. The EEG headsets tracked electrical signals in the brain, allowing Bevelier to measure how much attention the volunteer was allocating to the task and to the distraction. Gamers and non-gamers were equally able to focus their attention on the target sequences, but the gamers performed better and had quicker reaction times. “The big difference was action video gamers are better at ignoring irrelevant, distracting visual information, and so made better decisions,” she says.

Her team has also shown that action gamers may have stronger vision. They can better distinguish between different shades of grey, called contrast sensitivity, which is important when driving at night and in other poor visibility situations, and is affected by ageing and undermined in those with amblyopia, or “lazy eye”. They also have better visual acuity, which is what opticians measure when they ask you to read lines of ever smaller letters from a chart at distance.

Bavelier found action video games could also improve the vision of non-gamers. She asked groups of non-gamers to play 50 hours of Unreal Tournament 2004 or Call of Duty 2, or to play the slower, non-action game, The Sims 2, over nine weeks. By the end of the study, the contrast sensitivity of those who trained on action games had improved more than those who played The Sims 2, and the benefits lasted for at least five months. Other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that adults with lazy eyes who spent 40 hours playing video games with their good eyes patched could improve their ability to distinguish smaller letters on such charts. The higher scores were not seen in those asked to do other visually demanding tasks such as reading and knitting with their good eyes patched.

Power of empathy

Researchers know from years of studies that when men and women are given the task of rotating two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects in their heads, men tend to perform better than women. When Jing Feng, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, in Canada, and colleagues asked a small group of non-gamers to play either Medal of Honor or the 3D puzzle game Ballance for 10 hours over several sessions, they were surprised by the results. They found the action game training boosted the scores of the female participants more than it did the males, and the effect of the training was still apparent five months later.

“We already knew that there are gender differences in mental rotation but it was interesting to see they exist in our ability to effectively distribute attention in space, and more importantly that this is something that can be diminished through playing action video games,” says Feng. “If we could extract the critical training components from first-person shooter games, I could see ways to develop spatial-skills training tools to address gender differences in fields like engineering and information technology.”

So if playing video games can lead to beneficial brain changes, does this positively affect behaviour? Gentile set out to find out by testing the effects of playing “pro-social” games on young people in the US, Singapore and Japan. The children and teenagers in each study were more likely to help others in real life or in simulated tasks if they played the games where the characters co-operated, helped one another, or pitched in to clean a virtual neighbourhood. When American students were asked to select 11 puzzles for a partner to complete and were told their partners would get $10 gift vouchers if they completed 10 of them, the pro-social game players were much more likely to choose easier puzzles than those who played violent games.”

To read the full article by Nic Fleming Click here; http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130826-can-video-games-be-good-for-you/all

New Study Finds Clues on How to Keep Kids Engaged with Educational Games

“If you want teams of students to stay engaged while playing educational games, you might want them to switch seats pretty often. That’s one finding from a pilot study that evaluated how well middle school students were able to pay attention to game-based learning tasks.

Screenshot of the Engage game. Image credit: Kristy Boyer (Click to enlarge)

Screenshot of the Engage game. Image credit: Kristy Boyer (Click to enlarge)

Students at a Raleigh, N.C., middle school were divided into two-person teams for the pilot study. Researchers from North Carolina State University then had each team test gaming concepts for an educational game called “Engage,” which allows only one student at a time to control gameplay. The researchers were trying to determine how effective educational gaming tasks were at teaching computer science concepts, but were also monitoring how engaged each student was.

The researchers found that, for each team, the student actively performing the game tasks was much more likely to stay engaged – but that the second student would often lose focus.

“This is a very useful finding, because we can use it to improve game design to better keep the attention of the ‘navigator,’ or second student,” says Dr. Kristy Boyer, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work. “For example, we could assign tasks to the navigator that are critical to team success and make sure that each student has an opportunity to take the controls during each gameplay session.”

The pilot study is part of a larger effort by the researchers to develop a game-based curriculum that teaches middle school students about computer science principles ranging from programming and big data to encryption and security.

“We are doing this work to help ensure that Engage is a fun, effective learning environment, and to ensure that we can keep kids focused on the game itself,” says Fernando Rodríguez, a Ph.D. student at NC State who is lead author of the paper. “Keeping kids’ attention is essential if we want them to learn.”

The paper, “Informing the Design of a Game-Based Learning Environment for Computer Science: A Pilot Study on Engagement and Collaborative Dialogue,” will be presented July 13 at the International Conference on Artificial  Intelligence in Education in Memphis, Tenn. The paper was co-authored by Natalie Kerby, an undergraduate at NC State. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation. The Engage development team also includes Dr. James Lester, professor of computer science at NC State; Dr. Eric Wiebe, a professor of science, technology, engineering and math education at NC State; and Dr. Bradford Mott, a research scientist at NC State.”

Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by North Carolina State University.

Matt Shipman News Services | 919.515.6386

| Dr. Kristy Boyer | 919.513.0876

Fernando Rodríguez | 787.447.4976

The study abstract –

“Informing the Design of a Game-Based Learning Environment for Computer Science: A Pilot Study on Engagement and Collaborative Dialogue”

Authors: Fernando J. Rodríguez, Natalie D. Kerby and Kristy Elizabeth Boyer, North Carolina State University

Presented: July 13, International Conference on Artificial Intelligence in Education, Memphis, Tenn.

Abstract: Game-based learning environments hold great promise for supporting computer science learning. The ENGAGE project is building a game-based learning environment for middle school computational thinking and computer science principles, situated within mathematics and science curricula. This paper reports on a pilot study of the ENGAGE curriculum and gameplay elements, in which pairs of middle school students collaborated to solve game-based computer science problems. Their collaborative behaviors and dialogue were recorded with video cameras. The analysis reported here focuses on nonverbal indicators of disengagement during the collaborative problem solving, and explores the dialogue moves used by a more engaged learner to repair a partner’s disengagement. Finally, we discuss the implications of these findings for designing a game-based learning environment that supports collaboration for computer science.