Category Archives: Research on Games

Teaching Social Thinking Skills with Computer Games

Rubin Osnat, of University of Haifa, Israel writes that;

“Current educational policy in many nations encourage emphases within the school curriculum, particularly important in the second millennium: enhancing thinking as an integral part of the school curriculum, and integrating technology. Future learners should not only acquire a predefined constant knowledge, but higher order thinking abilities, enabling them to intelligently analyze and deal with different situations, solve problems and make decisions. In an age where learning resources are changing, incorporating technology into the curriculum has been found to positively affect the development of higher order thinking skills. Thereof we should examine using technology for teaching (ordering and practicing) thinking to be used in the learners’ everyday lives.
In the current college course program, teachers learned how to use computer games to enhance social thinking skills. Participants were required to develop simple computer games, including analyzing situations (e.g., what skills involve social activities like choosing a friend), and building an algorithm of problem solving to be practiced in a computer game, in which children had to solve social issues. Participants reported fostering thinking skills: thinking about alternatives, considering consequences, comparing and analyzing steps. The program has increased the awareness of teachers to the significant potential of computers for teaching thinking, which can be applied to the learners’ everyday lives.”

“Stealthy Assessment” of Learning through Games

Sixth grader Jackie Blumhoefer, middle, reacts as she takes over first place during a game of SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge at Valleyview Middle School in Denville, N.J.
—Emile Wamsteker for Education Week

“SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge, an educational version of the popular city-building video game, is a known quantity in a fresh wave of serious learning games that bridge the gap between instruction and assessment.

Released last November, the game—in which students acting as mayors must balance the growth of their cities with environmental impacts—tracks, analyzes, and feeds back to teachers through dashboards more than 3,000 different data points showing how well each student understands systems thinking.

“If a student builds one bus stop, then waits before strategically building other bus stops, he has an eye for problem-solving that I would not have gotten with a multiple-choice or written test,” said Matt Farber, a social studies teacher who beta-tested SimCityEDU with 6th graders at the 650-student Valleyview Middle School in Denville, N.J. “We used to try formal assessments every day, and then do a summative assessment at the end of a unit every two weeks and pretty much move on, but you don’t get a lot of reflection with that. Now, there’s iteration, which I hadn’t planned on. Students get competitive for their personal best.”That is the double benefit of games with embedded assessments, say those who develop and use them. They not only provide a deeper insight into understanding, allowing educators to more quickly identify students’ strengths and weaknesses, but they also thwart a growing disengagement from traditional forms of evaluation. Teachers commonly report that games with embedded assessments encourage students to look at failure as opportunity—a way of thinking that will serve them well as they grow up.

Expect to see more assessment-embedded video games in classrooms soon, experts predict.

GlassLab, a digital learning game-development studio based in Redwood City, Calif., and the creator of SimCityEDU, plans to develop five more serious learning games with embedded assessments over the next three years with grant money from the Bill & Melinda Gates and John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur foundations. “We’re on track, but frankly, we don’t think that’s enough,” said Jessica Lindl, the general manager of GlassLab, a project of the New York City-based nonprofit Institute of Play. “We want to empower and accelerate the entire market. At the end of our grant, we don’t want just six games. We want thousands of other games to be created.”

To read the full article by  Robin L. Flanigan, click here;

http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2014/03/13/25games.h33.html

Panel Discusses Games and Assessment at SXSWedu

 Lee Banville writes;
SXSWEdu panel

Chris Curran to developers seeking funding: “Even if it is small-scale and anecdotal, you should have evidence of efficacy.”

On Tuesday, March 4, Lee Banville moderated “Lost in Translation: Applying the Latest Research” at SXSWEdu with Bjorn Jeffery (Toca Boca), Chris Curran (Education Growth Partners), and Sujata Bhatt (The Incubator School). This post originally appeared in gamesandlearning.org. There are research reports that highlight the efficacy of games as assessment tools, studies that show certain games can help students suffering from dyslexia and market analyses of the projected overseas learning games market. But how much of this research actually makes it into games you find in the App Store remains a mystery.

Representatives of three different sectors – game developers, investors and teachers – weighed in on the matter at a session Tuesday at SXSWedu and their answers raised as many questions as they likely answered.

The designer dilemma
Björn Jeffrey, the CEO of youth app powerhouse Toca Boca, stressed that one of the major problems is that “the bar is extremely low” to be considered an educational app in the App Store and so discerning between claims and actual educational value is impossible.

“There is no way to gauge if it is really educational,” he said, adding that many apps promote what he called “faux assessment.”

But the solution, Jeffrey said, is not as easy to identify.

He said he hoped a third party rating firm could offer parents, teachers and others a better sense to what products actually have some research and evidence behind them.

The danger, he said, is without more efforts to create a qualitative measure the battle for the trust of parents may be lost.

bjeffery_quote

The investor’s questions
For those deciding whether to sink their money into a given educational technology, the question of research is often answered by the simple question: how much money is at risk?

Chris Curran, managing partner at Education Growth Advisors, stressed that private equity firms that are considering a major investment will scour thousands of pages of reports or conduct their own research, “to identify every possible risk or opportunity before they make the investment” of what could be tens of millions of dollars.”

To read the full article by Lee Banville click here;

http://www.joanganzcooneycenter.org/2014/03/05/panel-highlights-uneasy-relationship-between-learning-games-research/

Gaming to Learn – from Civilization to Call of Duty

of Ars Technica writes;

“Is there a place for games at higher levels of education? Schwartz would definitely argue yes, but he suggested that the role of the games would be different. Rather than developing basic skills, the games help give people an intuitive grasp of a subject, after which explanations for their intuitions can be supplied in the classroom.

This was done explicitly in one case, with the researchers building a Space Invaders-style game where each successive wave had a different pattern of invaders. The frequency of different patterns, rather than being random, was governed by statistical distributions. On its own, the game didn’t help players do any better on testing, since the tests were couched in terms like “normal distributions” and the like. To have an impact, the game had to be coupled with a written description of the statistical patterns. “A short written description helps everyone,” Schwartz said, “but gamers get much more out of it.”

The big surprise is that this effect spills over to commercial games that aren’t designed for educational purposes at all. Schwartz’s team had junior college students play about 15 hours of two different games: Civilization IV and Call of Duty 2. Afterwards, they were given short descriptions of real events from World War II that either focused on international relations or on tactical situations. The students were asked to formulate a series of questions they’d ask to better understand the circumstances.

When it came to international relations, the Civ-playing students were able to formulate more sophisticated and probing questions. But, when handed a tactical situation to analyze, Schwartz suggested they were completely lost, and often failed to come up with any questions at all. For the Call of Duty players, the converse was true.”

To read the full article click here;

http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/02/how-to-effectively-use-civ-iv-in-higher-education/

James Gee Interviewed on Game-Based Learning

James Paul Gee

of Games and Learning interviewed James Gee on game-based learning.

Banville writes that; “For more than a decade, James Paul Gee has been writing about the potential power of games and game mechanics to change the way we learn, to create new “deep” learners.

But in this newsmaker interview Gee says most of the possibilities of games remain unfulfilled as the American education system continues to focus on tests and fact retention.

He worries that even as learning games become more prevalent, they are in danger of being changed by the schools they seek to sell to rather than changing the school itself.

“The textbook was the worst educational invention ever made because it was a one size fits all type thing and we don’t want to do the same things with games. We don’t want to bring games to school,” he said. “We want to bring a networked system of tools and deep learning and practices that have been tested and are focused on problem solving and not just fact retention — that’s what we want to bring to school. Games can be a very important part of that mix.”

To read more click here; http://www.gamesandlearning.org/2014/02/10/newsmaker-james-gee-on-why-the-power-of-games-to-teach-remains-unrealized/

To Listen to the full interview click here;

Game play and mental fitness

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, Ellen M. Martin, and Melinda Speckmann write that;

“Games have been part of human culture for millennia. It is no surprise that elements of play can be powerful digital tools to grab our attention and keep us on a path to taking care of ourselves and others.

Big data is already behind brain games. The use of big data is becoming increasingly mainstream in health play applications. Once we are drawn in, game play (with big data under the hood) can help us to:

  1. Stay sharp,
  2. Stay well, and
  3. Overcome illness.

Staying sharp

Digital tools aim to make brain fitness fun by playing with the mental states our brains experience and project. Brain fitness games exercise different functions: short and long-term memory as well as accuracy and efficiency for processing information and solving problems.

Lumosity entered the consumer market with engaging user interfaces and now offers more than 40 games that challenge and train memory, flexibility, processing, speed, and problem solving. Two examples include Speed Match, which tests speed of visual processing, and Memory Matrix, which challenges the brain’s ability to remember spatial locations. Preliminary studies suggest that these games have beneficial long-term effects.

Using machine-learning algorithms, the games keep you interested by using feedback to deliver personalized questions for your engagement and by finding your learning sweet spot; not too easy but not too hard.

With over 50 million users and 1 billion game plays, Lumosity’s Human Cognition Project has launched 43 ongoing studies, exploring topics such as age-related cognitive decline, interventions for PTSD, and the relationship between physical exercise and Lumosity brain training.

Brain Resource aims to improve brain health, particularly to better diagnose and treat diseases of the mind such as depression and ADHD. The company began by building integrated, standardized data sets from screening questionnaires, cognitive assessments, genetic profiles, and MRI or fMRI scans. By standardizing measurement and procedures, the company can compare neural activity within various regions of the brain to better understand brain circuitry and interconnectedness.

The BRAINnet Database, (a.k.a. the Brain Resource International Database or BRID), available to global academic and research partners, has grown to 50,000 datasets. It includes 5,000 healthy controls from ages 6 to 100, plus more than 1,000 subjects with diagnoses such as depression, schizophrenia, and mild cognitive Impairment. Its standardization feature, unique among such databases, allows the comparison of brain function across disease states.

The insights derived from the BRAINnet Database have been commercialized into a brain assessment and training platform known as MyBrainSolutions. The brain training program is used by corporate wellness programs to promote brain health and resilience among employees. The site features 24 brain training exercises or games to improve cognitive and emotional functioning. In addition, MyCalmBeat facilitates control of stress, anxiety, and panic by providing feedback on heart rate.

Outcomes associated MyBrainSolutions include improved thinking and memory processes as well as emotional balance.

They are also among the first to perform clinical trials in the arena of ADHD and depression. Two global studies under the rubric International Studies to Predict Optimized Treatment Response (iSPOT) aim to identify biomarkers and develop companion diagnostics for these two areas.

CogniFit provides scientific assessments and brain training programs directly to consumers as well as to professionals in the area of cognition.

Both markets are still in their infancy. CogniFit is available in more than 13 languages and offers more than 50 different assessments and training tasks to measure and train this large number of cognitive abilities.

CogniFit dynamically personalizes the training programs it offers to its users on more than 25 key cognitive skills, such as working memory, eye-hand coordination, concentration, and response time.

With more than 150 cognitive variables tracking each training session and millions of data points for variables such as demographics, countries, skills and training programs, CogniFit is building a reliable and exhaustive cognitive database that is being used to develop new training regimens to further study the impact of mental health diseases on cognition and improve the development of preventive solutions for brain health.

Akili Interactive is tackling both game play and big data to build the first therapeutic mobile video games, using technology licensed from neuroscientist Adam Gazzaley at UCSF. A Nature publication shows how gaming can improve cognitive skills.

In the latest version of NeuroRacer, a 3D video game, players choose avatars that travel down a waterway. The game’s back end uses an adaptive algorithm based upon real-time performance metrics to create a real-time learning experience optimized for each player. Engaging individual learning styles and using big data to customize the learning experience, could increase engagement and exercise personal multi-tasking skills.”

To read the full article click here;

http://strata.oreilly.com/2014/01/using-big-data-and-game-play-to-improve-mental-fitness.html

Video games help people with dyslexia

Video games with lots of action might be useful for helping people with dyslexia train the brain's attention system.

Linda Poon, of National Public Radio, writes that;

Video games with lots of action might be useful for helping people with dyslexia train the brain’s attention system.

Most parents prefer that their children pick up a book rather than a game controller. But for kids with dyslexia, action video games may be just what the doctor ordered.

Dyslexia is one of the most common learning disabilities, affecting an estimated 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population. Many approaches to help struggling readers focus on words and phonetics, but researchers at Oxford University say dyslexia is more of an attention issue.

So programs should emphasize training the brain’s attention system, they say, something that video games do. “These video games require you to respond very quickly, to shift attention to one part of the screen to another,” says Vanessa Harrar, an experimental psychologist and lead author of the study.

When people with dyslexia had to shift their attention between sight and sound, their reaction was delayed. And they had significantly more trouble shifting attention from visual to audio than the other way around.

“It’s not just shifting attention from one location to another, but we should also be training shifting attention from sound to visual stimuli and vice versa,” Harrar, who is dyslexic herself, tells Shots.

She adds that at least for some people, making the association between a word and how it sounds might be easier if they hear it first and then see the corresponding symbols.

Scientists today still don’t agree on what causes dyslexia, but one theory says it has something to do with a faulty nerve pathway from the eyes to the back of the brain that is responsible for guiding both visual and auditory attention. When this network malfunctions, people can’t properly combine what they hear and see for the brain to process the information.

To test this, researchers asked 17 people with dyslexia and 19 control participants to press a button as quickly as they could each time they heard a sound, saw a dim flash of patterns on the computer screen or experienced both together.

The results showed that the dyslexic group took longer than typical readers to respond when they had to alternate their attention between a sound and a flash. What really stunned researchers was that the group reacted much more slowly to a sound if it followed the flash.

“We were very surprised by this result, that there was sort of this asymmetry that only occurs in one direction,” Harrar says.

The study was published Feb. 13 in Current Biology,

One explanation for this may be what psychologists call visual capture, says Jeffrey Gilger, an expert in language and learning disabilities at the University of California, Merced.

“As human beings we prefer visual stimuli,” Gilger, who was not involved in the study, tells Shots. “When you’re trying to listen to someone on TV and the sound doesn’t match the mouth moving, it throws you off.

“You’re trying to get the sound to align with the vision, not the vision with the sound,” he adds.

Since this was an unexpected outcome, Harrar says more research is needed to see if the asymmetrical delay is true for all people with dyslexia, and if video games that require quick shifts of attention would be helpful in overcoming it.

While the study did not directly test the effect of video games, her suggestion echoes the results of a 2013 experiment done in Italy. That study found that dyslexic children showed improvements in reading speed and attention skills after having played video games with lots of action.

To read more of this article click here;

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/02/13/276381632/heres-one-more-reason-to-play-video-games-beating-dyslexia

GlassLabs releases research on Psychometric Considerations in Game-based Assessment

https://i2.wp.com/www.instituteofplay.org/wp-content/gallery/pro-glasslab-research/glresearch_main.jpg

Press Release: GlassLab Publishes Research on Game-based Assessment

By Ilena Parker | February 6, 2014

For Immediate Release
February 6, 2014

Digital Games Can Improve Measurement of Student Learning With Continuous Assessment, According to New Research From GlassLab

New white paper offers framework for integrating game design and educational assessment

Redwood City, Calif. – February 6, 2013 — Researchers have figured out a new way to give teachers a dynamic portrait of a student’s learning in action, using video games. In a white paper released today by Institute of Play project GlassLab (the Games, Learning and Assessment Lab), a team of assessment data scientists, learning designers and game developers describe a multidisciplinary approach to designing a new type of classroom game — a game-based assessment. Game-based assessments can provide a rich understanding of the different factors that affect educational achievement and predict how a student’s performance might change over time.

The white paper, “Psychometric Considerations in Game-Based Assessment,” answers the provocative questions that stand in the way of realizing the full potential of games to transform learning and assessment: How can scientists make sense of the endless stream of data generated by a digital game — the entire spectrum from wayward mouse clicks to strategic choices in gameplay? How can psychometric data help game designers build better challenges to improve learning outcomes? And how can experts in diverse fields come together to build and test new game-based assessments?

“Game-based assessments may hold the promise of a richer, multi-dimensional portrait of student learning, but they also present a new frontier in assessment design, ripe with challenges and opportunities for psychometricians and game designers to explore collaboratively,” says co-author Robert Mislevy, a psychometrics consultant for GlassLab, pioneer of evidence-centered assessment design, and Frederic M. Lord Chair in Measurement and Statistics at ETS. “This paper provides a framework for the continued exploration of this new frontier and proposes a design approach for developing and testing new game-based assessments.”

“Psychometric Considerations in Game-Based Assessment” is the first publication from GlassLab, and contains findings from the development of the Lab’s first game-based assessment product, SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, which launched in November 2013. GlassLab’s research and development efforts are made possible by the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

A project of the nonprofit Institute of Play, GlassLab is an interdisciplinary partnership between leaders in commercial games and experts in learning and assessment to develop next-generation educational games. Co-authors of “Psychometric Considerations in Game-Based Assessment” include researchers from Institute of Play, Educational Testing Service, Electronic Arts, and Pearson’s Center for Digital Data, Analytics and Adaptive Learning.

The 160-page white paper is available for free download today from Institute of Play. To download the full white paper and Executive Summary as a PDF e-book, or to explore print-on-demand options, please visit http://bit.ly/glasslab-research.

The next white paper from GlassLab, scheduled for publication in Fall/Winter 2014, will detail GlassLab’s Evidence-Centered Game Design process for developing game-based assessments.

EdGamer interviews Dr. Seann Dikkers

 From the EdGamer Show notes –
EdGamer Show‎ > ‎

EdGamer 122: TeacherCraft with Seann Dikkers

This week on EdGamer 122, we meet up with Dr. Seann Dikkers is an assistant professor in the Educational Technology division of the Patton College of Education at Ohio University. Formerly Dr. Dikkers served fourteen years as a middle school teacher, high school principal, and education consultant. Now he researches, writes, and shares the usefulness of digital media for teaching and learning as the founder and director of Gaming Matter. His books, Real-Time Research,Mobile Media Learning, and the forthcoming TeacherCraft: Using Minecraft in the Classroom are helping teachers integrate innovative technology into classroom learning.  This is another can’t miss episode of EdGamer. Tune-in and level-up!

Gaming Matter

5 Myths About Our Schools That Fall Apart When You Look Closer

Small World 2 on Steam for PC

 

Show Host: Zack Gilbert

Show Guest: Seann Dikkers  

To find the archive of EdGammer click here;

http://edreach.us/channel/edgamer/

 

GraphoGame Helps Children Learn to Read

Graphogame logo

“GraphoGame™ is a child-friendly computer game that helps children to learn to read in their local language with the help of technology and know how of the most well informed experts of reading acquisition in the world.

With the game children learn the basic letters and their sounds. Through a series of levels, gradually, the child is able to construct these letters into words. Importantly, the game incorporates a dynamic element in that it also adapts to the childs own level of ability and sets further levels in accordance with this ability.’

GraphoGame was developed in Finland in the University of Jyväskylä in collaboration with the Niilo Mäki Institute.” – From the GraphoGame website, to read more click here; http://info.graphogame.com/.

Researcher Paul Howard-Jones discussed GraphoGame in the context of Neuroscience;

“Such studies have helped raise awareness of the general importance of phonological decoding for reading acquisition and contributed to the prevalent adoption of “phonics” approaches to reading. They have also helped prompt the development of technology-based reading resources combining neuroscience and educational understanding. One example is Graphogame -a non-commercial system developed at the University of Jyväskylä (Finland) which introduces the association of graphemes and phonemes to young children according to the frequency and consistency of a grapheme in a given language. In Graphogame, online algorithms analyze a child’s performance and rewrite lesson plans ‘on the fly’ depending on the specific confusions shown by the learner. The difficulty of the content is adjusted so that the challenge matches the learner’s ability. Using fMRI and EEG together (allowing both good spatial and temporal resolution in measurements), it has been shown that practice with the game can initiate print-sensitive activation in regions that later become critical for mature reading – the so-called ‘visual word-form system’” (p. 17).

Reference:
Howard-Jones, p. (2014). Neuroscience and Education: A Review of Educational Interventions and Approaches Informed by Neuroscience
To read the full review click here;