I’ve heard of James Gee all over the place but I’ve never delved into his ideas before. I stumbled upon this interview with him on Edutopia and he very succinctly describes how video games are little learning environments.
My friend Lois Huang just told me about an excellent book—The Seven Laws of Teaching by John Milton Gregory. Published in 1884, the seven laws are things every teacher knows such as “Never begin a class exercise until the attention of the class has be secured.” But the way Gregory lays them all out simply and concisely is very useful, and his discussions of the various facets and implications of his laws make it essential.
Later in the book, Gregory talks more about the mind of the learner such as: “The pupil must reproduce in his own mind the truth to be learned.” This idea is the essence of constructivism which I suppose Piaget was formulating at around the same time (late 1800’s). And this is exactly what I’m working on in our educational video games. The work is to translate these ideas about teaching into the realm of video games. The seven laws are about how a teacher and learner work together. But a video game can’t watch and understand the student like a teacher can. It does however have infinite patience, and always works one-on-one with the student.
Scott Brodie in writes Gamasutra about creating more meaning in games by using life experience, distilling it to a core truth, and building your game around that. Brodie applies this idea for making games more fun, but it could be used to make games more educational as well such as mathematics or problem solving.
I love adages (waste not, want not) and here is a huge list of adages for game designers. It was started by Hal Barwood who I met at LucasArts many years ago and Noah Falstein who worked there before my time.
Here’s a good article on Teach for America’s studies on their teacher’s effectiveness and what they now look for in new hires.
GameCareer.com has an article by Lindsay Grace in Educational Fantasy. This articles explores the idea of the fantasy setting and its necessary role in creating an engaging and entertaining experience. “[Fantasy] is probably one of the greatest single challenges facing educational game design. How can the practical matters of education intersect the enveloping fantasy we expect from games?” The examples of Logo, Oregon Trail and Fantasy Football reminds the reader that educational messages are more exciting in an enhanced and engrossing setting.
This NY Times article portrays a lawyer who worked 20 years helping inmates on death row. He gave up a high salary to become a middle school teacher “having seen too many people at the end of lives gone wrong, and wanting to keep these students from ending up like his former clients. He quotes Frederick Douglass: ‘It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.'”
This article is a pleasant reminder that teachers affect society is so many ways.
Kosmosis is a Communism themed space arcade game from Molleindustria, designers of the excellent McDonald’s Game parody. You play a space revolutionary and you have to organize your fellow proletariates. An especially intriguing aspect is the way your comrades move automatically like a flock of birds. As your group of comrades grow, the group starts to take care of itself and you can sit back and watch. Read his fun description of the space game as a reflection on America’s capitalistic and war-mongering society. The game is fun too.
- Genre: Arcade Games
- Graphics: 8/10 — Fine vintage look
- Sound: 8/10 — Spooky swarmy sound
- Quality: 9/10 — Nicely polished
- Fun: 8/10
- Overall: 8/10
Here is an interesting paper written by the designers of the educational game Europe-2045. The game is a simulation of the economies and politics of the European Union and the project was to develop a computer game for use in high school. The authors summarize prior research in educational games, and then discuss their experiences from developing their game. Some of the notable conclusions:
- In a classroom, some students and teachers are eager to use games for learning, but others do not like it. There might be a preference among people for an exploratory style of learning, while others like the traditional explanation and then practice format.
- There was a wide disparity of how much students could grasp. Perhaps due to previous video game experience, some students understood the complexities of the simulation, while others did not. Are these first two conclusions related?
- Visual storytelling was very effective for engagement in the game. A necessary ingredient though was having the players choices affect the outcome. The player quickly realized when their decisions didn’t change the story, and they lost interest.
- How the teacher framed the game and reflected on the game’s lessons had a huge impact on how well students transferred their understanding to the real world.
You can read the paper here:
I’ve been reading a bit about Joe Renzulli and I like his Three Ring concept of Giftedness. According to Renzulli, there are three important factors for the development of gifted behaviour: Above average ability, creativity, and task commitment.
Renzulli defines Creativity as the fluency, flexibility, and originality of thought, an openness to experience, sensitivity to stimulations, and a willingness to take risks. Task Committment is motivation turned into action (like perseverance, endurance, hard work, but also self-confidence, perceptiveness and a special fascination with a special subject). Renzulli argues that without task commitment high achievement is simply not possible.
I like how he has identified these three aspects. One thing I wonder about though, is ability innate or is it learned? I like to think that almost anybody can learn to do almost anything, if they have the perseverance.