Friday, 29 June 2012

Games in Educational Context

This is a pretty important video. One of the main features of digital media, like games is the ability to gather data and compare it. Every teachers assesses his or her students, however we mostly lack comparability. If regular arithmetic exercises were simply done on a tablet, each and every exercise could be used to create a learning profile to improve individual instruction.
past zich aan het tempo/niveau aan
geeft feedback op resultaten
ondersteunt leerstijlen en leerstrategiƫn
wijzigt functionaliteit en inhoud
Games should therefore not only be seen as a game, but as a data gatherer in a wider system of assessment.

There are atleast five important features for serious games to have if they want to be fully usable in education:

  1. It adapts to a student's level and speed.
  2. It adapts to a student's learning strategy and style or alters it
  3. It adapts the presented content accordingly
  4. It allows feedback to the student and ways of contemplation
  5. Teachers should not have to adapt to it

Original source of four of the important features:

Monday, 25 June 2012

Knewton knows networks...

Knewton is not really a game, it is a teaching-method implemented with some game elements like achievement badges. It is interesting for developers nonetheless.

Welcome to a new layar of adaptivity. A few posts ago I introduced you to item specific adaptivity. has been pioneering a self-organizing system that rates problems through user interaction, while allowing for a 75% success rate of problem-solving to retain motivation. 

The next level is skill-domain adaptivity. Arithmetic can for example be divided in mathematical operation domains like subtraction, addition and multiplication. But underneath these domains the item might be linked at a deeper psychological level. The problem 6+1=x may very well be linked to the concept of 60+10=x.  These connections are theorized to form knowledge/skill domains. I'll probably look into this concept a bit more.

The underlying idea of Knewton is a self-organizing system that automatically detect the links between these concepts, validates and test their coherence. This software uses network science theories to create a network map of item domains and their interdependence. Arithmetic problems in the form of a story might for example require usage of the subtraction domain and story understanding domain. If you make mistakes the system will try to detect a link between mistakes to adjust your curriculum to your weaknesses. Thereby strengthening your weaknesses and increasing your effectiveness in arithmetic.

Item specific adaptivity and knowledge/skill adaptivity may well be combined to develop adaptive teaching-methods, more specifics in the coming future : ).

Friday, 22 June 2012

Things to consider in Serious Game research

Today I found out that widespread gameresearch is no easy task. The group that games most, namely children till the age of 12 are the hardest to track and even harder to survey. Probably a serious problem for practical serious game research.

Using data of gamers under the age of 17 years of age is considered market research. Therefore it should follow the best practice guidelines of the Market Research Society. Not very surprising, considering the possible ethical implication of such research.

The most important practice advised and demanded of market researchers is that data can only be used if a legal guardian has to give it's explicit consent. Additionally a child has to be given the explicit ability to refuse the survey.

What is the most practical way to ask consent? and which examples of best practice are there?
Questions to be asked on another day...

Motivation in Games

One of the leading theories to categorize elements of games is the self-determination theory. The theory claims that we are all to a certain extent self-motivated to undertake actions for our own well-being. Learning is no different. Knowledge can give you an advantage in life.

You can either be self-motivated to learn something because of the intrinsic reward of fulfilment an action brings or extrinsically motivated because of rewards you get from an action. Self-motivated learning is stated to be the most healthy way, but the tricky part is in staying motivated.

More on that another time.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Change is wanted, change is comming!

Recently I've been shifting my view of serious games. Right now I'm an intern at Mathgarden, it's a education track and teach system. Just check it out it's a revolutionary system, and an even bigger revolution in thinking about education. Today arithmetic problem 100 million has been finished.

Mathgarden is an arithmetic game environment for elementary school kids to practice their skills on their own level. Additionally it  points out specific math problems that trouble those children on an individual level.
Mathgarden uses an adaptive system to adjust the level of arithmetic problems to the skill level of a child. A brilliant and elegant system based on the Elo rating system. The child and the arithmetic problem are treated as adversaries and can therefore be compared to eachother with a pointsystem. A winner gains points and a loser loses points.

This system allows for an automatic creation of problem difficulties based on the answers of multiple children at the same time. Not the teacher decides the difficulty but the actual children themselves and their skill create a clear picture of problem difficulty.

Just release the idea of age groups and classes, a child will finally have adversaries of their own level!
Worthy opponents make worthy education!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Brathwaite: A Proper Introduction to Serious Game Development

Just wow, this is a great introduction into serious gaming and how it should be done. Brathwaite clearly demonstrates the lack of emotional involvement in mainstream education. Some teachers might be allergic to emotions, but you should be moved by something like slavery and the stories that surround it.

Additionally she demonstrates some features game development. It's very difficult to realise behaviour change through any medium, let alone a game. However children do learn essential social and motor skills through games. I don't think adults have unlearned it.

Letting a player make crucial decisions that can be linked to real world events should be part of any serious game. The brilliant example of dumping slaves into sea because there's to little food on a imaginary boat is a harsh example. Brathwaite uses abstract figures to represent pawns and delivers feedback to her daughter. It is the feedback that is crucial to link the abstract playworld to the actual choices. A digital version could for example even add documentary footage of slaves being thrown into the ocean.

However there's a dilemma. A game that's truly shocking like that might not be very appealing to play. The game mechanics might even be great but it leaves a bitter aftertaste. Games should atleast contain an element of enjoyment. A slavery game might well just be avoided by kids, if they are allowed to choose for themselves. Reducing realism and a strong feedback to real events might distance kids from taking it serious.
It would be quite awkward if kids shouted: Yeah, let's play the slavery game! On the other hand you wouldn't like a classroom full of crying children, just imagine the teacher being traumatised.

I wonder where the point of balance lies. Still enjoying, but take serious nonetheless.