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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

Video games teach empathy – and many other good things!

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Video games are often blamed for much of the pathology in modern society, but Nic Fleming, of the BBC writes that;

“A growing body of research is showing the flip side, though – video games can help people see better, learn more quickly, develop greater mental focus, become more spatially aware, estimate more accurately, and multitask more effectively. Some video games can even make young people more empathetic, helpful and sharing. As public debate on the subject is often highly emotive and polarised, and as more and more of us are becoming gamers, researchers say it is important to move beyond the generalisations that characterise much of the discussion.

“We know there are good sugars and bad sugars, and we don’t discuss whether food in general is good or bad for us,” says Daphne Bavelier, a neuroscientist at the University of Rochester, New York. “We need to be far more nuanced when we talk about the effects of video games.”

Douglas Gentile at Iowa State University, US, agrees. “Game research has tended to get sucked down into a black hole of people yelling at each other, saying either games are good or games are bad,” says Gentile, who studies the effects of video games on physiology and behaviour. “I think we are starting to move beyond this inappropriately simplistic idea to see games can be powerful teachers that we can harness.”

Multi-level field

Part of this has stemmed from the fact that 20th-Century video gaming research often failed to distinguish between game genres. Studies lumped together the different brain processes involved when racing cars, shooting baddies, street fighting, and completing puzzles. But with the benefit of hindsight, researchers now recognise they hold only limited insights into the impacts of video games.

Bavelier stumbled upon the particular effects action games may have on the brain by accident. She was designing a test to probe the effects of congenital deafness on visual attention, and while trialling it a young researcher in her department, Shawn Green, and his friends repeatedly scored far higher than expected. Eventually they realised their exceptional performance could be traced to their fondness for the action games Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic.

Bavelier and Green hypothesised that this type of game had distinct effects on the brain because achieving a high score requires players to react quickly, while processing information in their peripheral vision, multi-tasking, making predictions and processing the constant player feedback. In research published in 2003, they used a series of visual puzzles to demonstrate that individuals who played action games at least four days per week for a minimum of one hour per day were better than non-gamers at rapidly processing complex information, estimating numbers of objects, controlling where their attention was focused spatially, and switching rapidly between tasks.

Was this cause or effect, though? Were the games improving people’s focus or were people with good attentional focus simply more likely to play action video games?, Bavelier and Green asked non-gamers to play the first-person shooter game Medal of Honor for one hour a day for 10 days, and found their ability to focus on environmental cues improved much more than those in a control group who played the classic puzzle game Tetris. Additional tests from other researchers came to similar conclusions. For instance, Joseph Chisholm, a psychologist at the University of British Columbia, Canada, found action video game players were better able to identify distraction and quicker to return their focus to the main task.

Bavelier wanted to pin down more precisely why action gamers appear to have better focus. She placed electroencephalography (EEG) headsets on gamers and non-gamers, and asked them to watch a screen on which three rapid sequences of letters appeared simultaneously. They were told to focus on one of the three and press a button when numbers appeared, while ignoring distractions. The EEG headsets tracked electrical signals in the brain, allowing Bevelier to measure how much attention the volunteer was allocating to the task and to the distraction. Gamers and non-gamers were equally able to focus their attention on the target sequences, but the gamers performed better and had quicker reaction times. “The big difference was action video gamers are better at ignoring irrelevant, distracting visual information, and so made better decisions,” she says.

Her team has also shown that action gamers may have stronger vision. They can better distinguish between different shades of grey, called contrast sensitivity, which is important when driving at night and in other poor visibility situations, and is affected by ageing and undermined in those with amblyopia, or “lazy eye”. They also have better visual acuity, which is what opticians measure when they ask you to read lines of ever smaller letters from a chart at distance.

Bavelier found action video games could also improve the vision of non-gamers. She asked groups of non-gamers to play 50 hours of Unreal Tournament 2004 or Call of Duty 2, or to play the slower, non-action game, The Sims 2, over nine weeks. By the end of the study, the contrast sensitivity of those who trained on action games had improved more than those who played The Sims 2, and the benefits lasted for at least five months. Other researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, showed that adults with lazy eyes who spent 40 hours playing video games with their good eyes patched could improve their ability to distinguish smaller letters on such charts. The higher scores were not seen in those asked to do other visually demanding tasks such as reading and knitting with their good eyes patched.

Power of empathy

Researchers know from years of studies that when men and women are given the task of rotating two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects in their heads, men tend to perform better than women. When Jing Feng, a psychologist at the University of Toronto, in Canada, and colleagues asked a small group of non-gamers to play either Medal of Honor or the 3D puzzle game Ballance for 10 hours over several sessions, they were surprised by the results. They found the action game training boosted the scores of the female participants more than it did the males, and the effect of the training was still apparent five months later.

“We already knew that there are gender differences in mental rotation but it was interesting to see they exist in our ability to effectively distribute attention in space, and more importantly that this is something that can be diminished through playing action video games,” says Feng. “If we could extract the critical training components from first-person shooter games, I could see ways to develop spatial-skills training tools to address gender differences in fields like engineering and information technology.”

So if playing video games can lead to beneficial brain changes, does this positively affect behaviour? Gentile set out to find out by testing the effects of playing “pro-social” games on young people in the US, Singapore and Japan. The children and teenagers in each study were more likely to help others in real life or in simulated tasks if they played the games where the characters co-operated, helped one another, or pitched in to clean a virtual neighbourhood. When American students were asked to select 11 puzzles for a partner to complete and were told their partners would get $10 gift vouchers if they completed 10 of them, the pro-social game players were much more likely to choose easier puzzles than those who played violent games.”

To read the full article by Nic Fleming Click here; http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130826-can-video-games-be-good-for-you/all

Lies about video games

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Tic-Tac Bananas! by Evanced Games

In her article “Video games will rot your brain: and other lies”, Lindsey Hill challenges 3 main accusations of video games.
Hill writes;

“Video games have the ability to change a person’s brain, but the myth is that it’s for the worse. It has long been suggested that gaming negatively impacts our children. The press consistently focuses on the negative aspects of video games: the correlation with “rotting” the brain, encouraging aggressive behavior, promoting anti-social behavior and the list goes on. Must we always look at the downside of something we are not altogether familiar with?

For countless reasons, parents and teachers are hesitant to use gaming technology in the classroom. As both a parent and veteran teacher of 14 years, I’ve had numerous discussions with colleagues who consider video games as simply “mindless” fun. But, those critics are unaware that the touchscreen taps, mouse clicks and joystick jiggles can help sharpen cognitive skills.

Edu-gaming—a now-popular concept that integrates games with education—disputes the theory that video games will rot children’s brains. A recent and compelling article by writer Nic Fleming discusses how educational games are proven to help people see better, learn more quickly, develop greater mental focus, become more spatially aware, estimate more accurately and multi-task more effectively.

As the current lead for reading engagement innovation at Evanced Games (a company that designs influential educational mobile game apps for kids), I spend time each week playing edu-games with children in their school environments. This gives me firsthand experience with the benefits of video games. When played with a purpose, video games are important tools for helping kids take the skills they learn in school and build upon them further after the school day ends.

Gaming Lie No. 1: Video games will rot your brain.

Playing video games is commonly thought to taint children’s brains. Yet, gaming is far from mindless entertainment. Several studies suggest that video games unlock different cognitive skills and improve brain function in measurable ways. In fact, a fascinating new study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus, found that frequent game playing results in a direct increase in the regions of the brain responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation, strategic planning and motor skills.

Gaming Lie No. 2: Video games encourage aggressive behavior.

On the contrary, I have seen video games help redirect aggression and hostility in kids into something much more positive. For example, one of my former third grade students used to act out during reading and math lessons for any reaction from his peers. About mid-year, I began to bring in iPads for continued skills practice in small groups, and, after a couple of days of using these tools, this particular student showed a completely different side of himself. With the introduction of mobile gaming that tied directly to his interests, he discovered something that engaged him more appropriately.”

To read the full article by Lindsey Hill click here; http://www.gamezebo.com/news/2013/11/11/%E2%80%98video-games-will-rot-your-brain%E2%80%99-and-other-lies

Improve your brain – play a video game!

 

 

Kurzweil AI writes that;

“Playing the Super Mario 64 video game causes increased size in brain regions responsible for spatial orientation, memory formation and strategic planning as well as fine motor skills, a new study conducted at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and Charité University Medicine St. Hedwig-Krankenhaus has found.

The positive effects of video gaming may also be useful in therapeutic interventions targeting psychiatric disorders.

To investigate how video games affect the brain, scientists in Berlin asked 23 adults (mean age: 24) to play the video game “Super Mario 64” on a portable Nintendo XXL console over a period of two months for 30 minutes a day. A control group did not play video games.

Brain regions showing a significant increase in gray-matter volume  post-test (credit: S. Kühn et al./Molecular Psychiatry)

In comparison to the control group, the video gaming group showed increases of gray matter in the right hippocampus, right prefrontal cortex and the cerebellum, measured using MRI.”

To Read the full article at Kurzweil AI click here;

http://www.kurzweilai.net/video-game-playing-found-beneficial-for-the-brain

New opportunities to learn through gaming

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writes that;

“By engaging students and pushing them to succeed, games may offers a new way to teach students, according to an expert on performance and gaming.

In a presentation at least week’s “Educause” conference in California, Jane McGonigal – a game designer, author and researcher – predicted that “extreme learning environments” will offer students a chance to play and create while they learn.

“We normally think of games as being fun, kind of trivial, maybe something to pass the time, but what if we thought about them as a platform for inventing the future of higher education?” McGonigal said in her presentation, according to Ed Tech magazine.”

To read the full article by  click here;

http://www.businessadministrationinformation.com/news/gaming-offers-new-opportunities-in-education

DigiToolkit: Why we love Candy Crush, Angry Birds & Minecraft Lessons about Gaming & Education

Here is a great video/lesson on the educational power of digital games and how using the principles of good game design teachers can improve their instruction.

The introduction is kind of slow – she starts with a survey – but, be patient (or skip ahead 1 to 2 minutes) and your will learn about the power of games for learning.

Enjoy!

Learning STEM Skills by Designing Video Games

Here is a great video from Edutopia about Rhys, a 10 year old boy from Texas, who likes to;

“play baseball and play Gamestar Mechanic.  I really like making games because you get to be really creative with it.  Okay. So right now I’m logging into Gamestar Mechanic. It’s pretty much the only platform I make games on. You can have it be a story game. You can have it be a blasting game. You can have it be an easy game, a hard game. I mean, really, you can do almost anything.”  In this video, Rhys shows some of the games that he has made and what he has learned.

Kurt Squire says that;

“One real key attribute of Gamestar Mechanic is that you have an authentic audience, right? So in most classrooms you’re building stuff for your teacher who may or may not have time to read your essay that you wrote just because it’s an essay. But Gamestar Mechanic has a vibrant community where people are making games for real people, real audiences that have real demands and expectations. So you have to think about “How is my audience gonna perceive this? How are they gonna perceive my message? What are they gonna take away from it?” And Gamestar Mechanic has that really built in and so that’s really key for learning. It’s something we’re not doing in our schools.”

To learn more follow this link to Edutopia;

http://www.edutopia.org/is-school-enough-game-based-learning-stem-video

Girls, Games, and STEM Education – Yes they all go together!

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For years researchers have noticed that few women are choosing careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).  To address this problem, “A group of industry and aca­d­emic leaders gath­ered at Northeastern’s Seattle campus with what just might be a solu­tion to that problem: video games.”

The group is called; “Girls GAMES, short for Girls Advancing in Math, Engi­neering, and Sci­ence, is a new col­lab­o­ra­tion between uni­ver­sity part­ners and gaming com­pa­nies in Seattle aimed at pro­moting STEM careers for women through the devel­op­ment of edu­ca­tional games. Though the main event is being held in Seattle … We know games can engage kids to learn, so let’s use games for real learning, and let’s use games to advance girls’ learning, interest, and aspi­ra­tions in STEM,” said Tayloe Wash­burn, dean and CEO of Northeastern’s grad­uate campus in Seattle.”

A New Report Released on the Effectiveness of Digital Games for Early Childhood Education

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Neil Peirce finds that;

“Although there is a limited amount of academic research in this area, there is evidence of the benefits of specifically designed games, notably in the areas of phonological awareness, differentiating relationships, memory enhancement, coordinated motor skills, and mathematical development. However, these benefits have only been evaluated over several months in a structured preschool environment. The impact of such games being played intermittently in an informal setting is an area of
open research.”

Download a copy of the report here [PDF].