AnnMaria De Mars - Making Educational Games That Add Up


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Educational games share certain challenges with all serious games. A successful educational game needs to be both a good game and educational. Obvious, but many teams focus on one aspect and include either the game developer or educator as an after-thought. The result is either games that don’t teach or games that children won’t play. How do you determine at what level of mathematics (or any subject) a student should begin? How do you know if students learned something and how do you prove that your game was the cause? The educational component must target, teach, test and track. Is a game where the novelty effect never wears off an oxymoron? These questions will be answered, based on both the research literature, as well as our own data, from the first two years of research on using games to raise mathematics scores of students attending schools on American Indian reservations.

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  • So, scores do go up with parental education but the gap is not closed. As parents with less education have children who do worse in school part of the difference may be due to this SES factor. Also, note that we do know that AI/ AN parents are less likely to have graduate degrees so that comparison by college graduate is not exactly equal education, as non-Indians include a larger percentage of people with graduate degrees
  • Seems to be assumption that a student sitting at a computer is learning. Hey, it’s technology, right? And he’s on task – look he has his hand on the mouse! What you don’t know about educational games can hurt you - mostly by taking up class time that could be spent more productively.
  • You need to not only teach but also test and track
  • I don’t know how many of you saw the movie, Mask, but there is a brilliant scene in it where the mother goes to sign her son up for middle school in their new district and the principal looks at him and says, I don’t know that we are prepared to meet his needs and she comes back, Well do you teach Biology, Algebra and English here? Because those are his needs
  • If you wanted to find a common core hater, you’ve come to the wrong place. Like most people, I suppose, I have some issues, but
  • The youngest person who completed Spirit Lake – aimed at 4th & 5th graders BUT Many schools where we have piloted our games, not one single student in grades 4-6 was "at grade level" making it a nonsensical concept. Now, instead of grade level, we talk about the standards that our games teach.
  • Write a math challenge, instructional activities and assessment that is consistent with computerized testing AND with research on effective instruction.
  • Forces student to pause at least momentarily before answering.
  • Student can choose when he or she needs a hint.
  • If student asks for a hint, they get What is 33 divided by 3. If they answer 30 , they get a hint if they are using subtraction instead of division. If they answer 99, they get a hint asking if
  • ( Scarcella, 2003).
  • There really aren’t any games that are good for all students. One of the benefits of using common core (or any other) standards are that they give you an idea at least the material for students to learn
  • Cool math space multiplication
  • If I could do one thing to change educational games in schools, it would be to decrease the amount of reliance I see on IXL. There is nothing terribly wrong with IXL except that it is misunderstood by many users. Many problems are just electronic flash cards
  • Even though it is clear that I subtracted instead of added, it does not tell me that, nor is there any way for the teacher to know that.
  • Not perfect – first screen starts with “They are a strategy to help us learn to multiply” which might present a challenge to ELL students
  • So, if the student has a better grasp of written English than spoken, it reinforces their knowledge of English either way WHILE teaching math. So, it is good education, but is it a good game?
  • N = 88, N with complete data = 62. Only difference between missing and nonmissing is students from control group more likely to have incomplete data
  • Our initial testing starts with sitting next to 5 or 6 students at the target grade level, as they play the game. No matter how many college student interns you have play the game, nothing substitutes for actual children who will
    Try to ride the deer you expect them to shoot
    Climb down from a tree to make friends with the rabid wolves
    Wander in the opposite direction of the clearly defined path just to see what is out there
    Be puzzled by how to enter a fraction
    Not know the word “denominator” or “quotient” or …
    Use a pencil and paper to compute answers to questions in the game
  • No. No, you did not.
  • Gee (2003, p.207-208) identifies learning principles of good games.
  • Gee (2003) asks two related questions.
  • When I asked this young lady a question from one of our games, “If you have 8 people sick and you need 3 herbs for each person to make medicine, how many do you need?” This was her response. All of the educational design in the world is not going to be effective if students won’t play your game.
  • Graphics
  • Rabbits that turn and look at you when you click on them. Deer that run away. An eagle that flies over heard and drops a feather.
  • Die and you may see a video clip on Sioux views of after life.
  • How to keep the novelty effect from wearing off? All of the above PLUS switching from
  • These are not trivial issues at all. I reviewed a lot of software preparing for this presentation and some that looked really great just weren’t available for any current operating systems.
  • Many companies develop games with this fact in mind
  • Although we are developing an iPad game now, it’s one reason we develop mostly for laptop/ desktop
  • AnnMaria De Mars - Making Educational Games That Add Up

    1. 1. Making Educational Games That Add Up AnnMaria De Mars, Ph.D. 7 Generation Games
    2. 2. It happened in a moment of weakness … Hey! Let’s apply for this award to go to Washington, D.C. and analyze the National Indian Education Study
    3. 3. Grade 8 Math Scores by Mother’s Education
    4. 4. Used multiple regression analysis  Culture score was significant but NOTE !! – it is coded so that lower scores mean less cultural activities, .e.g. “Do you speak your language at home?” 1= Yes 2 =No  Mother’s education was significant  School climate was significant  Student absenteeism was significant
    5. 5. Not willing to choose between culture and academic achievement We submitted a proposal to USDA to develop a computer game to teach language, culture and mathematics
    6. 6. Questions to answer What makes a game “educational” ? What makes something a game ? How do you select the right game for your students?
    7. 7. How do you know  Level of mathematics (or any subject) where a student should begin?  If students learned something?  If your game was the cause?
    8. 8. Problem Bad Math Bad Game 46
    9. 9. Is he really learning? What you don’t know about educational games can hurt you
    10. 10. Educational game design  Common Core aligned  Research-based  Scaffolding  Individualized instruction  Data Driven  Test  Track
    11. 11. Educational game effect High degree of time on task Shows improvement from pretest to posttest Even better if the improvement is higher than the control group
    13. 13. Why Common Core? What students are learning in a game is the same as what they are learning in the classroom, Game strengthens and supplements the work of teachers.
    14. 14. Focus on student needs
    15. 15. Common Core Helps  What math standards describe what your students need to learn next?  “Understand a fraction as 1/b when a whole is divided into b parts”  “Add fractions with like denominators”
    16. 16. The Goldilocks Effect : For both mathematics and gaming, the best level of difficulty is just right, not too hard so as to be frustrated and not so easy as to be bored.
    17. 17. You have been warned Grade level is far less obvious than it seems
    18. 18. How we do it Start with the state standards Write math challenge, instructional activities and assessment
    19. 19. STANDARD Express whole numbers as fractions, and recognize fractions that are equivalent to whole numbers. Examples: Express 3 in the form 3 = 3/1; recognize that 6/1 = 6
    20. 20. What fraction of the cart is full when you have 6 baskets?
    21. 21. For an explanation of how to solve this problem, click the EXPLAIN IT button below What’s this doing here?
    22. 22. Effective teachers  “Just-in-time” individualized feedback.  Zone of Proximal Development  Scaffolding
    23. 23. Three ways to solve the problem When you add one basket to the cart, the fraction you have filled is
    24. 24. Ensure help is available when needed
    25. 25. Feedback is timely, specific and learner-controlled
    26. 26. Highly effective teachers of disadvantaged students… teach specific procedures and facts in hands-on or “real-life” activities
    27. 27. Game Example  Build a model movie: Teaches concept
    28. 28.  Good education
    29. 29. Game Example  Build a model movie: Teaches concept  Good for LEP because language is  Repeated  In context  Visual cues
    30. 30. Software can be  Bad education and a bad game  Good education but a bad game  Good game but bad education  Good game and good education for some students
    31. 31.  Bad Education Bad game
    32. 32. Contrast this game …
    33. 33. Problems Non-verbal doesn’t teach math terms, or any language It’s unclear who is winning or even which player you are (bad game)
    34. 34. Not so good
    35. 35. Feedback is not specific
    36. 36. Good education Common core aligned Direct instruction of English Good graphics
    37. 37. Good for learning English Not much of a game Explanation is both written AND spoken
    38. 38. Good game ?: Example 2
    39. 39. Good points  Common Core aligned with mathematics  Good sound  Good graphics  Game testers were engaged
    40. 40. Data Driven
    41. 41. Multi-method  Continuous quantitative data collection  Duration, frequency, interval of sessions  Item-level performance data
    42. 42. Multi-method  Qualitative data  Observation  Interviews
    43. 43. No number of interns = actual children Did you think, “Hey, I’d like to ride on that deer?
    44. 44. Good games “Achievement principle ... there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements.”
    45. 45. In other words, our second game was … Game was too hard to play and students “died” so often they did not get to many math problems “Too many damn snakes!”
    46. 46. Good games  “Learners can take risks in a space where real-world consequences are lowered.” “If you have 8 people sick and you need 3 herbs for each person to make medicine, how many do you need?”
    47. 47. Why do the same students who give up when math is too hard play games where every level gets more difficult?
    48. 48. What I learned from a fourth-grader “I don’t pay attention in math.”
    49. 49. Let the education stand on its own We couldn’t disagree more!
    50. 50. AND ….. CHARACTERS STORY
    51. 51. What I really learned Adding the juice Music Sound effects
    52. 52. Fail in interesting ways
    53. 53. Easter eggs Lots and lots of Easter eggs
    54. 54. EDUCATIONAL Easter eggs Trip on a rock and a video clip plays with the legend of Standing Rock
    55. 55. How can a game keep being new?  2-D to 3-D and back again  First person to third person  Location  Time period  Characters  Games within games
    56. 56. We are experiencing technical difficulties Hardware and software requirements
    57. 57. How individuality ruins my life … If everyone was the same, it would just be SO much easier
    58. 58. Problems we run into 1. Wrong hardware – only runs on Mac, Windows, iPad, Android 2. Wrong software – won’t run on Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, Mac OS X Lion etc.
    59. 59. If you already know this next point, feel free to sleep
    60. 60. You have been warned .. There are a lot of older computers out there Windows XP is 12 years old and 13% of U.S. computers still run it About 20% of Macs run Snow Leopard (Mac OS 10.6), which is five years old
    61. 61. Students are more likely to have older operating systems What gaming companies know …. Children are more likely to have older computers because they often get mom’s or dad’s old one
    62. 62. No, there is NOT an app for that Because of the processing power required, iPad and other tablet games tend to be simpler – in graphics, in design
    63. 63. Problems we run into 3. Requires Internet connection that is blocked by school security 4. Requires faster Internet connection than is available
    64. 64. Security requirements vary NEVER plan a lesson using a game you haven’t tested in that school Test in the school before you plan to use in your classroom Have a back-up plan
    65. 65. Sum up Educational Research + Data + Game design + Technology
    66. 66. OR