Friday, 30 August 2013

10 Serious Games with Serious Messages

I wrote an article back in 2012 called “11 Educational Games for Social Good”.  Since then, more serious games with serious messages have been made.  This list of ten includes games to teach about financial management, the environment, social issues and so on.  The games are all aimed at different ages but many could easily be used in schools.

  1. Marine Missions - A game designed by the National Geographic Society to teach children about ocean animals and the importance of water.
  2. Budget Hero - This game puts the player in charge of government spending and aims to teach about financial management and decision making.  There is also information specifically for teachers wanting to use the game in class:
  3. HeartSaver: An Experimental News Game - The aim of the game is to “Save as many heart attack victims as possible by getting them to the best emergency room in time”.
  4. Plan it Green Live - A city builder game to teach about being environmentally friendly and making people aware of the latest ‘green’ technologies.
  5. Dafur is Dying - The game “provides a window into the experience of the 2.5 million refugees in the Darfur region of Sudan. Players must keep their refugee camp functioning in the face of possible attack by Janjaweed militias”.
  6. Bite Club - The game aims to teach about saving for retirement, paying down debt and managing consumption as players manage a "day club" for vampires.
  7. Gauging your Distraction - The game shows how external distractions (in this case, texting) affect drivers’ reaction times.
  8. Half the Sky Movement - I play this game as a Facebook app and I love it.  It aims to educate people about women’s issues and oppression around the world.
  9. Quandary - “Players aged 8-14 shape the future of a new society while learning how to recognize ethical issues and deal with challenging situations in their own lives”.
  10. Financial Football - This is a fast-paced game that engages students while teaching them money management skills.  Teams compete by answering financial questions to win their (American) football game.

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Friday, 23 August 2013

Summary of Games Based Learning Meta-Analysis

Image courtesy of Tess Watson on Flickr.
A report by Futurelab at NFER was published in April 2013 entitled: ‘Game-based learning: latest evidence and future directions’.  The study was a meta-analysis of some of the existing research surrounding games based learning.  It sought to answer the following questions:

  • What is game-based learning?
  • What is the impact and potential impact of game-based learning on learners’ engagement and attainment? 
  • What is the nature and extent of the evidence base?
  • What are the implications for schools?

The authors found some interesting findings which I will summarise below and also offered some advice to teachers based on their findings (also below).

Academic Achievement

  • Where studies expressly sought to measure ‘academic achievement’, five calculated some degree of improvement. 
  • Another meta-analysis observed significant, but undefined, cognitive gains across studies utilising games versus traditional teaching methods.
  • However, four studies found no impact on academic achievement.

Problem Solving Skills

  • The studies consistently found that video games can impact positively on problem solving skills.
  • All five studies that specifically focused on problem solving skills found some degree of improvement.

Motivation and Engagement

  • The studies consistently found that video games can impact positively on motivation and engagement.
  • The majority of the studies examining the impact of video games on student motivation and engagement found positive results.  However, it was unclear whether this impact could be sustained.

Attitude to Learning

  • One study found that games promoted a more positive attitude to maths learning. 
  • Another study explored mathematics or academic self-concept (the set of beliefs an individual holds about themselves as a mathematician) and found no improvement. 
  • However, a meta-analysis found that significantly better attitudes towards learning were yielded for subjects using interactive games or simulations, compared to those using traditional methods for instruction.

Advice to teachers:

“The best way of integrating gaming into teaching is by using it within a clear pedagogic process. In particular:

  • Place learning activities and academic content within the video game’s fictional and entertainment context, maintaining a balance between fun and learning. 
  • Make the academic content integral to the game rather than an add-on. Content-specific tasks work better when embedded in the fictional context and rules (‘mechanics’) of the game. 
  • Carefully plan the roles that you and your learners will take on in the game. Teachers should play roles that allow them to mediate the experience for learners: providing guidance when needed; ensuring that rules are followed; and maintaining a respectful atmosphere.
  • Don’t try to divorce decontextualized components of a game (such as badges, scores or leaderboards) from the fictional context and rules of the game (the ‘mechanics’)”

We would agree with this advice and it is similar to the advice we give in our Games Based Learning Analysis and Planning Tool (click to download) and our blog post “Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning”.

The report seems very positive and optimistic about games based learning.  However, the authors seemed disappointed at the amount of and validity of existing research.  For example they say, “It is important we develop a more analytic approach that considers how the different elements that operate within video games impact in an educational setting” and “We noted a complete lack of evidence about ‘gamification’.”  That is, to some extent, to be expected as games based learning is a relatively new phenomenon.  However, what they did find was insightful and supports some of our opinions about games based learning.  It will be interesting to see what future research has to say about games based learning and gamification in education, and there is likely to be much more of it in the near future.


Perrotta, C., Featherstone, G., Aston, H. and Houghton, E. (2013). Game-based Learning: Latest Evidence and Future Directions (NFER Research Programme: Innovation in Education). Slough: NFER.

Click here to read in full.

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Saturday, 17 August 2013

The Future of Ed-Tech and How to Get Started Now

Every now and then, we like to stray from the topics of games based learning and gamification and talk about something related but different.  We are fascinated by new technologies and what they can do for education and learning.  This blog post will look at some of the education technologies that might be a bit out of reach for the majority right now.  They might look a bit sci-fi, but this new tech could prove to be the future of education.  We’ll then give you a few ideas about how you can get started with implementing more ed-tech right now.  Please click on the tiny infographic too to the right from LearnDash to see a full-sized version with teacher and administrator opinions of ed-tech and some interesting statistics.

Google Glass
If you have never heard of Google Glass, the article, “A Teacher’s Guide to Google Glass” gives a good introduction as well as ways that the new tech might be useful for teachers.  Google Glass is likely to be out of most teachers’ price range right now, but educators have been getting excited about how it could revolutionise teaching.  The article, “How Google Glass Can Be Used In Education” is very informative and gives lots of inspiring ideas with a wonderful infographic.  For more real-world examples of how Google Glass is being used right now, have a look at “The Incredible Way a Michigan Physics Teacher Uses Google Glass”.

Augmented Reality
It might be a short while before augmented reality becomes mainstream too, mostly because the applications of the technology for education haven’t been discussed as prevalently as other technologies such as Google Glass.  But the article, “Augmented Reality is Going Mobile – And Coming to a Classroom Near You” is a very detailed analysis of what this tech could have to offer to the education world.

3D Printing
Again, this technology might be a little pricey right now, but as prices reduce and as people begin to discuss more and more applications of the technology for education, 3D printing might just be common-place in schools in only a couple of years.  This article discusses the “Importance of 3D Printing in Education”, including merits such as increasing interactivity and learning by doing.  For more examples of how schools are using this new tech, read “5 Ways Schools are Already Using 3D Printing”.

How Can I Get Started With Ed-Tech Right Now?

Before I give you some of my ideas, it would be very worthwhile to watch this short video from edutopia, “An Introduction to Technology Integration” which gives a great overview of why technology can be so powerful.

  • Social Media: social media is an easy, natural, cheap and meaningful way of using more technology in your classroom.  Here is some suggested reading: “4 Ways To Improve School Communication Using Social Media” and for Twitter beginners, “100 Ways to Use Twitter in Education, by Degree of Difficulty”. 
  • Blogging: again, blogging is relatively easy, cheap and meaningful.  It can be used in a variety of ways e.g. as a learning tool in itself (creative writing etc.), to promote school events, to connect with parents, to promote the school and so on.  Suggested reading: “10 Quick and Simple Ideas for Blogging in Class” and “A 60 Seconds Guide to the use of Blogging in Education”. 
  • Virtual Field Trips: an easy way to give students more realistic and immersive experience of a topic or location from around the globe.  Field trips can include virtual tours of museums and art galleries, moon tours, virtual rainforest trips, arctic tours and so on.  Suggested reading: “10 Wonderful Virtual Field Trips for your Students” and “20 Awesome Virtual Learning Experiences Online”.
  • Classroom Management: whether you want to incorporate gamification into your classroom management strategies or not, there are lots of ways of managing your classroom using technology.  These range from simple noise level monitors to full blown, gamified management systems with avatars, badges, leader boards and so on.  Suggested reading: “5 Classroom Management Apps Every Teacher Needs to Know About”.
  • QR Codes: these are like bar codes that link to multimedia content when scanned with a device like a smart phone or tablet PC.  Suggested reading: “5 Real Ways to use QR Codes in Education”.
  • Pinterest: I think Pinterest is a revolutionary tool for many people and teachers and pupils are no exception.  Have a look at our Pinterest boards for examples of how we use the tool.  Suggested reading: “How Pinterest is used in Education”.
  • an online tool for gathering information from blogs and news sites across the web that interest you or relates to a certain topic.  Suggested reading: “Why Scoopit is Becoming an Indispensable Learning Tool”.
  • Interactive study guides: more and more apps are being developed for teachers and students and technology could be used to create interactive study guides.  Suggested reading: “6 iPad Apps that Help you Create Interactive Study Guides”.
  • Projects: we have written about Project Based Learning before (“10 Benefits of Project Based Learning”), which is likely to become a popular feature of education in the near future.  Technology can be used to not only jazz up the presentation aspect of projects but also increase learning.  Suggested reading: “6 Brilliant EdTech Tools for Student Projects”  
  • Tablet computers: you might not be able to integrate tablets right now and, as with everything, it is about what you do with the tech than the tech itself, but I couldn’t miss tablets from my list.  Suggested reading: “6 Examples of Successful Classroom Tablet Integration”.

Those are just a few ways that teachers could implement more technology into their classrooms.  Obviously there are many more ways, but these offer a good starting point.  It is important to remember though that technology should not be introduced just for the sake of it.  It can be powerful when used correctly and alongside fantastic teaching and is not a substitute for excellent tuition from teachers.  Careful thought and planning should be undertaken before any tech is introduced.

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Thursday, 8 August 2013

20 Computer Free Games Based Learning and Gamification Resources

We talk a lot about games based learning and gamification based on or around computers and technology in some way.  But of course, games don’t have to be computer based and offline games and play can be extraordinarily powerful learning tools as well.  Here is a list of 20 computer free game resources to teach a variety of age groups a variety of things.  A lot of these are from parents, but will act as great inspiration to teachers.  Please post any ideas you have or any tried and tested games you have used with your children or students in the comments.

"Play is the highest form of research
- Albert Einstein

  1. Sight Word Connect Four 
  2. 11 Fun Spelling Ideas for Kids 
  3. Math Games with a Deck of Cards 
  4. Domino Counting Game 
  5. Gamification in the Kingdom of Cognosco 
  6. 5 Ways to Learn with Chalk 
  7. A Whole Host of Homemade Games 
  8. Sneaky Math with Scrabble 
  9. 5 Activities for Learning with Play 
  10. Early Literacy Games 
  11. Preschool Math: Learning with Dominoes 
  12. Lego Fractions 
  13. Development of Play: 24 Ways to Explore with your Baby 
  14. What is the Number? (article in French - essentially like the game ‘Guess Who’, but with numbers.  So the player asks questions like: “Is the number between _ and _” or, “Is the number greater than_” to teach maths concepts)
  15. Dramatic Play: Inspired by Piaget 
  16. Gamification With and Without the Tech 
  17. Blank Game Boards for Download 
  18. Fun and Easy Physical Education Games to Teach Teamwork 
  19. 6 Science for Kids Activities 
  20. Lights and Sounds Buzzers 
"Play is the answer to how anything new comes about"
- Jean Piaget

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Friday, 2 August 2013

Gamer Myths – Infographic and 10 Facts

As you can gather from around our blog (e.g. ‘Games Develop Social Bonds and Communication Skills’, '11 Educational Games for Social Good’ and ‘21st Century Skills and Games Based Learning’), we believe that games can do a whole lot of good.  They can teach people, heal people (see ‘Games Based Healing’), encourage positive behaviour (see ‘The Fun Theory’), impart skills and enlarge existing capacities, promote conversation and friendships (see ‘The Art of Conversation’) and so on and so forth.

I wanted to share with you a fantastic infographic that further ‘debunks’ some gamer myths, followed by some other interesting facts and figures.  Hopefully these will help to convince people (especially parents) that games aren’t all bad and can actually do a lot of good.  And some of the facts suggest that most parents actually do appreciate this.  Hopefully the education system isn’t far behind…?

Infographic courtesy of  Lumosity. Click for larger image.

This article contains many interesting gamer facts, but some stick out in particular:

  • 68% of parents believe that game play provides mental stimulation or education
  • 57% believe games encourage their family to spend to time together
  • 54% believe that game play helps their children connect with their friends
  • 61% of surveyed CEOs and CFOs are playing games during their working hours
  • 46.6% of surveyed German employees playing games during working hours: daily, 10.0%; several times a week, 15.5%; once a week, 7.0%; once per month, 3.6%; less than once per month, 10.6%
  • Average age of gamers in years: 37 (has also been playing for average of 12 years)
  • % of female gamers: 42 (In fact, women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater  portion of the game-playing population (37 percent) than boys age 17 or younger (13 percent).)
  • % of gamers older than Fifty (2011): 29 (an increase from 9% in 1999)
  • Percent of gamers who play games with other gamers in person: 65
  • 91% of the time parents are present at the time games are purchased or rented.

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