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“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