Educational Games

I've not long ago started working at a school as the "IT Guy" and after discussing the multimedia lab's computer specs with the area IT guy, and figuring out how Quake and Battlefield could be educational and hence bought and installed, I've come to really think about it. Computers aren't really a big thing here as much as I've gathered, being really nothing more than word processors with a little bit of multimedia editing thrown in (I'd apply this mentality to the town, not just the school).

So I was thinking, are there any really fun educational games that you know of? One thought was Typing of the Dead, but then it's a state school, and I don't think killing zombies with words would exactly warm parents.

I'm envisioning some kind of multiplayer game with education thrown in. I can't think of any fun educational stuff that I've seen. Iunno... I'm just throwing it out there. @:-) It's a good project idea too. You could make alotta money out of schools.

UniqueSnowFlake's picture

Just throwing this out there but I grow up with the Quest games like Hero Quest, and Space Quest. both which you have to read and write in commands. Doesn't go as far as shooting zombies but you do shoot one or two bad guys with a lazer. I don't think the teachers should worry about that.. kids see more killing with lazers in starwars :P The only problem with these games are knowing what to do. So I think the kids will get fustrated and what something else to do. When these games came out the news paper at the time, it had little hints about the game every week. So if you worked it out.. great if not you would learn about how to do it soon enough [:)]

don't think that really helps at all [:p] but thats what I grew up on and had fun playing.

redwyre's picture

I thought http://www.seriousgames.org/ might be of some use, and I found this: http://muzzylane.gameinstitute.com/courses.php?coursedisplay=115 while looking at the blog. Got a spare 150USD? ;)

Brain's picture

Thanks for that Redwyre. I may actually look into that course. Wonder if I could weasel the school to pay for it... @;-)

USF: I grew up with the Quests too. Damn good games. Though not educational, per se, however much I think they should be required gaming for everyone.

Jacana's picture

Kids games are great to look at in terms of educational games (edutainment). There are heaps: Dora the Explorer, The Magic School Bus, Winnie the Pooh, etc. Another game that I am very fond of is Zoo Tycoon. They have put in quite a lot about the animals, you learn about prefered habitats, etc.

Guessing you are looking for more "serious" educational titles, tho :)

Caroo's picture

As all games require you to improve and advance at that game by learning and mastering. All games from small to large are a form of education.

The issue however. What contexts do you want to expose to the students. Manhunts game mechanics and learning value is the same as any other FPS.. however the context is friggen awful for a child.

Kids are by no accounts stupid and if something comes along as tacky they?ll be the first to know. I personally think for young boys who can learn through videogames. The game has to be a mixture of game play and learning. Most of the edutainment programs out there... get boring quickly.

Rewards system is important to. Say the child takes a test. If he passes he gets to play a fun and educationally pointless arcade game. There by instilling in him that if he works and learns he will be rewarded.

Which is half the reason education currently sucks. Adults say education and learning is its own reward.. but if your a kid and you see no gain to learning.. will you?

Pendraia's picture

My thoughts and some ideas that may be useful to the original poster.

quote:Originally posted by Caroo

The issue however. What contexts do you want to expose to the students. Manhunts game mechanics and learning value is the same as any other FPS.. however the context is friggen awful for a child.

As a fourth year student who is learning to be a Primary School Teacher I have to agree the context wouldn't be suitable.That doesn't mean that the same engine couldn't be used to design a game that was relevant, enjoyable whilst still providing the student with opportunities to learn.

quote:Originally posted by Caroo

Kids are by no accounts stupid and if something comes along as tacky they?ll be the first to know. I personally think for young boys who can learn through videogames. The game has to be a mixture of game play and learning. Most of the edutainment programs out there... get boring quickly.

I agree most edutainment programs are fairly basic, not only that, they teach via rote learning which doesn't necessarily mean that students understand the way a particular concept works. What is needed is programs that give students an opportunity to explore the particular concepts that they need to construct and understand.

quote:Originally posted by Caroo

Which is half the reason education currently sucks. Adults say education and learning is its own reward.. but if your a kid and you see no gain to learning.. will you?

Education is changing. It has to what was relevant for a society that required factory fodder isn't useful for a society that is globalised and that is changing quickly due to developments in technology.
One of the things that is important to me as a teacher is to include technology in a way that is relevant to students and helps to engage them with their learning. I am currently doing as an elective computer games and have already completed digital imaging with PS7. Flash is next. I have also been investigating on my own applications for 3dmodelling and using Photoshop for retexturing the models.

What I would like to do with students is to get them creating simple games themselves using programs like gamemaker and flash. For example Grade 5/6 students creating games for the younger grades.

Another idea that may be of use to the original poster is:

Creating a role playing game that helps to teach students about consequences and decisionmaking. Similar to Morrowind by Bethesda the actions of the player have direct consequences on how you get treated by the NPC's.

Puzzle games and RTS games that teach thinking skills would also be of use.

Programs that I consider important in an educational environment are:
(Beside the basics mainly for middle years Grades 5-10)
Photoshop Elements - Can be used to teach digital imaging skills, tesselations etc.
Inspiration - creating mindmaps
3D modelling programs teaching them about basic shapes, nets(uv maps), creativity, problem-solving.
Gamemaker - Can be used across the curriculum in particular literacy as they would have to design the game(create plot, dialogue etc.)

Programs that allow students to create movies and set them up in a professional manner.
I have seen this done on macs using i-movie and i-dvd with grade 3/4 that was really successful.
Brain, there is lot's more that could be done. Multiplayer of some sort would be great would be able to allow students to connect across cluster schools and also with schools overseas.
Hope there is some stuff that is of use.
Pen

shiva's picture

I remember playing The Incredible Machine at school, and its a nice learning tool.
A recent, similar product that i was very impressed with was Armadillo Run : www.armadillorun.com
Fun, and like TIM, gets you thinking

Brain's picture

Shiva: TIM rocked @:-) I like that Armadillo Run. It's alot like Bridge Builder, another fave of mine.

Pendraia: You'll make a cool teacher, no doubt. Willing to teach the kiddies and let them play games. Winnah! @:-) It's good to see you on a similar wavelength, and I can then decipher any teacher-specific stuff via my partner. "...What's rote learning?"

One thing I discussed, which you raised, was Inspiration. I've fiddled with it, but never really got it's educational usage. It's the kind of program which IMO wouldn't really have a long lifespan. You considering it as a important piece of software intrigues me. What kind of scenarios do/would you use it in? I just don't see mind maps being a vital asset. Perhaps I'm just not teacher enough. @:-)

And also, could you see a way in which the essentials of learning, like math and english, could be made into a game that isn't a bog standard "Hear a word, type it, repeat"? Like my Typing of the Dead example. Or do you think that games are pretty much bound to topics like decision making skills and the sort?

lorien's picture

Here's a really cool one (appropriate for your username too Brain) [;)] Creatures 3

The Creatures series have a lengthy wikipedia write up http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creatures here's a fragment

quote:
In Creatures, the user 'hatches' small furry creatures called Norns into a world called Albia, and teaches them how to talk, feed themselves, and protect themselves against vicious creatures called Grendels. Later games in the series introduced a third species, the Ettins.
The program was significant as it was one of the first commercial titles to code alife organisms from the genetic level upwards using a sophisticated biochemistry and neural network brains. This meant that the Norns and their DNA could develop and "evolve" in increasingly diverse ways, unpredicted by the makers. By breeding certain Norns with others, some traits could be passed on to following generations. Most interestingly, the Norns turned out to behave similarly to living creatures. This was seen as an important insight into how real world organisms may function and evolve. Earlier alife programs had worked by giving their organisms a limited set of commands and parameters, and seeing whether the way the subjects behaved was realistic.
The genetics in Creatures are somewhat different from human genetics: they are haploid and therefore any "evolution" is a result of random cross-over mutations. There is no concept of dominant gene and recessive gene. Nevertheless, the complexity of the simulated biochemistry meant that Norn behaviour was highly unpredictable.
Among the fans of Creatures were the Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins and author Douglas Adams.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000747OCQ/026-4907995-4242022 nice and cheap now too. Edit oops, that URL is Creatures Exodus, CReatures 3 is at http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000747OCQ/026-4907995-4242022 and is still nice and cheap.

There are a bunch of free tools for creating your own Norns too like this one at http://www.double.co.nz/creatures/creatures3/

quote:
C3 LobeStudy (Version 1.3 - 70KB - 21/05/2000)
A program for viewing the lobes and neurons within a norn brain. Displays the 8 state values and the input value for each cell in the selected lobe. Data is updated every second or the game can be paused and single stepped to view the brain state at more leisurely pace. This is a work in progress and there is more information I hope to dig up as I understand the brains a bit better. Requires the Functional Developer run time library available below.
lorien's picture

Apologies for blowing my own horn but you will likely find the Victorian Space Science Education Centre interesting- they have a custom building with a fake martian surface for simulated "Mission to Mars" school excursions (I gather it's open now), simulated missions to the ISS, and a galactic mapping simulator.

Unfortunately their site is down atm (it's http://vssec.org), but there's an article about it on the European Space Agency's site http://sci.esa.int/science-e/www/object/index.cfm?fobjectid=37894

It's blowing my own horn because I tutor the subject the software gets made in (it is first made as an assignment, then VSSEC provide the top students with a summer scholarship to make it for real) and I worked on the Mission to Mars system (audio coding and version control/bug tracking setup and admin).

Pendraia's picture

Brain,Sorry I took so long to reply I had professional practice for two weeks and when I finished had an assignment for school to complete.

quote:
And also, could you see a way in which the essentials of learning, like math and english, could be made into a game that isn't a bog standard "Hear a word, type it, repeat"? Like my Typing of the Dead example. Or do you think that games are pretty much bound to topics like decision making skills and the sort?

This is rote learning, basically hear and remember but not necessarily understand.
Inspiration is great, I actually like to use it myself when planning essays and is something that is useful with most levels of schooling. Mind-mapping is a really useful skill and thinking tool. It helps students to consider everything they know about a topic and at the same time mimics the way the brain works which helps them to remember. It also is a good way to use DeBono's Thinking Tool 'Consider all Factors' when problem solving. It's also a good planning tool for writing especially as you can convert/copy it to word format.
I'm still learning about DeBono's thinking tools so I hope I explained it well enough.

I think with any educational game/program you have to look at what your trying to achieve.

If your looking at reading skills any game that requires a student to be able to read, builds an enjoyment of reading and helps them to develop critical literacy skills is going to help and be of use. Reading is one of those things that the more you read the better you tend to get. If your a good reader you tend to be able to do better at school overall.Many boys in particular don't engage with reading but do with computer games so games that require reading will help them with their reading skills generally.

In the literacy subject I did last semester the tutors suggested that reading walkthroughs for games was also a good way to get boys engaging with reading.

With maths any games that involve problems solving and logic puzzles could be used. Think of the block puzzles in Zelda Ocarina of Time. You have to work out which block to push to get them to the right spot. There's space and shape as well as problem solving skills just in that one example.

If anyone seriously wants to design education games I would suggest they choose the area and concepts they want to teach and design a game around them. You would also need to consider what year levels you wish to design it for.
The documents found here would be a starting point for anyone interested in knowing what the expectations are for each level:
http://www.sofweb.vic.edu.au/blueprint/fs1/learnings.asp

lorien, the mission to mars sounds really interesting as do the Creatures series. I'll have to check them out.

Cheers

Pen[:)]

Brain's picture

I know it's digging up an old thread, but this still holds my interest. I've just come across an article whilst checking a site for teacher use.

Educational Video Games: Coming to a Classroom Near You?
http://www.technewsworld.com/story/56516.htmlBrain2007-04-03 16:41:02

Brain's picture

Continuing my interest, I've recently been told about Games In Learning project by the ICT Innovation Centre in Education Queensland. The school I work at has expressed interest in having a presentation done locally, so should it occur I'll definitely get along and check it out.

Looks rather interest, not just for the fact that younger developers are being bred, but that teachers are doing things like "Integrating XBOX into a critical literacy unit". To think I had to do Shakespeare... @;-)