My game face is worse than my duck face…

The first game that I decided to try out was Progenitor X, the Zombies attracted me.Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 8.57.25 PM

I was intrigued as I started the game and maybe also a bit confused.  The graphics were great but I didn’t get to experience any of the zombie killing I expected.  When it came to the cell replication, my face clearly showed that I was confused about what I was doing.  If I played a little longer I think it would have become more clear.  It felt like I had learned about this cell reproduction process long ago in science class, but the specifics weren’t there anymore.  I’m sure this would help students with the scientific processes it was trying to emulate, especially if they had some background information.  Looking at my face in the video was painful.  What a grimace!  It’s worse then my mirror face, I think they call it duck face now a days…  My husband always teases me about that.  He would tease me more if he saw these clips.


The second game I tried was CommonSense Media’s Digital Compass.  As I was preparing for our school’s Digital Literacy week I came across this game and decided to see if it would be good to play in advisory classes.  I felt much better playing this game and I think my face shows that.  I could follow the storyline and was not confused.  I also found something that I could use immediately with my advisory students.  I shared this resource out to the Middle School and I think several teachers went through the game with their advisory students to introduce the Digital Citizenship unit.

Introducing the Digital Compass game to my advisory kids revealed one of the hidden treasures of game based learning; increased motivation.  Digital Citizenship might have not been such a hot topic in today’s class if I didn’t present it through this game.  The students were so jazzed about it that they even asked for the URL so they could play at home.  Games can turn seemingly dry material into the most interesting subject ever.  Kids sometimes don’t even realize they are learning.  This happened last week when I had a group demo Dragon Box + for their math class.  The kids have come back to ask me several times when the follow up lesson will be so they can show their classmates how to play.

Another hidden gem was illuminated in this movie…


-alternative, embedded assessment.  I really believe this is the best way to assess the students.  Observations, rubrics and questioning during game-based activities can give you a great feel of where of how well the students are really understanding the learning objectives.  I loved the Galactic Continents game.  I think I’m going to “mod” it for a French teacher that wants kids to create their own French speaking country after researching the existing ones.  Instead of land mass and ocean cards, I could make restaurant and monument cards…

In the feedback for this Gamification course, Robert asked me if I planned to challenge the rules in the library about no gaming.  This question really connected me with the CQ Researcher article that was about librarians having video game sessions to attract students that would normally not frequent the library.

In the article, one student said,

“If it wasn’t for the gaming stuff dragging me in that first time, I would have gone maybe once in the past two years,” says Ian Melcher, 17, a gamer in Ann Arbor, Mich.,

I felt compelled to share this article with our librarian, my close work buddy.  Having video games for check out!  What a great idea!

As I approach the end of class I am thinking about doing my final project on the follow up lesson for Dragon Box + with the 6th grade Math students.  Unfortunately, I won’t get to implement the lesson until after the class ends.  But, I’ll be nice to have something planned out that I can jump right into when we come back from break.

My idea is to have the students try out the game for a certain amount over two weeks.  After they are familiar with the game and the rules, I plan to give them screenshots of the game with blanks where the picture cards (numbers) are supposed to go.  Using what they know of the game rules, I want to see if they can do these algebraic questions.  I’m interested to see if playing the game leads to faster understanding of algebra in the 6th grade.


What makes a Game Worth Playing?

Game-Based Learning is an exciting trend in Education, but what makes a game worth playing in the classroom.  Not all games are created equal; actually many educational games tend to be pretty boring.  I am reminded of the many hours I played my Nintendo game console as a child.  Several games I only played a handful of times, but games like Mario Brother’s and Zelda made my thumbs calloused.  What makes these and other popular games so good?  And are there applications for these good games in education?

As I was going through this week’s material and the idea that video games could have a potential to prepare students better for 21st century than some traditional content focused teaching methods really got me thinking.  In the article “Does Playing World of Goo Facilitate Learning?”,  I found myself agreeing with the scholars that are arguing that “current schools in the United States do not adequately prepare kids for success in the 21st century.” And that “learning in school is still heavily geared toward the acquisition of content, with instruction too often abstract and decontextualized, and thus not suitable for this age of complexity and interconnectedness (Shute, 2007)

After reading the article, I decided to download World of Goo to my iPad and have a go at it.  I loved it!  It definitely got me problem solving and thinking about making the smartest construction.  I really enjoyed how they changed it up every couple of levels and introduced new things.  It reminded me of the game Simple Physics but also Angry Birds.


There are certain things that all great games have in common. “Some of these features include interactivity, immediate and ongoing feedback, adaptive levels of challenge, and complex problems with specific goals (Gee, 2003; Shute & Torres, in press).”   All these things make me think of the aspects of a what is supposed to be happening in the classroom.  Maybe instead of banning gaming in school, we should just let the students play.

Another game we were asked to check out was Temple Run.  I remember deleting this game off of school iPads multiple times, just to see it reappear.  Though I didn’t get the same mental stimulus playing this game as I did from World of Goo, I guess I did do some problem solving as I attempted to figure out the rules.  The problem that I faced was I just wasn’t quick enough to get very far at all before I decided to give up.  I could see how this game could be additive to some.

One really awesome thing that games make us do when we attempt to figure them out, is they let us fail.  We are supposed to fail as we problem solve our way through the puzzle of playing it.  This is something that is still not encouraged in the classroom.  There is still the feeling in classrooms that you must get everything correct; but this is really not the way you learn.  The more that I think about it, the more I come to the conclusion that education should be more game-like.

Well-designed games thus have the potential to elicit active and critical thinking and learning skills (e.g., Gee, 2003; Shute et al., in press; Shute, Ventura, Bauer, & Zapata-Rivera, 2009).

After delving into World of Goo, I was curious about the research that was conducted.  Was is actually educational?  They found “that simply playing the game (and even winning the level) does not automatically translate into learning valuable knowledge and skills, especially to the degree, or of the kind, that can be transferred outside of the game setting.”  What if you combined game play with an actual physics lesson that explored building structures?   I think it would be interesting to see if the students understood the concepts better after playing the game.  James Paul Gee in his video Learning with Video Games says that “we’ve handed kids all the manuals without the games,” when he’s talking about education today.  By playing games though,  the complex and confusing manuals became clear.

Minecraft is another phenomenon that has swept the education world by storm.  For the past several years, it’s been the game to play for middle school students.  And many of them have used in in class to create amazing projects.  I really enjoyed watching the movie of the history of Mojang.  Minecraft is so successful because it’s simple enough to understand and start playing, it’s social and it allows you to be extremely creative.  I badly want to learn more about it and how to best implement it in the classroom.  The article on the Minecraft digestive system was great.  There are so many applications for it in the classroom.  Hopefully one of my teachers will volunteer to try a project out with Minecraft EDU soon.  


Game-Based Learning: What is the right level to inspire creative learning?

No Games Allowed

I work in the middle school library and today I’m sitting here checking out these great games for module two.  The thing is that playing games on your computer is not allowed in the library for students.  I’m new here, so this is a rule that was established before me.  But, I understand the rationale.  At my old school, students were allowed to play games in the library during breaks and it became quite a popular place.  Here they want the middle schoolers to go outside during their free time instead of getting more screen time.

Not all Games are created Equally

Some of the middle schoolers in here are giving me confused looks as I attempt to play these games.  I wonder if we should re-evaluate the no gaming rule in here.  From what I am reading, research indicates that the way video games interact with the brain is actually making it stronger.  In Judy Willis’s Article, A Neurologist Makes the Case for the Video Game Model as a Learning Tool, she suggests that education should borrow the video game model for students to achieve “their highest academic, social, and emotional potentials.”  But Willis is also talking about Gamification of the classroom and not just kids playing random online games.  When we allow kids play online games, their pick of games is sometimes less than ideal.

not all students respond to game-based learning in the same way

In Kurt Squire’s article “Changing The Game: What Happens When Video Games Enter the Classroom?,” he talks about the complex game Civilization III that is used to teach history.  Though I’m sure it’s a wonderful game for some, he says it’s too complex for most students.  He says,  “The variance in players’ reactions suggests that games are not a silver bullet for education, in part because they will never appeal to all learners, but also because they alone will not likely change learners attitudes and values toward schooling.”  I think finding the right game with the appropriate challenge level for most student for the learning outcome you want is a challenging task.  And for teachers that may not be video game savvy, this might be an almost impossible.

what can education learn from the video game model

But even if you are not up to date with all the new games out there, you can still use the video game model to motivate your students to complete creative projects and reach individual learning goals.  Willis notes in her article that “Classroom instruction that provides opportunities for incremental progress feedback at students’ achievable challenge levels pays off with increased focus, resilience, and willingness to revise and persevere toward achievement of goals.”  By reading the Article Boss Level, this is apparent as you see students challenging themselves with a complex design task to take part in a Rube Goldberg competition.  Last year I helped out with a STEM Festival that required students to complete similar challenges.  I now I realize, because they had to reach certain goals, and they received almost constant feedback from their teachers while designing and building that this project would probably be considered gamification of instruction.
So back to my point about kids not selecting games that may be improving their brain function.  I don’t see kids getting in trouble in the library for playing games like Fantastic Contraption, a game that actually made me problem solve, but was well enough explained that I didn’t give up right away.

Screen Shot 2015-09-21 at 10.52.40 AM


Most of the games that I see kids playing in middle school are shooting games or minecraft.  Though I see little benefit from the shooting games, it always hurts me to fault students for playing minecraft because it’s such a creative game.  Maybe only certain games should be allowed in the library at certain times.  I do think the creativity, strategy and problem solving needed to play minecraft is beneficial for student’s brains.  It may even give students skills that are coveted by today’s business world.   Squire’s comment,  “Ironically, the skills required by the game curriculum—problem identification, hypothesis testing, analysis, interpretation, and strategic thinking more closely align with the new economy than does the “factory” model of curriculum, which privileges following directions, mastering pre-defined objectives, performance on highly structured tasks, and intellectual obedience (Gee, Hull, and Lankshear 1996).” really resounded with me.

As game-based learning and gamification becomes more commonplace in education, I think we will see teachers that actually specialize in this type of teaching.

Portal – an example of a game that just didn’t do it for me



Game On!

Ok, it’s time for me to get back in gear and start blogging.  What better way than to jump right in with some posts on Game Based Learning and Gamification for my Eduro Gamification course.

When I signed up for this course, I had the idea that Gameification was the use of games in the classroom to promote learning and make it more fun.  But I was wrong.   Using games to learn things like problem solving and strategy and content has it’s own term, Game-Based learning.  And Gamification is more a way of running your classroom in a game-like way.

Last year, one of my middle school teachers did her COETAIL course 5 on Gamification and turned her French class into a game.  Here is her Course 5 COETAIL blog post that described what she did.   From what I remember, her students really enjoyed earning points towards their French grade.  When Hannah was doing this in her class, I knew it was called Gamefication but I didn’t really distinguish in my brain that this was different than just using games.  As a tech coach, I’m glad I am finally understanding the meaning of Gamification and the difference between it and Game-Based learning.

I enjoyed reading Vicki Davis’ Post :


It not only clarified the difference between gamification and game-based learning but also gave me some great resources that I plan to share with my teachers.



And one of her typing game links lead my to this page with tons of typing games.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 8.53.01 AM



Using Games in the classroom can be an amazing tool for motivating students and keeping them in the “Primary learning zone.” In the Game Based Learning in Education report, I agreed strongly with the statement that,

“Games can provide a greater amount of quality formative feedback than a traditional classroom. Instead of weekly classroom quizzes, games provide constant feedback in order to keep students in their primary learning zone, thereby leading to better engagement, motivation, and flow.”

Also, using games to help student learn allows them to make mistakes without feeling so bad about making those mistakes.  Making mistakes is just part of learning how to play a game.  However, making too many mistakes on classwork can really effect a student negatively as many students will become discouraged.

“A great thing about gamified instruction is that students make mistakes and are encouraged to learn from mistakes in order to achieve “goals” – Game Based Learning in Education report

I really experienced mistake making when I tried to play Olymic Runner QWOP .  You might think this is a silly game but it really requires players to problem solve to find the best way to move the guy.  Unfortunately, I did not have enough patience to master this game.  Teachers need to think about the difficulty of the game before thinking that all student’s learning will benefit from game play.