Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Game-Based Learning for Geoscience

The Starting Point project has been exploring the ability of on-line resources to catalyze improvements in teaching geoscience for undergraduate students. They have been developing a resource that intimately integrates pedagogy with teaching resources. The purpose is to bridge the gap between information about teaching methods and the everyday experiences of geoscience faculty by providing geoscience specific arguments and examples. In this project the Game-Based Learning module is written to assist faculty who want to start using games to help them teach.

How to teach with games?

The US military uses computer war games for training for everything from high-level international command coordination to using a weapon. Universities are just beginning to exploit this niche, partly because of the considerable expense of developing video games. Moreover, video-game designers and academic geologists are with very different training. There are several research projects in colleges, for example, North Dakota State University’s World Wide Web Instructional Committee is developing interactive online games for geology (Geology Explorer: Planet Oit Information  and biology (Virtual Cell). These games are accessible to the public.

game-based learning

Planet Oit from North Dakota State University

  • The big challenge is to make your learning objective integral to game play.
  • Once you’ve done that, you can use games to:
    • Make learning fun
    • Liven up your classroom
    • Motivate your students to learn outside the classroom
  • Some important concerns

Categories of games

Geoscience Game Examples

Homework Video Games:

  • Allosaur Survival Game
    In this online computer game, players must figure out how to keep an Allosaurus from starving or being eaten until it grows to adulthood.
  • Planet Oit!
    This is an online adventure game in which players prospect for minerals on a virtual geologically realistic world.
  • Virtual Oil Well
    This strategy game has players prospect for oil using seismic profiles on limited budgets.

In-class Competitions:

  • Fossil Identification Board Game
    The instructor uses a series of games to help students identify and answer questions about fossils. The game grows more complex over time as the instructors add rules and phyla to identify.
  • Wheel of Geology
    This quiz game is intended to help students review for an upcoming exam. Topics of questions are randomly determined by spinning a wheel. Teams answer questions using electronic CPS handhelds.
  • Whose Fault Is It Anyway?
    This game has students simulate the propagation of P and S waves after an earthquake and to use the lag between these to determine where in the simulation the earthquake occurred.

Outdoor Identification Events:

  • GPS Treasure Hunt
    Students are divided into teams, each of which is given a list of instructions and a GPS unit, and sent to find certain locations. At each stop, they identify a particular building stone or a plant.
  • NADS Scum Run
    This exercise consists of a relay race in which students must identify specimens or answer questions at various stations.
  • Rock/Mineral Scavenger Hunt
    Take students into the field and give each team a list of rocks or mineral types you want found and brought back within the time limit.

The great resource is created by Rebecca Teed, SERC, Carleton College. It’s proving to us that:

There is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokemon characters with all their characteristics, history and evolution can’t learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world. – Prensky, 2001.

Related reading:

Everything you ever wanted to know about virtual visualizations

Learn about the application of Google Geo Tools to geoscience education and research through this new book from The Geological Society of America. Volume editors Steven Whitmeyer of James Madison University, John Bailey of the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Declan De Paor of Old Dominion University, and Tina Ornduff of Google Inc. have brought together a massive collection of user-friendly technical information and illustrations for educators, geoscientists, and the interested general public.



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5 Responses »


  1. Game-Based Learning for Geoscience | Online Tools to make my job easier |
  2. Game-Based Learning for Geoscience | Games and education |
  3. Game-Based Learning for Geoscience | Educação, EaD e Games |
  4. Game-Based Learning for Geoscience | serious fun - serious learning |
  5. Play and Learn Weekly – Jan.6th, 2013 | 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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