Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Games Based School

PlayMaker is a school that has been designed and developed by the GameDesk Institute funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and launched in partnership with New Roads Schools.  So what is so special about this school?  The school’s philosophy is that children learn best by playing, making, discovering and enquiring.  They aim to transform the learning process and bring the education system into the 21st century.  Rather than simply talking at children and telling them what to learn, the children are empowered to customise their own path and develop meaningful relationships with subject material.

Image courtesy of PlayMaker School
The school aims to give children hands-on, play-based experiences that engage learners and give them a deeper understanding of the subject matter.  They have re-worked learning spaces, grade levels, traditional subject areas and so on, to create a highly engaging, exciting and 21st century school.  Four main principles guide the school:

  1. Learning through play
  2. Learning through making
  3. Learning through discovery and enquiry
  4. Learning through interest-driven curriculum

How does this work at a student level?
Students are in control of their own learning.  They have an ‘Adventure Map’ which is essentially their curriculum but one which they can interact with, personalise and reflect upon.  The Map is made up of curriculum units, which explore a certain subject area in a cross-curricula and project based way (see '10 Benefits of Project Based Learning’).  For example, the roller coaster unit teaches students about friction, speed and distance, kinetic and potential energy, measurement and digital film-making through various exercises including building a physical roller coaster, creating a digital roller coaster and making a short film.  The modules are made up of elements that are great for different types of learners (see ‘Games Based Learning Supports Multiple Learning Styles’).  Once students have completed a module, they ‘unlock’ new areas of the curriculum.

Image courtesy of PlayMaker School
On completing their Adventure Maps, students can see connections between modules and reflect upon their learning (their choices, their progress, standards they have covered etc.).  It also acts as a self-assessment tool for the student as they can see gaps in their knowledge.  This can also be seen and analysed by parents and teachers.  This is added to by a Character Sheet, which records the development of student skills and knowledge.  This feedback encourages students to further develop their self-regulating learning skills.  

The curriculum maps to U.S. standards but also focused on competencies that the PlayMaker school deems important such as systems thinking, problem solving, social-emotional learning, critical thinking, collaboration and other life and career skills (see ‘21st Century Skills and Games Based Learning’).  The school is open source so that the community of teachers and schools can learn from the school (its successes and mistakes).  I imagine that we will start to see more and more schools like this in the near future and hopefully some of them will crop up in the U.K..

Visit the school’s site for more information: http://www.playmaker.org/

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Monday, 20 May 2013

Gamification In and Out of Education

Our recent blog posts about gamification and education (‘Gamification in Education’ and ‘Gamifying the Classroom: 10 Inspiring Articles’) seem to have gone down very well.  So I thought I’d compile a list of articles about gamification in general, from the classroom to the office and beyond.  Just click the titles to go to the full articles and click the infographic below for a full-scale version.

Image from SOCIALCAST. Click for full-scale infographic.

  1. A Teacher’s Guide to Using Badges in your Classroom - The simplification of gamification to badges is criticised.  However, they can be powerful and have a strong history as this article explains.  Good advice about how to implement gamification in the classroom.
  2. Gamification Boosts OTT’s eLearning Engagement by 65% - A success story of using gamification principles to great effect.
  3. Brand Gamification is Hot Trend in Social Marketing – An analysis of how and why Klout and Foursquare use gamification.
  4. Why Gamification is Important as a Young Professional - Includes aspects of gamification such as that Generation Y is used to gaming and that it makes work more fun and meaningful.
  5. Smart Gamification: Seven Core Concepts for Creating Compelling Experiences - Includes ideas such as designing for the target audience and building a system that is easy to learn but hard to master.  Includes a video.
  6. 8 Research Findings Supporting the Benefits of Gamification in Education - Including an increased attention span, augmenting language capabilities and increased cognitive and social growth.
  7. Let the Games Begin! – A podcast about gamification being used to drive member engagement in loyalty programmes.
  8. Why Gamification is Important as a Gamer - The author argues that everything should be gamified as it is fun, improves problem-solving, out of the box thinking and so on.
  9. The Three F’s of Successful Gamification - How Feedback, Friends and Fun drive gamification.  Also shares what Gabe Zichermann argues are common mistakes made by those applying gamification to their business such as a heavy focus on badges plus an indication of gamification trends.
  10. The Term Gamification: Why I Hate It AND Why I Love It - A discussion about the term gamification and some suggested alternatives, such as engagification and motivational design.

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Monday, 13 May 2013

Gamification with World of Classcraft

We briefly discussed World of Classcraft in our blog article ‘Gamifying the Classroom: 10 Inspiring Articles’.  But we are so impressed with the innovative use of gamification in a school setting, that we decided that to do them a bit more justice and give them a full blog post.

What is World of Classcraft (WoC)?
In WoC, pupils play as adventurers and the teacher acts as the game master.  The students form groups and each choose a class (mage, warrior or healer).  These should be balanced in each group as each class has real-life powers ranging from eating in class to bringing their notes to an exam.  Some of these powers are for personal use but some can be used on other players.  They gain powers by doing good deeds (helping fellow students, finishing homework, getting to class on time etc.).  However, bad deeds (bullying, being disruptive, not completing homework etc.) lose hit points, which can lead to death and terrible consequences (such as the dreaded Saturday-morning detention).  As a team, they face monsters (homework) and fight boss battles (exams). 

Does it work?
Student motivation has skyrocketed since the game was implemented by the inventors in their school.  The students’ desire to level up, coupled with the risk of in-game death has vastly changed their relationship to classes and school.  By fostering collaboration (collaborative actions and powers are rewarded with bonus XP), students are now helping each other with daily challenges of school life such as questions about homework, in class work, tardiness.  According to the inventors, the effects have been profound.

More than just Badges
Critics of gamification argue that rewarding people with badges will only work so far, in certain circumstances and with certain people.  They argue that it is just a fad.  However, they are really missing the point.  Gamification isn’t just about the badges, that is just an easy way many people choose to use game mechanics to encourage engagement and so on.  WoC has shown that gamification can be a rich experience that frames the entire learning process to achieve great results.

Compared to other gamification efforts in school, World of Classcraft is vastly more
complex.  Students can choose from 3 classes, there are almost 30 different powers and over 100 random events (http://worldofclasscraft.com/events/) can be applied to any subject matter.  The possibilities are endless which makes for an engaging experience that can be changed and adapted to suit the individual needs of each class.

What’s Next for World of Classcraft?
WoC is building a free game engine to allow teachers all over the world to play the game with their students.  A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to raise funds to cover initial development and maintenance costs.  To help click here.

Find out More
Visit the website: http://worldofclasscraft.com/en/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WorldOfClasscraft
Twitter: https://twitter.com/worldofclasscra

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Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Games Based Healing

As you may have gathered from our blog title and posts, we think games are a great tool for learning and lots of research backs us up.  However, there are also amazing ways that games are being designed and used to heal people with various disorders.  I have selected a few of the best stories below.  Please share any more stories you have in the comments section below.

Cystic Fibrosis
This game (see link below) has been designed for children with Cystic Fibrosis.  It will enable them to learn to control their respiratory function in a fun and engaging way from home, to supplement their daily physical therapy.  It is a learning tool as much as a physical therapy tool and should help them learn important skills early on.  A number of mini-games and in-game configuration tools help keep the important therapy tool exciting for young children with the condition.  For more information and to see a quick video click here.

You may have heard of Nintendo’s Brain Training game.  Well this sort of game has sparked medical interest and games are currently being developed and tested for use by people with dementia.  They aim to keep brains active and help people with dementia learn new skills in a fun way.  Poor memory and concentration are problems with this disorder and games might just be the best way of keeping attention and intrigue.  See this article for more information.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Research has found that playing Tetris after a traumatic event helps lower the number of flashbacks of the event.  It is not entirely clear why this is the case, but Tetris may act as a protector.  Partaking in an engaging visual-spatial task may prevent some of the traumatic images making their way into long-term memory storage.  However, tests are also being conducted to see if games can help reduce flashbacks even after some time has passed since the traumatic event.  For more information please read this article.

Video games have been found to help children with dyslexia read more quickly without any cost to accuracy.  The study used a fast-moving game that required high degrees of cognitive and perceptual skills as well as peripheral processing.  The games improved the children’s ability to extract relevant information as well as sustain longer visual attention.  The effects of playing the game were equivalent to more than a year’s worth of reading development.  Please read these articles for more information: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-21619592 and http://arstechnica.com/science/2013/03/action-packed-video-games-may-help-dyslexic-kids-learn-to-read/.

I have discussed video games and autism previously ('Unorthodox Uses of Games in Education') regarding the XBox and the Nintendo Wii helping people on the Autistic spectrum with social skills.  This game has been developed to try and simulate some of the issues that sufferers have to contend with.  I have also come across an Internet portal of games for children on the Autism spectrum.  The games are designed to help autistic children learn independent living skills such as deciding on clothes to match the weather and teaching that eye contact can be useful when communicating.

The Circus Challenge Game has been developed to help stroke victims recover motor functions.  It is designed to be a fun experience that will encourage people to continue their therapy at home.  There is a problem with a shortage of therapists, so it is hoped that people can continue their own therapy at home in a way that doesn’t feel like therapy.  For more information click here.


I just came across this video from GameSpot about video games and depression and felt I should update this post.  Please watch:

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