Saturday, August 18, 2007

Design and Conquer: A Day of Gaming and Social Simulations: TIES Workshop

Today I attended a fantastic workshop at TIES in St. Paul. This workshop focused on digital game based learning, simulations, and virtual worlds. The following are my notes and ideas along with links to resources that were given at the event:

TIES created a workshop wiki that was full of information and links about the event. They left it open to attendees to import links, other information, and notes.

Keynote - Glenn Wiebe

The slideshow for this presentation is available here. Mostly same views as Marc Prensky, namely that kids today have changed. They are digital kids. We need to use games to engage them. He stressed the need to engage kids emotionally and contends that good games do this. The other necessary thing for learning that games provide is lots of feedback. The brain also wants to search for patterns. Gaming is all about searching for patterns. He recommends educators read Henry Jenkins if they are interested in educational gaming.

Glen Wiebe's gaming links
Glen Wiebe's website

Games for educational use:
World of Warcraft - Skills needed to play the game are similar to those in business. Some businesses are asking applicants if they play this game.
Making History: The Calm and the Storm - History Game
Discover Babylon - History Game
DimensionM - first person shooter algebra game
Real Lives - Game about life choices. Could be appropriate for Social Studies, World History, or Health classes and appropriate for many grade levels elem-hs.
Peace Maker - Game where players choose to play as either leader of Palestine or Israel and are faced with decisions that have implications for peace or civil unrest. We played this game in one of the afternoon breakout sessions. Would be appropriate for a HS history or politics class. Also could be used on a Smartboard very effectively. Free demo version allows enough play to engage kids for at least one or two class periods, more depending on how much the teacher engages kids in dialogue.

Virtual Worlds:
Quest Atlantis - Project supported by the National Science Foundation that creates immersive multiuser 3d environments that kids and teachers can visit. Described as something of a field trip experience meets role playing. Sounds interesting, I can't wait to check this one out.
Knowledge Matters - Company that creates educational simulations and games. I checked this site out and they have some good stuff for business and history.

Sample Lessons - TJ Fletcher, Eagan High School

Lesson 1: ChemWars

Lesson 2: Reaction Simulator

Get a MUVE On! Guide to Second Life for K-12 Educators - Kathy Schrock

Kathy Schrock's Home Page

This presentation was absolutely awesome. Kathy spoke with us via video conferencing but she was also presenting to us from her avatar in second life. Mostly, much as she is known for, this was an overview of what sites are available in Second Life for educators (only instead of urls these were slurls). I must admit that I did not write any of the url or slurls down in this presentation because I trust they are somewhere on Kathy's site.

Test Drive Sessions

I derived two absolutely awesome ideas from these sessions. First, games like PeaceMaker can be played on the SMARTboard in front of the class with relative ease. However unlike what is out there and presented as SMARTboard interactive activities this game is near the same quality as many commercial games and is much more engaging. I will need to look for games like this for other curricular areas that can be played with simple single mouse clicks for teachers to use with their SMARTboards.

Second, Grant Spickelmier from the Minnesota Zoo presented a project they are currently working on that won't be released until sometime in December. WolfQuest is a video game they are developing that simulates what is like being a wolf. It is a first-person shooter game (although there are no actual shots fired) where players have to hunt elk, find a mate, establish a territory, make a den, and raise cubs. He showed us a demo version today and it looks absolutely incredible. They are looking at trying to make this game appropriate for kids ten years old and older. I can see teachers in December doing projects with kids about wolves, then when the game is available taking students to the media center to play it. They also have a community page where students, teachers, parents, and gamers can share information about the game and wolves. This might also be a good learning task for students and perhaps an outlet for collaboration.

Second Life Links (SLURLS):


Discovery Educator Network




Teacher Networking Center

Ancient Rome


International Space Museum

Lost Gardens of Apollo


Virtual Starry Night

Take a Class or Join an Event

Join a Group

Second Life Web Resources:

Second Life Homepage

Second Life Education
Second Life Education Wiki
Video Tutorials
List of Educational Institutions in Second Life
Second Life Educators Listserv (SLED)
Second Life Educators Forum

Zoo/Aquarium Web Interactives:

Zoo Matchmaker

Conservation Central


Final Thoughts:

Clearly some of the gaming activities presented were best done as projection in front of the class with student input influencing the gaming decisions. Specifically the ChemWars and PeaceMaker games would fit this category. However, there are tons of great games that would be more appropriate outside the regular classroom setting. Two ideas occur to me. First, maybe we could establish a time of the day (before school, lunch, or after school) when kids can go to a specific lab and play educational games. This could be a testing ground. From there they could make recommendations to their teachers about what games they think would be cool in class. The other thought is maybe creating a recommended home use games and educational software page on our district website where parents can visit and download engaging enrichment activities for their children to do at home.