Monday, 25 March 2013

Eight Popular Video Games That Should be Integrated into Primary Education

The following is a guest post from Emily Steves, a freelance writer and contributor associated with Cartoon Network.  She has selected eight Cartoon Network games which are a fun way to teach children important skills such as concentration, problem solving and time management.  We welcome guest posts, if you would like to contribute, please send your articles to [email protected] and we will get back to you.

It is always recommended to seek new and innovative methods of education for children. This is especially the case when dealing with those in primary education. Sometimes keeping young children’s attention focused can be a lot more difficult than imagined. However, the utilisation of games and cartoons online can be highly beneficial. They provide a great teaching tool. Read on to discover eight popular games you should consider integrating into primary education.

Tom and Jerry Trap-o-Matic
In this game the child will play as Tom. They will have to use different devices in order to devise a trap that will entice Jerry and result in him ending up in the mouse trap. This game revolves around the utilisation of space, efficiency, problem solving and thinking ahead.

Feedback Jigsaw
This jigsaw game is based on Ben 10. Ben 10 is a favourite amongst many children at the moment and because the cartoon is still in production it is highly relevant. This is a great game to encourage children to play because it enhances their level of concentration and requires a lot of focus.

Tom and Jerry Colour-In
At number three there is another Tom and Jerry game, however this one is extremely different in comparison to the first game that was mentioned. This game requires children to colour in different pictures from the popular cartoon. This is a great way to bring out children’s artistic side whilst also focusing on concentration and precision as well.

Bravo Goalie
This is a Johnny Bravo game and it revolves around the popular sport of football. The child will need to try and score a goal past the goalkeeper who happens to be Johnny Bravo himself. This game is beneficial because it revolves around time management and precision.

Gwen Dress Up
As this is a dress up game it is much more likely to be suited to girls. Nevertheless, it is worth implementing because it brings out a child’s creative side. In addition to this, they develop artistic taste and can learn about colour complimenting and contrasting.

Evil Switch
This game is based on the show called The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy. In this game the child must swap tiles so that they can create matching sets of three or more. This game is highly beneficial because it deals with enhancing a child’s logical thinking. Moreover, time management is involved because of the countdown feature.

This is another game associated with Johnny Bravo. The concept of the game is simple but highly effective. The player will hear a series of sounds and they will have to play them back in the correct order. This involves using all senses and helps develop children’s memorisation skills.

Astro Quiz
In this game your child gets to play as any cartoon character and they have to answer a series of questions about different cartoons. This gets children used to the format of quizzes and examinations in order to make the transition a lot easier.

If you are looking for innovative ways to get primary children learning then you should definitely consider integrating one of these eight games into the education you teach – or you can even use all eight! They help children with key areas of development whilst also containing the key ingredient of fun. Playing games and experiencing cartoons online are great tools for teaching in the modern day.

Author Bio
Ms Emily is a freelance writer and contributor associated with Cartoon Network. She has experience in writing articles for kids and their activities. She has written various articles on kids games, cartoons online such us Batman, tom and jerry cartoon, ben ten ultimate alien games etc for different kids blogs.

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Wednesday, 20 March 2013

10 Benefits of Project Based Learning

Project Based Learning (PBL) is a hot topic in education currently.  PBL is where learning is structured around a project.  The learners must learn what they need to complete the project.  They can find this information by themselves, or they may have formal classes and so on, which help them to complete their projects.

So why is PBL so good?

  1. It is extremely motivating.  Learners want to learn in order to complete their project and might even do extra work if it means their project will succeed.
  2. PBL can be a lot more hands-on and make the learners feel in control of their learning which is much more engaging than listening to someone talk at you at the front of a room and answering some questions.
  3. The learning has built up gradually with a definite result; the learners have something to show at the end of it.
  4. PBL can encourage collaboration.  It works well with learners split into project groups or teams.  Collaboration is great for learning and it is an important 21st century skill.
  5. It is a great way of ticking other 21st century skill ‘boxes’.  PBL can be a good way of encouraging soft skills such as problem solving, research skills and creativity.
  6. Good base for cross-curriculum learning.  A single, broad topic can be used as a project theme and many subjects can be brought into it, which gives them some meaning.  For example, a topic on ancient Greeks could involve history, maths, geography, politics, philosophy, religious education and so on.
  7. Projects can be tailored to suit different abilities and if working in groups, people can fill different niches, which could enhance self-esteem.
  8. Gives subjects a focus and more of a meaning, ties things together and offers an easy answer to “Why do we need to know this?”
  9. It is easy to implement with few resources (but does require a little imagination).
  10. Having said that (number 9), there are lots of helpful resources and project plans online.  Have a look at our ‘Learning’ Pinterest board for some great ideas.

How does PBL work in practice?

Well, one example is Climate Crew.  games-ED undertook a project with over 40 young people from 2 schools and a Girl Guides group from St.Helens, Merseyside, UK. The young people were aged between 14 and 18.  The project ran three types of media skills workshops that had a dual purpose: to provide media skills for the young people and to feed into a design of a game.

  • Workshop 1 - Creative Skills:
  • Theory of logo design > design roughs on paper > designs crated in a vector drawing package.
  • The guides developed a flier based on the logo.
  • Workshop 2 - Computer Games Design:
  • The Schools created initial designs: premise > story > game-play and Easter eggs (hidden features in the game).
  • The Guides drew up the screen designs on huge sheets of paper.
  • Workshop 3 - Computer Games Build (done using Adobe Flash):
  • Game inner working and artificial intelligence 
  • Interface, animation and navigation coding
  • Avatar design and coding
  • Real world interaction 
  • Workshop 4 – Testing

Even though the project ran over a number of weeks and multiple sessions, there still wasn’t enough time to teach the young people the varied skills they would need to design and develop a game. The approach we took was to let the young experience the spectrum of roles in a games company, rather than trying to make them expert in any one area.  The game was completed by the facilitators and can be found here.

The young people learned a lot of skills through designing, leading and implementing the project and through the interactive workshops including creative marketing and facilitation, project management, community leadership, computer game design and development.

Before and after the workshops the young people were asked to judge their skills in key areas, some of the data is shown below.  The data shows that the young people gained skills in design and computer game development as well as communication skills. The workshops were ranked very highly by the young people, particularly the final workshop on game development where they saw all of their previous work slot together as they built the game.

Workshop 1

  • 47% improvement in understanding the use of logos for communicating ideas.
  • 57% improvement in understanding climate change.
  • 62% improvement of skills in logo design.
  • 51% improvement of skills in graphic design (taking an idea to completed product).
  • 31% improvement of skills in using a computer art/design package.
  • 23% improvement in communication skills for the verbal presentation of ideas. 

Workshop 2

When asked, “What key learning messages will you take away”, some of the children responded:

  • “No idea is a bad one.
  • “Bigger understanding of designing games.
  • “That we should take our time to think of ideas instead of rushing.
  • “That when designing a game it has to be simple but catchy.
  • “How to lower my carbon footprint.”

This is a very specific project around games, but you can see easily how similar principles could be used for a project to teach any number of things.  The children loved the experience and learnt a lot and the teachers were full of positive comments too.  For more information and data (including teacher feedback) see ‘Developing Games with Young People: Climate Crew’.

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Thursday, 14 March 2013

Gamifying the Classroom: 10 Inspiring Articles

1. Let’s play school: Gamification and the future of education - This short article discusses how gamification in education can increase motivation and engagement.  The article contains insights from Khan Academy president Shantanu Sinha who argues that games are motivational as they allow people to progress at their own pace, they give immediate feedback and praise and they allow people to push their own boundaries.

Infographic by SuperFunner via this article.
2. Study’s the Name of the Game - This article provides a balanced introduction to gamification including various statistics.  It explains how one school uses games in science classes to achieve self-directed, organic learning.  Gamification enables the students to become fully immersed, engaged, motivated, lower their fear of failure and become better time managers.  The article also discusses research done on university students that found students absorbed more information than reading a book.  Importantly, the article warns against students becoming too extrinsically motivated and that gamification can actually be used to develop the intrinsic motivation to learn.

3. Six Ways to Look at Badging Systems Designed for Learning - While we at pixelfountain believe gamification should be more than simply awarding badges, this article has some interesting insights.  Some of the ways that the authors see badges working in education include: badges acting as alternative assessment, as learning scaffolding and to develop lifelong learning skills.

4. Gamifying Homework - This article discusses research done by Richard Landers on undergraduate students to encourage them to do their homework.  The researcher developed a social network for the students that included basic gamification principles and 28% of the students willingly chose to do extra work that wouldn’t affect their grades.

5. How to Use Game Dynamics in the Classroom - This article gives a brief introduction of another piece of research about using gamification in undergraduate courses.  The experimental group will have the chance to complete various challenges, which will earn them points.  The control group will have the same lectures but will be asked to complete quizzes (containing the same questions, but with no points system).  The groups will be compared on engagement, attendance and academic performance.  I am unable to find the results of the study, but it will be interesting to see if gamification had an impact.

6. The Gamified Classroom - Part 1: The Unique Obstacles Teachers Face - This article argues that gamification will encourage engagement in classrooms.  However, it also discusses potential problems: budget and scalability.

7. The Gamified Classroom – Part 2: Technology’s Role in a Gamified Classroom - Part two of the series explains how children should be taught 21st century skills rather than focussing on teaching them how to use the technology of the moment as this will be obsolete in not very long.  It also discusses how education should be student centred, however, unless there are fundamental shifts in the education system, this is difficult.  However, technology could be a way of achieving this as much gamified content is differentiated for different levels and personality types.  The article goes on to explain that children know how to use technology for entertainment, but the job of a teacher should be to show them how to use them for other purposes.  They should develop their 21st century skills in conjunction with the technology, but not dependent on it, to work collaboratively on projects, for research and so on.

8. The Gamified Classroom – Part 3: The Importance of Motivation - This part dicusses the work of Educational Psychologist Jere Brophy.  Brophy argued that Motivation = Expectancy (of success) x Value (of succeeding).  Brophy developed a series of factors that he found motivating and the article discusses how gamification could be used to reach the same ends.  Factors include: provide opportunities for choice and provide opportunities for students to respond actively.  The author argues that gamification works better that traditional education as it offers a narrative; learning has a purpose greater than simply achieving grades, and this is why it is so motivating.

9. Education Meets ‘World of Warcraft’ - This article highlights some interesting teaching methods.  A teacher begins each semester by greeting his class with “Congratulations, you have an F” and adds, “But you can level up”.  He designs his class like a Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft by dividing his class into guilds which must complete quests (such as making a presentation) to earn points and advance to the next level.  The article discusses the results this innovative teacher has achieved and discusses more about why gamification works and other ways that it has been used (such as to promote good interpersonal skills, not just good grades and attendance).

10. Gamifying the Classroom with World of Classcraft - This software uses the principles of MMORPGs in a classroom setting with the ultimate goal of making the whole class into a game.  Students earn experience points by doing positive actions in class, these lead to them levelling up and gaining special abilities (for themselves, peers and the class).  The software makes use of an online leader board and can be used across the curriculum.

If you haven’t already read them, have a read of our blog posts on gamification:

Thursday, 7 March 2013

The Future of Learning

I am very interested in how the education system is changing.  Recent technological developments have lead people to think about the current education system and how it could be improved upon.  There seems to be a vast number of people in this position, constantly innovating, re-thinking and problem-solving and I think it is only a matter of time before their concepts and ideas are accepted and rolled out into mainstream education.

I though I’d share four videos with you of people that hold a vision of the future of learning.  It would be interesting to hear your thoughts and to see if you agree, so please do comment.  I’ve written a brief summary of each, in case for whatever reason, you can’t watch the video and also just so you have access to the information written down.

 1. The future of Learning, Networked Society – Ericsson


  • Factory-like system of education is not good enough any more (we no longer have a shortage of factory workers).  The education system is there for children, so it should adapt to them, not the other way around.  
  • In the past, schools were a way to access information.  That is no longer what they are needed for; anyone with an internet connection can access information.  Knowing facts is almost obsolete, there are answers everywhere, we need to teach children to be learners and know how to access information.  
  • We need to analyse and tailor learning like we do most other things in life.  Newton provides a means to do this.  Newton captures data and provides online courses personalised to individual students.  It also provides insights such as, ‘you work best at maths between 9.30 and 10.42am’ and so on, to achieve the best learning possible.
  • Connectivity is opening up the world.
  • Educate the youth and you educate a nation.
  • Exams are inadequate.  When taking an exam, children think “I hope there are no surprises”.  But the world is full of surprises.  Education prepares you to cope with certainty.  Learning prepares you to cope with surprises.
  • No one does standardised tests for a living, so why measure people on how good they are, in a way that is irrelevant in later life?  Parents want their children to go to good colleges and universities.  Those institutes are ‘good’ and famous because they are more selective about which grades they accept.  Therefore, you need to get good grades to get into these institutions, which is not real learning.  The system is flawed and described as a ‘scam’.
  • Coursera – online access for everyone, for free.
  • Huge leap in education pre and post-printing press.  Online education could be like that.
  • Education is less and less about conveying content.  Instead, it should be about the instructor engaging the child and teaching them generic skills such as self-discipline and problem solving.
  • We should be teaching children to solve difficult problems, not memorise answers to problems we have already solved.
  • School should be more about telling children a topic and letting them learn about it and figure it out.
  • More children will be educated in the next 30 years than ever in history – should we not try to get it right?

2. Rethinking Learning – The 21st Century Learner: MacArthur Foundation


  • It is important for us to teach children to love to embrace change.
  • In the 21st century, it is important to have curiosity and a questioning disposition, or a ‘gaming disposition’.  Gamers are incredibly bottom-line oriented; they want to be constantly measured to see how they are improving.  There is often a mantra of ‘If I’m not learning, it isn’t fun.’
  • The 20th century was centred around learning content.  In the 21st century, it is about learning the tools and skills to obtain, re-make and produce content.
  • Informal learning (e.g. learning that takes place at home, with peers, in a community) is as important as a formal education.  We need to figure out a way of linking and synchronising the two.
  • 21st century education needs to be not just about employment but about the whole of life.

3. Salman Khan Describes Future Classrooms with Blended Learning: edutopia


  • Currently, education is largely centred around the learning of facts and so on and it rarely gets close to creativity and open-endedness.
  • The Khan Academy is a virtual learning environment where the content and teaching is done via videos and other virtual means.  
  • Salman Khan appreciates the importance of learning the traditional things.  However, he thinks that the Khan Academy can address this element of education.  Children could access the videos and so on at home, which would free up more class time for creative, hands-on, relevant lessons.  It would also allow teachers more time for one-to-one instruction.
  • Virtual and physical education can work together, they are not mutually exclusive.  They can enhance one another.

4. Thomas Suarez


  • Thomas Suarez is a very young man who has taught himself to develop Apps such as his Bustin Jieber App (a Justin Bieber Whac-a-Mole).
  • Children want to make games and Apps, but don’t really know where to go to learn.  There are violin lessons and soccer practices, where do you go to learn to programme?  (Thomas might be interested in using Raspberry Pi)
  • Thomas taught himself the basics of other programming languages and then used Apple’s Software Development Kit to develop Apps that are available on the App Store.
  • He started an App club at school that teaches students to design and develop Apps.
  • Students usually know more about technology than teachers.  This is a huge resource that teachers should really be making use of.
  • In the future, amongst other things, Thomas wants to find more ways for students to share knowledge with each other.

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