3D GameLab: Week 2

It’s hard to believe we’re already finished with week 2 of gamelab.  The guilds’ focus last week was on games and learning.  We opened the week with a great group discussion about exactly what kids learn when they play games.  They were very articulate about their ability to develop game strategies, and how to improve their performance based on feedback data provided by the game environment.  This is a wonderful example of the overlay between games and education.  Our educational system is seeking data to improve student performance.  When that data is provided in real time, and directly to the student, as is accomplished in game systems, the impact on self-improvement can be quickly evident.

We also had a great discussion about “educational games” and “the normal games you might choose to play.”  There were a couple of educational games that were identified as “ok,” but for the most part, educational games were perceived as boring.  Dr. Young Baek does a great job of distinguishing between learning to play games, and games for learning.  In the best games, children aren’t required to know “facts” in order to be successful in achieving goals of the game, rather the game can be learned through the gameplay itself.  For example, if you play an educational game that shows you times tables, and you have to choose the right answer in order to win, you must know the times tables in order to play.  Compare that type of game to Wii Tennis, where you are only required to swing a racket in order to win.  You may need to develop skill, but no real prerequisite knowledge is required in order to play.

The guildies had a web conference visit with Bert Snow, game designer from MuzzyLane Software, where he discussed and demo’d Past/Present, a 3d simulation for immersing students in 19th century industrial America.  The game has an embedded micro Loom game, where the lead character makes money by weaving cloth on industrial-era looms.  Bert also had a chance to discuss what types of jobs one can assume in an educational game company, and the type of courses students would want to pursue in high school in order to prepare for that kind of career.

Up to mid-week, we continued to allow the kids to pick their own choice of activity, quest, and/or game.  We noticed that the questing had fallen off for most users, and asked them about it.  Some described the Quest Tracker interface, still in beta (alpha really), as incomplete, and because they couldn’t see their total scores and awards, they weren’t motivated.  One student said it feels like “part game and part school.”  On Thursday and Friday, Chris began each day by asking the crew to pick at least two quests they would finish those days.  As a result, we have a few more guildies who’ve completed videos. We haven’t imposed topics for the videos, yet.  It’s interesting to note that a couple of guildies bring up issues of game play and health (in a blog post and in a video), and a few others have focused on “destruction.”  None of them are aggressive in person.  Perhaps it looks cool to blow things up on camera?  Something to discuss further with the guildies this week.  By the week’s end, the guild had completed a total of 139 quests in the Quest Tracker.

Tomorrow starts week 3, gaming and leadership.  With core skills in place, we’ll see what progress the guildies can and/or choose to make towards assuming leadership in games for education (a focus of the camp).  We know there are leaders in this lab…who can game, are articulate about what they learn, and how that can apply to education, as well as make videos of their process.  Whether they will choose to do so with further direction, quests, and facilitation is an interesting question…

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