Blog Archives

iPads in the Digital Classrooms

Tom Sullivan writes that;

“Two-year-old Mia traces out a letter on the screen with her forefinger, then claps with joy when the computer chants “wonderful!” and emits a slightly metallic round of applause.

The preschool group at Tanto International School in central Stockholm is just getting used to a new batch of iPads — one for every two children — and it’s a noisy, chatty affair.

“They really enjoy playing this app. It’s really good for learning pronunciation,” said their teacher Helena Bergstrand.

Bergstrand, along with nearly 90 percent of teachers polled by the city council, believes that iPads and tablets help motivate children to learn.

– ‘More interactive’ –

“There’s an instant appeal with an iPad … they love it!” she says, raising her voice over the din as she moves around the table to help the children.

“It’s more interactive (than pen and paper).”

Petra Petersen at Uppsala University has researched the rapidly growing use of tablets in preschools — recording children when they interact with the technology and each other.

“In the schools I’ve looked at, they usually sit together in a group and its very collaborative, there’s a lot of body contact and verbal communication,” she said.

“These tablets are very multi-modal — they have colours, sounds, spoken words, and things that interest the children — that’s part of what makes them so popular. A large part of learning is about having fun, and the children have a lot of fun with them.”

In Sweden, like in many countries, small children often play games on tablets and laptops long before they encounter them at school.

According to the national media council, close to 70 percent of Swedish two- to four-year-olds play video games.

Nearly a half (45 percent) of children aged two have used the Internet — perhaps unsurprising in a country with one of the world’s highest mobile broadband penetrations.

“It’s more or less prioritised in schools now, to bridge the gap between schools and the environment children are living in,” said Peter Karlberg, an IT expert at the National Education Agency, referring to the thousands of tablet computers bought by public and private sector schools in the last few years.

And that has put increasing pressure on teachers to get up to speed — one in every two surveyed have said they need special training.

– ‘Still a taboo’ –

Felix Gyllenstig Serrao, a teacher in the western city of Gothenburg, has taken computer-aided teaching further than most, using the popular Swedish game Minecraft to teach children with behavioural and concentration problems, including Attention Deficit Disorder and Asperger’s Syndrome.

“I bring something to the classroom that they like — that they do in their spare time — to make them want to be in school,” he said.

“Minecraft is very good because it’s so open and creative … I usually use it to make a topic more alive.”

Serrao — a games enthusiast himself — teaches 12- to 15-year-olds subjects like mathematics and history, using the game’s building blocks, often called “digital lego”, to make maths problems tangible or to illustrate scenes from history books, building them in the game after the formal part of the lesson has ended.

“It reinforces what they learn — when they return to the game later and see there’s a pyramid there or a town we built they remember the lesson.”

He said Sweden has a long way to go before schools can exploit the full potential of digital classrooms.

“There’s still a taboo around games. When I talk to older teachers about this they usually frown — thinking that video games have nothing to do with learning,” he said.”

To read the full article click here;

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gVyfCvjc0cDbrWrVeOdymBqmwK7A?docId=49c2368b-2691-4a06-abf4-380f80c822b3

FastForward Radio Explores Games and Learning

This is one of my favorite podcast related to the future and technology.  I was so happy to hear them talk about games and learning.

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldtransformed/2013/09/05/games-conquer-the-universe

From the FastForward Radio show notes;

What’s more fun than playing games?

One possible answer: systems that let you build your own games! Especially if you have to become something of a hacker to get the games going.

How about building your own computer for playing games?

There’s an interesting connection between gaming, education, and learning to build one’s own technology. What does this connection have to say about the future of work (and play)?

Tune in to explore.

EdGamer Discuss MinecraftEdu

 From the EdGamer Show notes;

EdGamer 127: Orange Is the New Zack

EdGamer 127 brings you the latest in gaming and education news featuring discussion about the Oculus Rift, Chromebooks in the classroom, MinecraftEdu, science games, and Apple TV as a gaming device. Plus, an entire hour of our witty banter…for that we apologize. We also have an update on Zack’s student Eric and his battle with leukemia.  A dodgeball tournament will be played to support Eric and his family. Tune-in and level-up!

Eric Update- Dogin for Dolan- Dodgeball Tournament

Lord of the Rings War in the North

Where RPGs Can Improve

The Oculus Rift Put Me In Game of Thrones and It Made My Stomach Drop

Source URL:http://gizmodo.com/the-oculus-rift-put-me-in-game-of-thrones-and-it-made-m-1510809083

Apple TV graduates from hobby/accessory to product line ahead of major changes | 9to5Mac

Source URL:http://9to5mac.com/2014/01/28/apple-tv-graduates-from-hobbyaccessory-to-product-line-ahead-of-major-changes/

Private school’s Chromebook program explains why Google’s laptops have captured nearly 20% of the educational market – TechRepublic

Source URL:http://www.techrepublic.com/article/private-schools-chromebook-program-explains-why-googles-laptops-have-captured-nearly-20-of-the-educational-market/#.

To Inspire Learning, Architects Reimagine Learning Spaces | MindShift

Source URL:http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/01/to-inspire-learning-architects-reimagine-learning-spaces/

MinecraftEdu Winter 2014 Newsletter

Source URL:http://www.teachergaming.com/sendy/w/2AxghuZAD6EMBNOaE8922HpA/TwB0ebR8Lr9MMdcHcyNjIw/q892ueLSbpREUvSbPZvPI6yw

Home – Interact Simulations

Source URL:http://www.interact-simulations.com/

5 Tips For Making Your Class As Addictive As A Game – Edudemic

Source URL:http://www.edudemic.com/game-class-tips/

How online gamers are solving science’s biggest problems | Technology | The Observer

Source URL:http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/25/online-gamers-solving-sciences-biggest-problems

For Supporting Eric-

St. Jude

Donate to St. Jude

Ronald McDonald House

Donate to the Ronald McDonald House

Go Fund Me – Eric’s Fight

Show Host: Zack Gilbert

Show Contributor/Producer: Gerry James 

To browse the EdGamer archives click here;

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

Learning with Minecraft

Chris Shores writes;

“Brian Westbrook was trying his best to keep up with the two dozen Greenfield Middle School students competing for his attention. Calls of “Mr. Westbrook, Mr. Westbrook” rang through the air like a broken record, from students hoping to get tips and tricks on the afternoon’s assignment: building a house.

At one end of the horseshoe-shaped computer lab, 12-year-old Virnalis Mejia focused on his screen as he assembled wooden planks on top of each other across his virtual property. Still unsure of what his final house would look like, Mejia was concentrating for now on building a solid foundation. To gather more wood, he wandered next door to his friend’s yard and went inside a communal storage shed they had built.

This is Minecraft: a Swedish computer game of creativity and survival, where players gather natural resources to build items for their lives. It’s a new option this year at the school’s required Expanded Learning Time after-school program and about 50 students in fourth-grade through seventh-grade will take the class each trimester.

Video games in school? Westbrook, a 25-year-old Greenfield High School alumni, has heard the skepticism before. Although he believes it’s important for children to participate in a range of activities, he’s not buying the argument that video games are a waste of time.

“I’ve always felt that there’s a kind of deeper educational aspect to games that a lot of people don’t realize,” he said. In Minecraft, creativity and logical reasoning can seemingly produce anything; some hardcore gamers across the country have used the game’s virtual minerals to create an electrical wiring system that can play Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” with the click of a button or calculate math functions on a giant computer that’s built completely in the digital world.

Since Swedish computer programmer Markus Persson developed Minecraft in 2009, the game has exploded in popularity across the world. After years of unofficial release, it was fully published in November 2011. When a Microsoft XBox 360 edition came out six months later, game developers sold four million copies in five months, according to Minecraft.net.

It wasn’t until this year, though, that Westbrook pitched the idea of an after-school class to Middle School Principal Gary Tashjian. It didn’t take much to convince the principal, who called the game “a big hit” for many of his students.

“More than just a mindless computer video game, it challenges students to be creative and build extensive communities,” said Tashjian, adding that the school tries to find a mix of extended learning time offerings for students. Students attend the enrichment classes twice a week for 80 minutes each day. On other days, the extra block is dedicated toward things like standardized test preparation and academic tutoring.

In the class, Westbrook uses “Minecraft EDU,” a modified version of the game built by the United States and Finland, which allows him as a teacher to change or block off parts of the digital world his students all share. It also gives the class access to another world full of historical monuments and artifacts ­— a chance to embed video games with history and geography lessons.

Westbrook said some of his fourth- and fifth-grade students don’t have extensive computer experience. While they slowly master the game, they’re also learning how to use and manipulate computer applications — skills they’ll need to learn for real-world applications that extend beyond games.

Many of the older students though, the ones tasked with building a house, have been playing for years.

There were some traditional houses, but one built his completely underground and another incorporated an underwater room.

Dylan Carlo, 12, decided to have one entire wall of his house built of glass. In this class, since students are still getting the hang of the game, he was able to acquire free materials from a virtual store that Westbrook built.

Carlo explained the elaborate process he would normally have to go through to build this type of house: collect cobblestones, build a furnace, gather sand, melt it in the furnace and then take those glass pieces back to the construction site.

Mejia, the student accessing his supplies from an adjacent storage shed, said he learns new things about the game all the time.

“(In) Minecraft, you can do whatever you want to do. There’s no rules,” he said. “It’s fun because you can be creative.”

Its freedom can be puzzling for gamers who prefer structure, levels and final bosses. Even Westbrook, a lifelong gamer, took awhile to warm up to its loose style.

Still, developers have added goals and challenges for people.

Playing in survival mode, as opposed to creative mode, means that the individual needs to be smarter about what items they build and when. They need to use tools to find and eat food so that their hunger and health bar levels don’t drop too low. A shelter is crucial at night to protect against zombies who swarm in the darkness, ready to attack.

Fighting zombies is generally an extracurricular activity. In Westbrook’s class, students are instead focused on the game’s creative mode and collaborating with their peers to build and explore a digital world.

Still, some things are likely to occur in a room of two dozen middle school students, no matter what they are doing.

Halfway through one afternoon class, Westbrook had to intervene briefly when one student stole another’s digital sword. As the teacher, he can freeze student play or turn off their ability to chat with others.

By the end of class, everyone was getting along. The only chaos was due to an onslaught of requests directed at Westbrook — typically to make a new item available in the store.”

To read the full article by Chris Shores click here;

http://www.recorder.com/news/townbytown/greenfield/10208991-95/minecraft-popular-video-game-builds-students-interest-in-learning

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;

A Learning Game to Combat Drugs, Alcohol, and Obesity

Clare Weir writes;

“A digital entrepreneur is in talks with educational authorities in the USA to sell his computer game which educates children on the dangers of drugs, alcohol and obesity.

Newcastle man Aaron Gibson (21) set up his games design company ‘YumPod Technologies’ at 18 and invented ‘You vs The World’ for children and teenagers.

An accompanying website is designed to fit into the school curriculum, and has already been accepted into over 300 schools in England, Scotland and Wales, with plans afoot to roll the game out in Northern Ireland schools shortly.”

To read the full article click here;

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/news/kids-drug-education-game-to-hit-us-market-30001176.html

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