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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

SimCityEDU Develops Higher Order Thinking Skills.

of Fast Company writes that;

SimCityEDU: A Video Game That Tests Kids While Killing The Bubble Test

A $10.3 million collaboration between Electronic Arts, Pearson, and a nonprofit yields a simulation game that tests thinking and emotion, not just knowledge. . .

“We have all these high-stakes assessments focusing the majority of their testing on rote learning and not application of skill,” says Seth Corrigan, the Director of Education & Evaluation for Glasslab. “We’re never going to transform education and prepare kids for success if we don’t transform assessment to look at higher-order skills. Everything pointed to games as the way to do that.”. . .

SimCityEDU: Pollution Challenge!, the game I’m playing, debuted last week. For those who played SimCity in the 1990s or 2000s, this PC-based game feels familiar; it’s built on the same bits but radically simplified into chunks that take no more than 10 minutes to play, with specific tasks for the player to complete. But what makes SimCityEDU different from other video games, even other video games that have been modded for educational use, is that while middle school players are figuring out how to play this game, the game will be figuring them out right back. As they are zoning neighborhoods or planning school bus routes, the software is gathering detailed evidence about their thinking processes and skills, and whether they’re engaged or bored.

The creators, a multidisciplinary team known as Glasslab, have a wild ambition. They want to use game-based assessments like these to wean our education system off fill-in-the-bubble tests, which are optimized for gauging memorized content knowledge, and instead start measuring what really matters in the 21st century: how well people can think.

“We have all these high-stakes assessments focusing the majority of their testing on rote learning and not application of skill,” says Seth Corrigan, the Director of Education & Evaluation for Glasslab. “We’re never going to transform education and prepare kids for success if we don’t transform assessment to look at higher-order skills. Everything pointed to games as the way to do that.”

Avoiding Chocolate-Covered Broccoli

With its realistic simulations of energy use, pollution, and zoning, SimCityEDU conforms to Next Generation Science Standards recently created by the National Research Council, and includes reading tasks that match the Common Core. Both are voluntary, state-led attempts to create nationwide benchmarks for learning in K-12 schools. But SimCityEDU is not just about teaching content. It’s designed to gather evidence about students’ “systems thinking.”

To See a great video clip about SimCityEDU click here;

To read the full article by click here; http://www.fastcompany.com/3021180/innovation-agents/simcityedu-a-video-game-that-tests-kids-while-killing-the-bubble-test

$10.3 Million for new Games, Learning, and Assessment Lab

New institute gets $10M to gamify education for kids

“The game industry and nonprofits are teaming up to create a video   game design lab that will do research on engaging students and measuring learning … The new Games, Learning and Assessment (GLASS) Lab will be managed by the Institute of Play, a nonprofit video game institute with support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Electronic Arts, and the Entertainment Software Association (ESA). It will be supported by $10.3 million in grants.”-  Dean Takahashi

http://venturebeat.com/2012/06/28/gamifying-education-new-institute-will-creating-learning-games-for-children/