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Surviving Week One

by murcha on Jul 19, 2012 at 05:57 AM}
Having enlisted for the Games Based Learning MOOC, I am determined not to be a lurker, but a participator of some nature. I am not a' gamer' but I have participated in Second Life and worked with my students in Quest Atlantis. Having observed students at school being distracted, when bored, by playing games and willing to spend hours playing their favourite games, I am curious about the nature of such engagement. On Friday lunchtimes I open the computer lab for students to come in and play games. A group of 10-15 students will happily sit, just watching two or three players on their x-box. How can games be used for effective learning in the classroom. I want to learn more and this means having a go at some of them. During week 1, the following actions were completed and following observations made:-

[Played two of the three suggested serious games - Eye of the Donkey and Viking Quest.(When time permits I hope to try Darfur is Dying)
I watched suggested, purpose created videos and Read some of the suggested blog posts.

Reflections on the games:-

Eye of the Donkey:- this is a chemistry game created by Nobel Prize Educational. It seeks to teach students about the process and nature of DNA testing. First players sit through an interactive lecture on DNA. The lecturer 'pings' the player to answer the question and will not move on until they do. Next the player is taken into the game where they collect DNA samples and analyze them in a lab. Prompts, notes etc are provided to ensure that the player can succeed. This would be suitable as revisionary exercise for students who are 15 years older whilst studying DNA.

The Viking Quest, by BBC History Games, is a game for students studying the Vikings. Players are given choices re location, boat building, employing labour, venturing into the seas and returning home again. This is one that I did not successfully complete.:\ The game would be suitable for middle school students. Both games are engaging and required quite a bit of reading and problem solving.:)

Science Students:- I asked around school staff to see who might use these games in class. No-one was currently studying the Vikings. Fortuitously, our year 10 science students were just completing a unit of study on DNA. To my surprise the science teacher showed interest in the Eye of the Donkey and gave it to the students to play today. It was a success! He was really happy with the engagement of the students and the learning experience. They tried to skip the lecture and go straight to the game, but this prevented them from fully playing the game. So, they had to listen to the theory first and then play. It took them approximately 30 minutes to complete.

Year 9/10 ICT students:- Today was my first elective class for games based learning. I decided to get my students to play the Vikings Quest and give me feedback. Here is what I heard from one student!

I am going to play it again, cos I failed and I want to win! (First time, she got 240 points)
Cry of delight on playing the second time. She got 690 points but had still failed to succeed.
"I swear I am going to win this game even if it takes me all day" and she did!
Another student was successful on the first game and is writing a blog post discussing the choices that she made that allowed her to achieve success. If only we heard such comments from students when they are not successful in their usual school classes.

The challenges: - the time commitment, home bandwidth which is too slow watching the longer videos and the fact that the MOOC and some sites were blocked at school. However they were unblocked upon request by technicians.

1 Comment

Being as fond as I am of Viking Quest, I love reading your students' responses to it! I don't think a game has to be expensively designed in order to be immersive. While I know that it's a great deal of fun to play Civilization, I think Viking Quest grabs hold just as effectively, and it requires very little computer memory or bandwidth. It also sounds to me as though you did a very effective job deploying it in your classroom!

I learned about it from a bunch of highly qualified Cisco-certified engineers and we played it competitively. (I lost, and fortunately I didn't care. I'm not very competitive, LOL!) So it really can be suitable for students working at a higher level that middle-school.

It's so hard to know what it is about a game that makes it "immersive." Flow and fiero are two ways of talking about it, but they only make a start on it. They are the results we seek, and we try to build them into our games. But what is it about a game's design that promises it will deliver flow and fiero? That's one of my favorite questions.


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