Blog Archives

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

High school students learn programing and gaming

2-15 InnovationLab1.jpg    From left, Seth Baker and Alex Still play the “Parking” game using toy car parts on their controller Wednesday in the Innovation Lab at Madison Central High School.

Students from the Madison Central High School Innovation Lab write that;

“While gaming may not always be permitted at school, The Innovation Lab at Madison Central High School gives students the opportunity to learn computer programming, with gaming as the current focus.

During the first semester of the school year, students researched the different job opportunities the gaming industry has to offer and then took on various roles: game designer, game tester, programming and production.

Using a program called Scratch, developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, class members designed and created their own two-dimensional computer games.

The class is tackling the game-controller aspect of gaming using the MaKey MaKey “easy-to-use invention kit.” The kit includes seven alligator clips, six connector wires and one USB cable.

Teacher Alison Fox was awarded a $500 Bechtel-Parsons Grant, given to teachers at any grade level who plan on using new or interesting strategies with science, math, or technology in their classrooms.

The MaKey MaKey system allows the students to make most anything into a game controller. Students researched items that are conductive (aluminum foil, Play-Doh, people) and would complete the circuit and run the game.

Split into groups of two or three, students where given the task of making a new controller for the game assigned.

The “Piggy Push” online game was chosen for students Sarah Dalton, Dylan Ingram and Timothy Sharp. With the title “Piggy Push,” students used a controller made of a crate lined with aluminum foil and used a pig fashioned from Play-Doh as a handheld controller to move the pig in the game.

To make the controller function, students used a MaKey MaKey system inside of the crate and used alligator clips to connect the system to foil on the outside, with the foil serving as arrow keys. Both aluminum foil and Play-Doh are conductive materials.

A group consisting of Stuart Thorburn, Nick Warren and Ricky Campbell made a controller for the game “Flappy Bird,” where players try to keep the bird from touching the ground or the pipes.”

– See more at: http://www.richmondregister.com/education/x2039927148/Centrals-Innovation-Lab-teaches-programming-gaming#sthash.XlKeCHTo.dpuf

GlassLabs releases research on Psychometric Considerations in Game-based Assessment

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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.

Game Worlds facilitate Collaborative, Inquiry-Based, and Self-Directed learning

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Jason Haas, of MIT, writes that;

“Commercial massively multiplayer online games, or MMOs, like World of Warcraft offer a number of features common to great learning environments. These games are, to varying degrees, collaborative, inquiry-based, and self-directed, all of which make them a prime place to explore aspects of math and science learning. Having a “world” in which to situate problems also means that players can solve something that feels meaningful to them; and see the consequences of their individual and collective actions. The massively multiplayer nature of these games also creates an opportunity for students to address problems with colleagues. Problems too large for any one of them to solve by themselves can be solved collectively by gathering data together, comparing notes, and acting decisively, confident in their evidence-based decisions.

At their best (and, frankly, even at their worst), these games function as a kind of society.

So, if you can combine these existing practices with engaging math and science content, imagine the learning experience you could provide. Thanks to a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we’re doing just that.

Our game, The Radix Endeavor, is a massively multiplayer online learning game, designed by our lab, The Education Arcade at MIT, and developed by Filament Games in Madison, Wisc. The game places thousands of players in an Earth-like world with a technical and social situation similar to our 1400s.”

To read the full article click here;

http://www.boston.com/business/innovation/state-of-play/2014/02/mind_games_new_adventures_in_l.html

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;

The Neuroscience of Game-Based Learning

Paul Howard-Jones, of Bristol University, addresses the topic of Learning Games and “…using uncertain reward within computer games to make learning engaging.  There is a clear theoretical basis and laboratory-based evidence for a classroom-based approach and so me exploratory research in classrooms that may be helpful in informing pedagogy, but evidence of impact on improved engagement and enhanced academic achievement is limited to young adults” (p.5).

He goes on to write that;

“Mental rotation skills are strong predictors of achievement in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and results from a single study show that improving mental rotation does lead to improvement in attainment. However, this has only been tested with undergraduate students. Another way of improving these skills might be through video games” (p.6).

Howard-Jones adds that;

“Popular games provide rapid schedules of uncertain reward that stimulate the brain’s reward system. The brain’s reward response can positively influence the rate at which we learn. Beyond just the magnitude of the reward, a range of contextual factors influence this reward response” (p.11).

To read the full report by Paul Howard-Jones,

Neuroscience and Education: A Review of Educational Interventions and Approaches Informed by Neuroscience Full Report and Executive Summary,

“The Gender Gap in Gaming is Closed”

Speak Up

Chris Riedel of THE Journal writes;

“According to the latest data, video for homework is on the rise; mobile computing is “beyond the tipping point”; and most kids don’t use traditional computers to connect to the Internet at home. Those are just three of the major trends revealed in the 2013 Speak Up Survey from Project Tomorrow, which CEO Julie Evans revealed at the FETC 2014 conference last week.

The 2013 results represent more than 400,000 surveys from 9,000 schools and 2,700 districts across the country. Respondents included 325,279 students, 32,151 teachers and librarians, 39,986 parents, 4,530 district administrators and, new to this year’s survey, 1,346 community members.”

Riedel continues;

“8. Gaming is Growing, and the Gender Gap is Closed

Another interesting area for Evans was student gaming. This year’s results showed 60 percent of students using laptops as a gaming device. Cell phones and game consoles tied with 54 percent use, while tablets clocked in at 44 percent.

Of particular note is students’ interest in taking gaming technology and applying it to learning difficult concepts, as well as their interest in using games as a way to explore career opportunities. Evans also noted no gender difference in students’ interest in games, with younger girls actually showing more gaming activity than their male counterparts.”

Read more at http://thejournal.com/articles/2014/02/03/10-major-technology-trends-in-education.aspx#QO1SgEJ0lFwEpiMJ.99

Millions of students learn to program in Java while playing a game

Kids playing Hour of Code

“In one week last week, Code.org’s Hour of Code reached more than 15 million students in 170 countries. Every major tech company promoted it, celebrities talked about it, and even the US President helped get the word out in their kickoff video. And shooting past Code.org’s crazy target of ten million players, kids are still continuing to play this week, with 600 million lines of code written and one in five US schoolchildren participating (with six times as many girls playing last week than have ever taken a computer science class in the US). It spread to more students in seven days than the first seven months of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Instagram combined.

As one of Code.org’s partners, we at CodeCombat were both excited and hilariously unprepared to help teach such a sizable swarm of students to defeat the 44 ogres in our beginner campaign. Read on for what we learned from the onslaught of child programmers, including how obsessed kids are with games, how American students are the best trolls and the worst programmers, just how badly a user experience test can go, and the unfortunate difference between reddit traffic and school traffic.”

To read the full article click here;

http://sett.com/codecombat/180000-child-programmers-versus-44-ogres