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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

Games Can Help Struggling Students Learn

More educators are using online games to supplement teaching, and are seeing positive results.

, of US News, writes that;

“It seems like kids do everything online these days – and school is no exception.  More and more, educators are taking advantage of digital advances to supplement their teaching in the classroom, and are seeing encouraging results. This is especially the case for certain subgroups of students that typically struggle academically, such as English language learners and special education students.

“The classroom you went to school in is almost the exact same classroom you’d walk into today, but the level of engagement our kids get outside of the classroom has changed dramatically,” says Jessica Lindl, general manager of the digital gaming company GlassLab and a spokesperson for the game SimCityEDU. “Teachers are almost the entertainers trying to find whatever tool they can to try to engage their kids.”

Lindl says the SimCityEDU game helps engage kids by helping them improve basic cognitive functions and critical thinking. In the game, students serve as the mayor of a city and are immediately faced with challenges – they must address environmental impacts on the city while maintaining employment needs and other relationships.

Although Lindl says it’s important to use games as a supplement to classroom-based learning, such digital outlets have added benefits.

“There is continuous positive feedback,” Lindl says. “Learners are way more likely to feel comfortable with a video game than taking a standardized test and that’s really powerful.”

Additionally, video games in the classroom provide teachers, administrators and parents with a plethora of data to give assessments on students’ performances that Lindl says is invaluable, not just because of the granularity of the data, but also because it shows student achievements in real time. Other times, parents and students may have to wait weeks or months, depending on the test, to see their results.

“When you think of learning games, engagement and game mechanics is exciting, but there’s a critical value proposition around game-based assessments that we’re seeing,” Lindl says. “Teachers, students and parents can have in the moment understanding of what the child is learning, how they arrived at that learning and accelerate what the learning is, as opposed to waiting weeks down the road.”

Another valuable aspect of using games in the classroom is the competition (and hence reward) mechanisms built into some games.

At Mario Umana Academy in Boston, students from kindergarten through eighth grade have been using a program called First in Math since 2010.”

To read the full article by, of US News, click here;

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/11/26/how-virtual-games-can-help-struggling-students-learn

Making Meaningfull Learning Games

John Flinchbaugh/Flickr

writes that:

“Proving the effectiveness of a game is no simple proposition. Games are all different. When students play a game that focuses on a particular skill, often called “drill-and-kill” games, they often see improved test scores. But those games don’t necessarily get at the higher order thinking skills that games have the potential to help develop. But more complex games often don’t offer clearly correlated outcomes that a teacher can use to prove effectiveness.

The debate has led some game developers and their funders to focus on how the game itself can be used to assess learning — how the game can become a test. But White says that also changes the nature of the game. When a child sits down to play a game, he assumes it’s “failure agnostic” and that allows him to experiment and meander his way through the game freely. When assessment is involved, it changes his relationship to the game. White isn’t against using games for assessment, but he doesn’t think anyone has really figured out how to accurately use the data that games provide to assess in a meaningful way.

Glasslab’s SimCityEDU, funded by the Gates and MacArthur Foundations, is the highest profile example of gaming for assessment. White says if they can crack the code he’ll license it from them, but it’s a lot easier to pull analytics and metrics for a single game than it is to generalize those principles into something that could be applied to all educational games. And, when assessment is involved, the price of developing a game skyrockets.” To read the full article on Mindshift, click here;

http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2014/01/how-can-developers-make-meaningful-learning-games-for-classrooms/

It is good to read a discussion of Higher Order Thinking Skills in games and gaming for assessment.  These are two important issues that need more attention and development.   Unfortunately these games have too often targeted the lower order thinking skills of Blooms’ taxonomy.  In 2007, John Rice conducted a study which assessed higher order thinking skills in video games with the aim of developing a tool for parents and educators to rate the level of higher order thinking skills in video games.  He found that the educational efficacy of these games varies greatly with respect to higher order thinking skill. (Rice, 2007, p. 88).
Rice began his study by examining;  “lower level learning in so-called edutainment products and concludes with an example of an advanced social studies simulation that fosters higher order thinking. [Rice] identifies characteristics of highly cognitive virtual interactive environments and offers a detailed index and scoring rubric as a tool for teachers and preservice teachers to use when evaluating the tendencies a video game demonstrates toward encouraging higher order thinking in its participants  (Rice, 2007, p. 87).”
When educators are looking for a game that does more than drill facts in to the brains of students, Rice’s rubric can serve as a helpful tool in selecting a game that lifts students to the top of Blooms’ taxonomy (1956).

References:

Bloom, B. S. (1956). Taxonomy of educational objectives, handbook 1: Cognitive domain. New York: Longmans Green.

Rice, J. W. (2007). Assessing Higher Order Thinking in Video Games. Journal of Technology and Teacher Education, 15(1), 87-100.

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