Justin Leites - The School Library as an Inspiration for Educational Games

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Today most educational games are designed for a “school lab” setting. They are intended to be mandatory in-school activities, focused on specific assigned tasks, and offer diagnostic information for each and every student. Leites offers a different vision for games; he argues that the most ambitious educational games will have the most educational value when they are deployed with a “school library” model. With the library model, games are provided to students by their school, but it is up to the students whether to play them or not, voluntarily, mostly outside the classroom. The goal of these “library” games is to increase the amount of learning that students do at their own pace and in their own free time.

Leites offers guidelines for game designers who want to succeed in the “school library” space. Some of these include:
· Games should make failure fun
· Games should offer players meaningful choices
· Games should have authors and personalities
· Games should be beautiful
· Acknowledge the tension between learning and assessment, and focus on learning
· Build games that teachers as well as students will want to play

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Justin Leites - The School Library as an Inspiration for Educational Games

  1. 1. “If [Tom] had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.” - Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
  2. 2. 3 "Playing a game is the voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles.“ - Bernard Suits
  3. 3. 4 Class time is a scarce resource Teachers seek to make the best use of every minute Per subject, less than 150 instructional hours per year. Lot of material to cover: for instance, 37 topics included in 7th grade Common Core math standards.
  4. 4. Let’s play Minecraft (for 15 minutes)?
  5. 5. 6 Two very different use cases Classroom Activity (analogous to school science lab) Outside the Classroom (analogous to reading books from the school library)
  6. 6. 7 Outside the Classroom Why will schools invest in it? How students spend their free time has a huge impact on academic performance (e.g. summer slide in reading) Technology makes “library-style” investments much cheaper to deploy at scale.
  7. 7. 8 Outside the Classroom The sweet spot for the best educational games • Lunchtime, school bus, home, weekends and vacations . . . • Voluntary (because when you force someone to play, it is no longer play) • Games which reward extended play
  8. 8. 10 Guidelines for game designers How to succeed in the “school library” space • Make failure fun • Offer players meaningful choices • Games should have authors & personalities • Games should be beautiful • Focus on learning rather than assessment • Build games that teachers as well as students will want to play

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