Thursday, 30 January 2014

Academic Camp to Teach Teens Game Design

This news story has caught my eye this week.  This innovative, 21st century teaching is inspirational and it will be extremely interesting to find out how it goes.  I wish more of this happened in the UK (see my case study on Code Club, to see what there is to offer in the UK).

Teenage students in Idaho will have the opportunity to participate in an online camp in game design/programming from March.  The Idaho Teen Game Lab (ITGL) is intended for people who are interested in a career in digital gaming and computer programming.  It is open to 200 middle and high school students across the state of Idaho.

ITGL is a six week, online camp that teaches digital game design and allows for career exploration in this area.  ITGL is taught using 3D GameLab, which is a quest-based learning platform.  Students level up by playing educational “quests” within Gamemaker Studio, Sploder, Unity, Minecraft and adventure maps at their own pace.  Students will be able to collaborate in virtual worlds to plan and build civilizations, create personalized games and test and provide feedback on fellow-developers games.  ITGL is co-sponsored by Idaho Digital Learning (IDLA) and GoGo Labs.

“At Idaho Digital Learning, we are always searching for innovative ways to improve learning opportunities for Idaho Students.  Idaho Teen Game Lab provides a rich learning experience that promotes creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking which are essential skills in todays work environment.  We are really excited about our partnership with GoGo Labs and have enjoyed working with them on this project” said Mike Caldwell, Idaho Digital Learning Director of Program Development.

“Ninety-nine percent of teens play video games.  GoGo Labs is focused on engaging students and inspiring teachers through gamified learning opportunities, and what could be more interesting than designing the games themselves?  We’re excited to be working with IDLA to bring this opportunity to Idaho teens” said Lisa Dawley, GoGo Labs CEO & Founder.

Registration will open on February 5th 2014, in celebration of Digital Learning Day.  ITGL will be great for beginner and intermediate game designers.  For more information, go to

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Friday, 24 January 2014

Games Based Learning With Zoo Tycoon

The latest chapter of Zoo Tycoon, developed by Frontier Developments and published by Microsoft Studios, has recently become available for Xbox One and Xbox 360. The game puts you in charge of a zoo. You build it up, care for animals, hire and fire staff, keep guests happy, release endangered animals into the wild and more.

It is a fantastic entertainment game, but it also has educational merits. I have split these into three broad categories: Animals, Business and Soft Skills...

To read the full article, visit:

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Monday, 20 January 2014

Games Based Learning and 21st Century Skills

There are many characterisations of the skills that are most important in the 21st century. However, The University of Melbourne’s Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (ATC21S) team defines them as:

  • Ways of thinking. Creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, decision-making and learning
  • Ways of working. Communication and collaboration
  • Tools for working. Information and communications technology (ICT) and information literacy
  • Skills for living in the world. Citizenship, life and career, and personal and social responsibility

Why are they important? There is a problem amongst employers, where entry-level candidates are seriously lacking in some of these skills (for example survey findings, see These skills are necessary for competitive, innovative, businesses of the 21st Century to thrive, and for young people to gain employment...

For full article visit:

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Friday, 17 January 2014

Why Organisational Gamification was Inevitable and Not a Fad

I believe that there are several factors which made Gamification of organisations inevitable.  It is often
criticised for being a fad.  I think that there are some aspects of it which could be.  For example, the dreaded ‘badges and leader boards’ definition of Gamification is unbelievably limiting and that aspect might be short-lived.  However, there are elements of Gamification which represent the larger economy, general opinion and the direction for organisations into the future.  It is something much deeper than superficial badges (although they have their merits too).  This is what Gamification should be understood as, what should be taken from games and it is happening right now.

First, the power of gaming as a medium is growing.  The ‘games cause violence’ pack is dwindling, just as it did for every new entertainment medium before (television, radio etc.).  Gamers are not geeky, social outcasts; everyone can be a gamer and many are.  Games are going mobile, casual and social.  Games are big business and on the rise.  If you are interested in the stats, get your fill from PWC here.  I am sure you are all aware of the huge success of Grand Theft Auto Five.  The game made $1 billion in the first three days of being sold.  The fastest film to reach the $1 billion mark was The Avengers, in 19 days.  Games are big news and it is inevitable that they would have an influence over other aspects of our lives.

Second, Gamification has evolved from 21st century organisational needs.  In some cases it has slipped in unnoticed, in other cases it as added an extra twist to an existing management trend.  There are ways that Gamification is relevant today, inevitable and not a fad and the points below show why this is the case and what organisations should be taking from games and translating into Gamification:

  • Feedback – games allow constant feedback and Gamification can be used in this way.  This fits with other organisational trends, such as the breaking down of communication barriers across the organisation, at different levels.  It also allows the organisation to exert control and monitor, but in a constructive way that is more carrot than stick.  It also marries up with Generation Y’s need for constant feedback as they move into organisations (see ‘Motivating Generation X and Y with Gamfication’).
  • Competition – games can promote competition, against others but also yourself.  Players are able to see feedback about how they performed and strive to better this performance.  This can be a powerful use of Gamification.  Businesses need to remain competitive.  Especially in a recession and when innovation and market dynamism are so powerful.  Encouraging competition within the workforce, giving employees more autonomy and allowing them to self-monitor can help this process along.  Gamification is therefore, a natural and fun progression of this.
  • Teamwork – A lot of games and Gamification promote and facilitate teamwork.  There has been a huge move to making use of teams in organisations due to their self-management, innovation and so on.  Teams are a part of the ‘Japanisation’ of the Western organisation.  Gamification, therefore, can be seen as an extension of this, a means to promote collaboration and cooperation.
  • Learning and Development – Organisations have come to appreciate the power of their human resources, especially in terms of their capacity for good ideas, creativity and innovation.  They, therefore, want their employees to be lifelong learners and to constantly develop their skills and expertise.  Organisations can no longer promise to offer a ‘job for life’, so they have moved to support employees’ employability.  Games require constant learning and development of skills and Gamification could be the next frontier for this in organisations.
  • Creativity – Games are fantastic for generating creative problem-solving and innovative thinking.  They require it and reward it.  These skills are needed for 21st Century businesses to survive and thrive.  Therefore, Gamification should be used to reflect and encourage this.  See our post, '21st Century Skills and Games Based Learning'.
  • Change and Flexibility – Games often require the player to be adaptable to change.  The current economic climate and dog eat dog nature of capitalism means that the business world is extremely chaotic and dynamic.  Employees and organisations need to be responsive, flexible and welcoming of change.  Gamification could be great at encouraging this outlook and culture amongst organisations.
  • Fun – There is a move to make work more fun.  Organisations are now more aware of the benefits of a ‘carrot’ approach to motivation, as well as the creative benefits of having a fun office.  For example, Google offices have slides, scooters, lava lamps, pianos and so on, all designed to promote creativity, collaboration and innovation (as well as keeping people at work longer and feeling they owe the organisation).  Generation Y also work to fund their lifestyle as this is the most important motivator for them.  So organisations try to bring this ‘lifestyle’ into work.  They are motivated by something more than the money itself.  These things also represent youth and dynamism, which are championed by many organisations.  The Gamification of spaces and processes at work is probably the most apparent usage.

I study management and organisations, so this area as well as GBL and Gamification interest me greatly.  It strikes me that Gamification embodies many of the directions that management is taking in the 21st Century.  The fact that we now have a name for it doesn’t make it a fad.  The term Gamification has more scope than badges and leaderboards and many game-like elements have been translated into management.  Organisations might not see how games can help them yet.  But, with the growing strength and following of games as an entertainment and learning medium, I don’t think it will be too long until they catch on.  This could be just the beginning for Gamification.

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Friday, 10 January 2014

Building a 21st Century Education System with Games Based Learning

I am extremely happy to announce that I have been selected to be a Hot Topics Contributor for Microsoft Partners in Learning.  I am now a contributor to their Games Based Learning Hot Topics page and have just uploaded my first post.

The post discusses the current education system and why it is lacking.  I offer suggestions for improvement and explain why improvements are important.  There are many ways that games based learning could be part of a solution to building a 21st education system.

To see the post, click here.

Their word limit is pretty tight, so if you want to read a post of mine on this very blog, which follows a similar theme, visit '21st Century Skills and Games Based Learning'.

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