Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Play and Learn Weekly – Feb.3rd, 2013

What’s happening in the convergence of play and learn?


A presentation on the differences between and constructive uses for gamification and games-based learning. (The Sloan Consortium)

Gamification and games-based learning (GBL) are two very different fields: one is an external motivational system used to increase student engagement; the other is a form of experiential, constructivist learning. Gamification, in its current uses, only improves the learning experience for a small set of learners by promoting competition, not collaboration. In this session, we will explore the differences between GBL and gamification, and I will propose a new set of game design principles to use when “gamifying” learning: focusing on the building blocks of games rather than the aesthetic elements that players experience first.

Typically, gamification is used as an aesthetic layer added over existing content, such as turning a math test into a quiz show game. This adds a layer of competition, but doesn’t in actuality change what students are actually doing: they are still solving equations and providing answers in the same way they always have. Gamification can only provide an arbitrary boost to motivation–and only for students who are motivated by being better than their peers. This is fine for high achieving students–but leaves struggling students no better than when they started. Games-based learning doesn’t just add a competitive layer to the same content: it changes how students interact with concepts from the ground floor.

Both ways of incorporating games into learning can be effective–however, gamification would be much more useful if we chose to gamify a different layer than the aesthetic–maybe instead, we choose to gamify the dynamics, or in game theory terms, how the player interacts with the rules to determine success. This is when gamification becomes a broadly powerful tool for educators.

Teachers in the Boston Area: Help Us Build Playful Learning on February 7! (Learning Games Network)

Join us for a group discussion about our Playful Learning initiative next Thursday afternoon, February 7. There’ll be good conversation, good learning games, and food! Get a first peek at what we’re creating and help us shape its future! We’d also be happy to show you games we’ve created and offer our insights into providing instructional scaffolding around them.

When: Thursday, 7 February 2013, 4:30 — 6:00 p.m. (Snacks and drinks will be available.)
Where: Learning Games Network, 222 Third Street, Suite 0300 (Lower Floor), Cambridge, MA

Community College of Aurora Awarded Nearly $435K in Grants for Game-Based Learning

Community College of Aurora capped 2012 by being awarded nearly $435,000 in grant funding from the state system that governs community colleges in Colorado. The funds will grow the college’s already burgeoning immersive and game-based learning curriculum.

In total, CCA now has nine such initiatives in the works or past the approval stage, with four other grant funding projects gaining approval last April totaling nearly $375,000.

Community College of Aurora values innovative teaching and providing students with new ways of learning that help them not only learn about skills but apply and practice them.

Interactive Game Helps With Urban Planning

NBC10’s Vince Lattanzio explains Philly 2035, an online game designed to encourage users to contribute to Philadelphia’s urban planning.

Science Game Center

Could you help Gregor Mendel obtain a plant with its coloring specified by recessive genes? Would you want to try to solve crime with some forensic DNA analysis? The ScienceGameCenter can give you the chance to do those things, and learn concepts of biology (and other sciences too!) at the same time.

The folks at ScienceGameCenter are eager for players, teachers, and scientists to come together to make their site a success. In short, they collect and curate game information. You can quickly link to the site for the game. They provide some details about the types of concepts and topics that are covered. They provide the suggested age range. But they also offer ratings and reviews that can help  you decide on whether a game is useful and fun.

Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis (a new report from the Joan Ganz Cooney Center)

educational games, learning gamesGames for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis includes a sector analysis and market map of game‐based learning initiatives with an analysis of relevant trends in education and digital technology that are likely to impact development of a robust game-based learning market segment. By formulating a new framework for understanding the changing dynamics of purchase decisions at the school, extended learning, and consumer levels including a “follow the money” analysis, this report will guide efficient use of existing capital and examine where new investment would be most productive. Conducted and written by Dr. John Richards, Leslie Stebbins and Dr. Kurt Moellering, the report synthesizes findings from extensive market research and a series of fifty interviews with leaders in the developer and publishing industries, and from the government, foundation and research sectors.

Suggestions for learning game investors, publishers, and developers :

  • Target the nation’s 3,500 districts with between 2,500 and 25,000 students.
  • Help districts navigate, source, and write state, federal, and foundation grants.
  • Target education service agencies.
  • Support learning games that can be used on interactive whiteboards.
  • Anticipate BYOD by supporting learning games on inexpensive computing devices and mobile devices.

UW’s Steinkuehler called to White House to brief VP Biden on video games

UW-Madison’s Constance Steinkuehler was back at the White House earlier this month briefing Joe Biden about various aspects of the video game industry as the Vice President was heading up a task force examining ways to prevent gun violence in the wake of the Dec. 14 school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn.

Steinkuehler, an associate professor of digital media with the School of Education, met one-on-one with Biden for about a half hour on Jan. 11 before later that day taking part in a 90-minute listening session that included Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, video game industry leaders and game researchers.

Gaming to avoid violence against women

Two years ago, the European Commission launched the Daphne III project CAVA-Changing Attitudes to dating Violence in Adolescents, which aims to change attitudes to prevent violence in adolescent relationships through a video game.

Different experts and some keynote speakers from European Commission‘s DG Connect and DG Education will take the stage to present the testing phase and the results of the CAVA game in Sweden, UK, Germany and Belgium.

It’s important to highlight that CAVA is more than a game. It has also launched initiatives like an e-learning course for teachers who want to use the project as a way to teach students and to answer all questions related with violence against women.


Kids online: Social media sites can help develop identity, study says

A new study that seeks to understand how new, kid-focused online venues effect adolescence says that social media forums can promote forms of social and identity development. Those skills, the study says, can help encourage civic involvement later in life.

The authors report that they’re a group of heavy social media users, active content producers, and frequent SNS rule-breakers, and they also exhibit an “extraordinary set of traditional and 21st century skills, including communication, creativity, collaboration and leadership skills and technology proficiency”… These are the students who may be less engaged in traditional academics, but more engaged in solving real problems (a higher proportion participate in content creation than the general student population: 50% vs. 21%).


ITAG: Interactive Technologies and Games – Education, Health and Disability 2013 

Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, October 2013

First call for papers, workshops and posters

iGBL2013 : Game Based Learning Conf. CFP

Want to know about ‘serious games’ or games used for non entertainment purposes? Well, the third Irish Symposium on Game-Based Learning (iGBL2013; will be hosted at the Dublin Institute of Technology between the 6th and 7th June 2013.


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  1. Play and Learn Weekly – Feb.3rd, 2013 | TEFL iDEAS |

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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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