The Climate Mystery


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Presentation of The Climate Mystery - Norwegian adaptation and evaluation, from Media and Learning conference 2010.

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  • The Norwegian centre for ICT in education is an executive agency for the Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Among other things We do surveys about ICT-use in norwegian schools, we arrange conferences and workshops, and publish a scientific journal. We do not produce games, but we are very much interested in the potential for games in learning. So when we first heard about this big experiment in online learning, we decided to do a norwegian adaptation together with Microsoft Education. I will come back to how the adaptation process worked, but I would first like to introduce you to the background and concept of the learning universe. I guess a “learning universe” can be just about anything that has to do with learning, but in this case the driving force is online storytelling with different media.
  • There are heroes, there are villains, and there is a mystery to be solved. An in the centre of the learning universe is a website where the webmaster desperately needs help from pupils all over the world.
  • This is all the information pupils got before they started using The Climate Mystery. This website was published in the middle of september last year, and was online until christmas. So unfortunately you can´t see the website for yourself anymore, but I will try to explain how it worked with screenshots and video clips. And eventually explain why it is not available anymore.
    What we initially found interesting with The Climate Mystery was the opportunity to investigate the educational potential in combining dramatic content with social media and networking in a large-scale experiment. I do not have access to the total number of players globally, but my guess is that between 50 and 100 thousand pupils in secondary and upper secondary schools played the game. About 7000 of them was from Norway.
    Do any of you have experience with TCM?
    The nature and content of TCM were largely kept secret until the launch. What we got then, was a dramatic storyline which provided a framework for learning goals relevant to environmental and climate issues.
    Through 16 episodes we follow the story and solve the mystery online together with pupils in the classroom and in other countries. KLIKK
    The clues were found in a video clips, mini-games, and by communicating with other players KLIKK
    The materials provided to teachers included detailed guides for each episode that contained links, quizzes, summaries of themes and learning objectives, and suggestions for using each episode in the classroom.
    The design of the game’s storyline and academic content, was developed through a process of dialogue with teachers in 15 countries. Here is an example of the episode guides -
  • In week 11 the main themes were ocean acidity and energy consumption. As you (maybe) can see here the guide states that TCM can be used in a variety of ways, and is possible to adapt to the individual teachers methods, needs and options.
  • The episode guides had every week suggested discussion topics for the classroom, and a lot of external links to more information about the subject of the week. The teacher’s materials and scientific materials that players could access via links on the website got very good feedback from the teachers we have spoken with.
  • TCM was produced by the danish developers Congin, and was offered free of charge to schools. This was possible because Microsoft and Discovery Channels were the main sponsors, so it is no wonder that the search engine Bing and the Silverlight media player from Microsoft was integrated in the website. Apart from that, I don´t think the players noticed much to the sponsors, there were no big ugly logos or ads on the website.
    So - what could the teachers get in return for using the climate mystery in the classroom?
  • VENT MED KLIKK Congin emphasised that teachers would not need to spend much time on preparing teaching sessions involving TCM. They also outlined a range of subjects and interdisciplinary perspectives that could provide openings for using the game in teaching sessions. KLIKK
    TCM was perhaps best suited for natural sciences, but it was possible to use it interdisciplinary, (..)
    But the real message here is: as a teacher you can use TCM to Trick the pupils into learning. KLIKK And The experience will be social – and fun. Computer simulations, assignments and working together within a larger community sounds fine – but it was obviuos to us that this also demands a quite high level of digital literacy from especially the pupils.
    When we started working with the norwegian adaptation, the main objective was really to see if it is possible to trick pupils into learning in a fictional world surrounded by social media.
  • KLIKK MED EN GANG We wanted to investigate the pupils motivation with regard to game-based learning, both for specific subjects and for interdisciplinary studies. And to see what this demanded of their digital literacy. KLIKK?
    We wanted to see for ourselves how teachers used TCM, and investigate their experiences with web 2.0-tools in the classroom. And we wanted to speak to teachers and pupils to see if this is a way for future educational gaming.
    Case studies were undertaken in three schools, all of which had participated in a workshop we arranged a few weeks before TCM went live. Two of the schools were secondary schools, one was a upper secondary, and we also collaborated with a university college which had a group of master students play the game and doing their own observations and interviews in one of the secondary schools. KLIKK
    We did observations and group interviews with 20 pupils and six teachers. KLIKK
    Since the schools we studied had signed up via the workshop, it is reasonable to assume that they were particularly motivated to participate in the project from the start. Accordingly I should emphasise that there may be problems with drawing general conclusions on the basis of interviews and observations at these schools. You can read the whole memorandum in English if you like KLIKK , but I will of course do the short version here in a while. But before I present our results, I would like to guide you through the pupils experience and the main elements of the game. Or - is it really a game?
  • The idea behind the Climate Mystery is to make the pupils forget they are playing a game, through an alternate reality game, an ARG. You can read the wikipedia definition of arg´s here, ((LITEN PAUSE) - the key terms here are ”the real world as a platform” and ”multiple media and game elements”.
    (VENT MED KLIKK) A game like this is defined by intense player involvement, and evolves according the players' responses. The game is controlled by the game-designers, as opposed to being controlled by artificial intelligence as in a pure computer or console game. The real-world happening which the game centres around was the United Nations climate summit in copenhagen in december last year. KLIKK
    Thousands of delegates arrived in Copenhagen, presidents and prime ministers gathered to make decisions about the worlds climate, so if terrorists were to attack the conference, they would get maximum media coverage. The stage is set -
  • After a few episodes it becomes clear that a organisation called Kanes Ark are planning a terror attack on the conference. But of course there are heroes…
  • Axel the webmaster is our slightly nerdy hero. Someone uploads KLIKK a fuzzy video clip onto the climate mystery website, and It is obvious that something sinister has happened to four of Axels colleagues. Axel turns to the players and asks for their help in solving the mystery. KLIKK
  • The players were given different assignments, on the web and in the classroom, and encouraged to work together to get the signal from the oracle machine stronger. Axel is communicating with the players in the forum, togheter with the sites moderator, Marlene.
  • A “thumbs-up” function enabled players to award points each other. Axel could also award points for creative suggestions. The place to really collect points though, was in the mini-games which were introduced every week.
  • The COP15 games simulated various processes relating to climate issues. The themes of the games related to the themes of the weekly episodes and involved variations on the concept of altering various parameters (such as wind and animal migrations) to see the environmental consequences. Scoring 100% in each week’s COP15 game was the easiest way to collect points.
  • Players were sometimes taken to external websites, which generally had a direct connection with TCM. You have seen the website for the sinister Kanes Ark, Here you can see the Facebook page, the twitter profile for Marlene, the moderator, and Axels blog.
  • So – did it work? In some ways it did, in other ways it didn´t. In the norwegian adaptation we managed to build a network of stakeholders in the norwegian school system, in the private and the public sector, who wanted to take part in our adaptation. One partner who was very important to us was the Norwegian Centre for Natural Sciences, at the UiO, who helped us to link the learning objectives to the national curriculum. As far as I am concerned, Norway wasactually the only country which worked with research and evaluation during and after the game. And although I will not generalise what we found, it is a clear tendency that the teachers and pupils speak with very similar about their gaming experiences.
  •  Teachers used TCM typically in 1-3 hours per week, mostly in natural sciences. Some classes had problems with login and implementing the silverlight media player, but in most cases the technical difficulties were small. And the teachers and pupils were very motivated at the start of the game.
    The lessons using TCM were usually organised so that the teacher introduced the theme to the pupils on a large classroom screen before leaving the pupils to work at their own pace. The pupils generally sat in groups of two or more. At the end of the session the teacher summarised the academic content. But the pupils were not too interested in the academic content, they wanted to play games.
  • All the teachers and pupils told us that they played the COP15 games most of the time in the classroom. Early on in the course of the game the teachers used the basic storyline and video clips to introduce the weekly sessions. According to the teachers, however, it quickly became apparent that the students wished to make the weekly COP15 game the main class activity.
    Most of the pupils we spoke to were positive about their experiences with TCM. But, these comments to a large extent related only to their use of the weekly COP15 games. The pupils were relatively little involved in the basic storyline, in undertaking assignments or in using the forum to communicate with other players. And although both pupils and teachers said that the COP15 games were a motivating factor, opinions were divided as to their learning outcome and usefulness:
  • The pupils quickly found out that there was no direct connection between the cop 15 games and the basic storyline. So they spent their time on what was easily available – the mini-games. KLIKK But at least they were easy to understand..maybe too easy..
    Even if Axel tried to call the players to action, most of the pupils lost interest in the story about the forthcoming terror attack.
  • KLIKK The pupils point out that it was difficult to form an overview of the sequence of events, and that The basic storyline in TCM had too little connection with the other elements in the game.
    Very few of our informants became sufficiently interested in solving the mystery on the basis of the video clips, and this tells us something about a failure to create suspense that could act as a driving force in the game. KLIKK But apart from the basic storyline, we asked teachers and pupils about what they felt could have been a better gaming experience.
  • I think all of these suggestions are good. KLIKK What if there had been a real connection between the mini-games and the storyline?KLIKK What if there was a test after each episode you had to complete in order to progress in the game, and the sequence of events was crystal-clear? KLIKK If I am allowed to conclude on the basis of these quotes, I would say that Pupils really wanted this game in their schools, of course they do - but they wanted learning as much as suspense. Maybe The Climate Mystery would have been appreciated more with a bigger budget, bigger actors and bigger explosions, but what it failed to deliver was a strong story, and a strong connection between the story and the learning. And may I add, it is very ambitious to combine effective film storytelling with a game.
  • So, few players understood what the storyline was about, and why they should care about saving the climate conference in copenhagen. But given that a lot of things worked fine with TCM, why doesn´t it exist a better version of it today? There was a chance that a modified version of TCM could end up as a permanent web-site available for more use, but even before we published our memorandum, it was clear that TCM would not continue to exist. Part of the explanation was probably that there was no money to make a second round - Microsoft lost interest, and that probably had to do with the quality of the game.
  • Several pupils and teachers also had positive feedback, and told us about engaged pupils and visualising of themes in natural sciences. So it seems fair to say that TCM was indeed a good framework for climate issues in the classrooms.
  • To conclude, I will absolutely say that the process of doing a norwegian adaptation of TCM was a rewarding experience. Even though the game was a bit oversold from the producer, and in many ways failed to deliver what it promised, I think our evaluation supports that alternate reality games and storytelling on the internet could have a certain impact on games used for learning in the years to come. The total budget of TCM was under a million Euro, so it was definetely a cost-effective game when we consider that tens of thousands participated in the game. I know that the CEO of Congin is working on a new project, which has received 700 000 Euros in funding from the Danish film institute – which is very interesting in itself – and they are now hunting for more money to make the project come true. If this project sees the light of day next year, I hope it will be available for more than 16 weeks.
    I think the experience with TCM also show that free games are developing in interesting directions. There is a discussion on this conferences web pages about who should pay for games in education. think this is a very interesting question, because I think we should see more massive web-based educational games, both free and commercial, in the years to come.
    But The fact that something is free doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone who has a good reason for funding it. Policy makers, Schools and teacher educators should reflect over the fact that many businesses and professional bodies are interested and willing to be involved in disseminating (free of charge) learning universes such as TCM. There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but it is important to be clear about the types of values and agendas that may underlie an offer of free resources. Accordingly we should talk more to game developers and the microsofts and discovery channels of the future.
    Takk for oppmerksomheten.
  • The Climate Mystery

    1. 1. The Climate Mystery Combining a dramatic story with environment and climate issues aimed at pupils aged 13 – 16 1. Background and concept of the learning universe 2. The Norwegian adaptation: research and evaluation
    2. 2. 2
    3. 3. 16.09.2009: goes live
    4. 4. Senter for IKT i utdanningen An online learning universe running from september to december 2009 • a framework for learning goals relevant to environmental and climate issues. • 16 episodes, different themes and learning goals for each episode. • For pupils: video clips, mini-games, assignments, social networking and forums. • For teachers: teachers guide and episode guides, links, lesson planning. •The possibility to use TCM for one, several or all episodes
    5. 5. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Episode guides for teachers
    6. 6. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Episode guides for teachers
    7. 7. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Background and concept  Produced by Danish developers Congin.  Offered free of charge to schools. International sponsors: Microsoft and Discovery Channel  All content in English, aimed at pupils aged 13-16. According to Microsoft: participants in 98 countries.
    8. 8. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Congin´ s objectives • “achieve learning objectives in, for example, natural sciences and social sciences” • “learn about scientific method in natural sciences by means of computer simulations, assignments and working together within a larger community” Tricking the pupils into learning
    9. 9. The Norwegian adaptation: our objectives  To investigate pupils’ motivation with regard to game-based learning and use of Web 2.0 tools in the classroom – both for specific subjects (natural sciences) and for interdisciplinary studies.  To help boost teachers’ competence in the practical use of Web 2.0 tools for teaching.  Research and evaluation
    10. 10. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Research and evaluation  Workshop with two secondary schools, one upper secondary school, one university college  Observations and group interviews with 20 pupils and six teachers  Total norwegian user profiles: 7000  Memorandum in English available on
    11. 11. 11
    12. 12. Online Learning Universe meets ARG – Alternate Reality Game: -an interactive narrative that uses the real world as a platform, often involving multiple media and game elements, to tell a story that may be affected by participants' ideas or actions. Source: Wikipedia
    13. 13. What will happen at COP 15 16.12.09? 13
    14. 14. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Basic storyline A web page for UN´ s Climate Change Conference COP15, is hacked. The webmaster, Axel needs help to solve the mysteries: • who is trying to sabotage the webpage – and the conference? • why are four of his colleagues kidnapped?
    15. 15. 15
    16. 16. Main elements of TCM: Assignments – on the web and in the classroom 16
    17. 17. Main elements of TCM: social networking 17
    18. 18. Main elements of TCM: COP15 - Mini-games with climate simulations 18
    19. 19. External web resources: Blog, Facebook, Twitter
    20. 20. The Norwegian adaptation of TCM
    21. 21. Senter for IKT i utdanningen A typical week with TCM in the classroom  Teachers used TCM 1-3 hours per week.  Mostly in Natural Sciences  Some teachers used TCM in Social Sciences, English, media.  A few problems with login procedures and implementing the Silverlight media player on school computers  But the schools we observed and interviewed had sufficient ICT- infrastructure to handle TCM, and teachers and pupils were highly motivated
    22. 22. Senter for IKT i utdanningen COP15 mini-games predominated in the classrooms
    23. 23. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Pupils and teachers about the COP 15 mini-games Pupil: “I pretty much only used the COP15 games because it was a bit difficult to get to grips with everything else that was going on”. Pupil: “Every week it was just a case of sending jellyfish, malaria or ocean currents from one place to another. It was the same concept every week. Teacher: “The games were easy to understand, so that would be the reason they were used the most”.
    24. 24. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Pupils and teachers about the basic storyline and the videoclips Pupil: “It seemed more like an action film that could draw people in without having anything to do with the climate summit”. Teacher: “They weren’t able to see the connection between the video clips, the COP15 games and the assignment”. Pupil: “I didn’t really understand the story. They were in a house, then suddenly they were kidnapped, but then they escaped. It was a bit confusing”.
    25. 25. Senter for IKT i utdanningen What could have been improved? Pupil: “It would have been cool if you could have got something from the videos that you needed to solve the COP15 games”. Pupil: “Perhaps there could have been a sort of multiple-choice assignment at the end of every episode”. Pupil: “There’s a new game every week, regardless of whether you mastered the game last week. That makes it rather unexciting”.
    26. 26. 26
    27. 27. Prof. Seamus Gershon: the bad boy of plate tectonics 27
    28. 28. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Teachers about positive effects of TCM “Many pupils have become extremely aware of the environment. They are keeping up with coverage of climate issues in TV programmes and newspapers more than previously”. “In natural sciences we don’t have much concrete material on which to base exercises or practical work, but the COP15 games in a way covered these objectives by visualising the themes. It became easy to show the consequences of climate change and energy use”.
    29. 29. Senter for IKT i utdanningen Concluding remarks • Learning universes with alternate reality games have a huge potential – if they have strong stories, and strong connections between game and learning • Teacher and pupils are very motivated when they get the chance to use web 2.0-tools for gaming. • What can we expect, what should we demand of free games in the years to come?