Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Play and Learn Weekly Aug. 11th, 2012

What’s happening in the convergence of play and learn? This week’s briefing on game-based learning is for you…


Connected Educator Month: Game-Based Learning

The Department’s research arm, the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), recently announced a new round of awards through its Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Program, including several awards that focus on the development of game-based learning education technology products. This year the program made 11 new Phase I awards (eight of which are for games) of up to $150,000 to support the development and research of commercially viable education technology products intended to support student outcomes in regular and special education settings.

In this first phase, awardees will develop prototypes of their products and conduct research on their feasibility. A second round of competitively funded awards will be made in 2013 for awardees to further develop these prototypes into marketable products and conduct additional research in schools. Awards for Phase II will be in amounts up to $900,000 for two years.

game-based learning

Shakespeare application reaches all documents

Thousands of documents and artifacts related to Shakespeare have been made available through a smart phone app developed by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and Coventry University’s Serious Games Institute, reported.

“Eye Shakespeare” features items previously unavailable to the public such as images of a lock of the bard’s hair.

Hopes said it also had an augmented reality feature.

“Visitors will be able to hold the phone up in Stratford and the technology within it will be able to visualize Shakespeare’s first home as it was then,” he said.

game-based learning

Learning Games Network and ERIA Interactive Merge

The Learning Games Network, a non-profit spin-off of the MIT Education Arcade, and ERIA Interactive, a non-profit spin-off of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Games+Learning+Society Program and part of the Morgridge Institute, today announced their merger to fortify design, production, and implementation activities across the entire pipeline of game-based learning.

Students’ anti-bullying video game finalist for award

The awards and the video game designing are part of the Globaloria curriculum — a social-network learning program developed by Idit Caperton, wife of former Gov. Gaston Caperton. Moore and Susman’s game is one of nine finalists statewide, narrowed down from a pool of 118 entries in the Civics and News Literacy category and 211 entries in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics category.

Y Combinator Alum MakeGamesWithUs Wants To Turn High School Kids Into iPhone Game Developers

MakeGamesWithUs is a new iOS game publishing company with a twist: its focus is on helping high school and college students to build games. MakeGamesWithUs us will take the kids’ creations, provide professional graphics and art and publish them in the App Store. The kids will own the code, and the company will own the graphics and take a cut of the sales. The company already has a few games built by students available, including Elemental Fury.

Next-Gen Siri Uses Power of Conversation to Teach Kids to Code

Welcome the world of Kuato Studios, a London-based startup developing a third-person-shooter-style game designed to teach kids how to code. Company founder Frank Meehan pulled together a team of developers from Rockstar, Konami and other top-shelf gaming companies earlier this year to build what he sees as an antidote to too much boring educational software. An early prototype resembles EA’s sci-fi adventure “Mass Effect”; Meehan hopes that Kuato’s as-yet-unnamed iPad-based game will engage kids by looking and feeling as much as possible like the games they play for fun. But the game comes with a secret weapon those other games don’t have — Siri’s heir apparent.

Global Game Jam Sets Guinness World Record™ for Being The Largest Game Jam in the World

The fourth Global Game Jam was held January 27-29, 2012 in 242 locations worldwide. This year 10,684 individuals participated and 2,209 game projects were created. Jam sites were organized in a record 47 countries, including for the first time in Hungary, Iran, Panama, Peru, Romania and Uruguay.

(note about Global Game Jam: participants work in teams and create multiple games, using successive prototypes developed cyclically over 48 hours)

Carnegie Mellon spinoff’s toys teach technology by making it fun

The kit, which was developed through CMU’s CREATE Lab, also features simple programming software that allows students who are just learning the ins and outs of technology to customize their robots with distinct sounds, movements, and other defining features. The kits are being sold for $119 through a CMU spinoff company, BirdBrain Technologies.

Leapster GS, The Ultimate Learning Video Game System, Is Now Available

LeapsterGS includes a built-in camera, video recorder and motion sensor, and features a library of hundreds of games, videos, music, eBooks and more…

Game industry’s annual report: Games penetrating cultural, legal, and political barriers

The video game industry isn’t such an odd stepchild in entertainment anymore. The $67 billion worldwide industry is breaking through barriers on the cultural, legal, and political fronts, according to the annual report of the Entertainment Software Association, the U.S. industry’s trade group with 37 game publishes as members.

The most astounding stat just might be how many people are playing games in the U.S. The ESA said that 72 percent of U.S. households play games, a greater percentage than ever. Of these, 82 percent are adults, and 42 percent are women.

Also, check out this nice interactive about gaming reality from CNN (Video gaming is a $90 billion business. Globally, we spend 1 billion hours per year inside games. But this virtual pastime has infiltrated the real world in unexpected ways. It’s powering up our problem-solving…)

Canadian Startup Ayogo Proves Video Games Can Be Educational and Healthy – Yet Still Fun

Ayogo is busy preparing the soft-launch of their newest game, Monster Manor, at the Children With Diabetes Conference on August 24. This launch will constitute an open beta version of the game available to the public. Monster Manor is a collecting game designed to help children manage their diabetes more effectively by rewarding them for properly tracking their Blood Glucose levels. The system also allows parents to support their children’s efforts through the caregiver monitoring tools and child reward widget that are built into the BlueLoop service. Through variable reward and parent support, Monster manor adds fun and reward to a medical regimen which typically is neither.


Mobile Games: Activism, Art and Learning (by Henry Jenkins)

A new report, The Civic Tripod for Mobile and Games: Activism, Art and Learning, was published a few weeks ago through the International Journal of Media and Learning… For this report, we ambitiously seek to curate a set of conceptually important mobile projects, and to connect them with a light weave of theory from three distinct traditions of practice. Specifically, this report outlines the emerging field of mobile and pervasive games along the dimensions of (1) civic learning, (2) performance/art, and (3) social change. Focusing on real projects from the field, we aim to reveal key opportunities and constraints on the mobile frontier for civic games.


Angel List today boasts 1221 startups in “education,” along with 650 interested investors, running the range from open-source platforms (“Khan Academy meets XYZ”) to a slew of mobile educational games to peer learning platforms to curriculum development platforms to third generation learning management systems.  Between the bottom up start up scene and the top down changes being led and forecast by leading edge educational thinkers, the game layer is coming to education.

How Gamification Kills Classroom Training (from Forbes)

Other renowned authors and managers like John Hagel III (author of  The Power of Pull) advise business and management students to leave the university path and start playing the game World of Warcraft, because leading a guild with 25 plus members to slaughter dragons and complete missions are full management experiences that can’t be taught in the existing education system. You need to recruit and interview new guild members, debrief the team, plan, prepare and execute the missions. Former Starbucks CIO Stephen Gillet is the most prominent example of someone who attributes part of his career success to the management skills he learned as Guild Master in the MMORPG World of Warcraft.

In other words: Classroom training is dead! Long live embedded training!

Games offer unique platform for education, social change

Games that promote social change, such as “9 Minutes” and “Worm Attack,” are gaining momentum and support and are continuously being upgraded to reach a worldwide audience that has increasing access to mobile technology. There are 3.5 billion mobile phone users in the world and more than 65 percent of them are in developing countries, according to statistics from Half the Sky, an initiative that implements mobile gaming and is dedicated to helping marginalized women overcome obstacles such as sex trafficking and forced prostitution around the world.


People are prone to say, in a dismissive way, “What you learn when you learn to play a video game is just how to play the game”. Ironically, we actually find here our first good learning principle. Some people think of learning in school—for example, learning biology—as all about learning “facts” that can be repeated on a written test. Decades of research, however, have shown, that students taught under such a regime, though they may be able to pass tests, cannot actually apply their knowledge to solve problems… A science like biology is not a set of facts. In reality, it is a “game” certain types of people “play”. These people engage in characteristic sorts of activities, use characteristic sorts of tools and language, and hold certain values; that is, they play by a certain set of “rules”. The do biology. Of course, they learn, use, and retain lots and lots of facts—even produce them—but the facts come from and with the doing. Left out of the context of biology as activity, biological facts are trivia.



Games have become a central component of our culture generally, and they have begun to assume a role in higher education, though typically only on a small scale. Several key trends will drive the adoption of such game-based learning in higher education over the coming years, including student expectations, new technologies, and new structures for recognizing learning and student achievement. This bulletin explores these topics and provides a framework for successful integration of game-based learning at postsecondary education institutions. The basis for the institutional framework is derived from the authors’ own experiences as well as a set of selected interviews with institutions pursuing game-based learning strategies.

game jams can motivate, educate, and boost students’ career

Among the six papers featured in the fourth issue of the second volume of the International Journal of game-Based Learning,  the fourth paper, authored by Preston, Chastine, O’Donnell, Tseng and MacIntyre describes the organization of game jams, and their benefits at both educational and motivational levels.

The Learning Games Design Model: Immersion, Collaboration, and Outcomes-Driven Development

Instructional designers in the Learning Games Lab at New Mexico State University have developed a specific approach for the creation of educational games, one that has been used successfully in over 20 instructional design projects and is extensible to other developers. Using this approach, game developers and content experts (a) work collaboratively to ensure educational goals and outcomes are appropriate for the learner and the learning environment, (b) immerse themselves’ in both content and game design, and (c) test extensively throughout development with members of the target audience. The authors describe the model, discuss the implications of this approach for the creation of effective educational games, and share case studies based on the design model in practice.


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  1. | Classroom Aid

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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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