Games & Learning

Pollution Challenge! and Civic Learning with Video Games

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I can’t play video games. I forget this simple fact every couple of years and a dark cloud swoops over Casa Garcia and I am enveloped in the feverish button mashing of some complex simulation for a hazy month or two. I have the kind of personality where, once I’ve begun playing a game, I am consumed. In high school, around the time I should have been doing research on colleges, keeping up with homework, and diligently eyeing my GPA as an eager-to-get-into-my-preferred-university high school junior, I started playing the Sims. The sandbox-like nature of the


Creative Solutions for Tablets and the Common Core

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The recent international conference of researchers on human-computer interaction CHI 2013 in Paris presented the opportunity to survey current trends in the so-called “learning sciences” and to assess new methodologies for computer-assisted education (In 2010, DMLcentral covered the SIGGRAPH conference in Los Angeles here). One of the up-and-coming HCI innovators, PhD student Derek Lomas, presented twice at the CHI 2013 conference, describing his experiences both in K-12 classrooms in the U.S. and in digital literacy projects in India.  Lomas agreed to an interview to discuss his experiences in PlayPower  and PlayPower Labs, now based at Carnegie


Teaching and Learning with Minecraft, Part Two: Sara Kaviar

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When Sara Kaviar’s students study comparative religions, they don’t just read and view videos. They visit houses of worship, then recreate them in the Minecraft online sandbox and design games in their virtual world that test each others’ knowledge. For these students, the process of building and then navigating through models of physical churches, temples, and mosques gives them both a medium through which they can co-construct knowledge and a social environment that encourages collaborative learning. The pizazz of the technology many students choose to use even when their teachers aren’t encouraging it certainly plays a


Teaching and Learning with Minecraft: Liam O’Donnell

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Playing with blocks certainly predates constructionist theories of learning by playing with “tangible manipulatives,” but the culturally universal practice is probably as old as human social learning. What is new is the ability to use simulated blocks to teach comparative religion by enabling students to construct navigable models of famous houses of worship. Or explore biology by assembling giant DNA molecules, or manifest millions of blocks by performing the proper calculations and applying appropriate logical operations. Manipulatives aren’t containers of knowledge, but can be used as “objects to think with,” as Seymour Papert noted more than thirty


Making + Playing + Understanding = Learning

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We commissioned filmmaker Nic Askew to make a series of short films that explores the underlying thinking of our six principles of connected learning: interests, peers, youth as producers, networks, shared purpose and academics. Together, the six offer a framework for learning anchored in research and a deep understanding of how people learn, but they also tap the new possibilities of the internet, social media and the information age. This particular film (below) examines a fundamental human experience and key component of connected learning, ‘play,’ and explores whether it has been underestimated and whether, as a


Gaming the System

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Before the presidential election took place this week, many teachers used attention to the political drama unfolding across the nation as a way to draw students into classroom discussions and assignments.  Lesson plans that focus on elections have been around for decades to promote civic education and other learning goals.  However, the idea that video games are a way to promote civic engagement and an understanding of democratic systems is a newer idea, although role-playing activities and strategic games around mock elections have long been used in K-12 classes about government.  And, as Joseph Kahne pointed


Elizabeth Lawley: “Just Press Play” — Adding a Game Layer to the Undergraduate Experience

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I can’t recall a time when I wasn’t aware of Professor Elizabeth Lawley. Ten years ago, there weren’t many tenure-track academics who were also active bloggers, avid gamers, and social media researchers. Now Professor of Interactive Games and Media at Rochester Institute of Technology, Lawley has chaired the annual invitation-only “Social Computing Symposium” sponsored by Microsoft Research since 2006 — before the term “social media” emerged. In 2004, she founded RIT’s Lab for Social Computing, which Lawley says was “the first interdisciplinary academic lab centered on social computing.” But social computing per se wasn’t the topic


Worthy Reads: Mobile Learning, Flipped Lessons, New Media Literacies

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Fast Company magazine recently featured this article, from design studio Frog’s Fabio Sergio, on how mobile devices will provide learning opportunities for people across age and income spectrums. It offers a nice overview, from a design perspective, on how mobile is opening new opportunities for learning. He details the following: 1. Continuous learning2. Educational leapfrogging3. A new crop of older, lifelong learners (and educators)4. Breaking gender boundaries, reducing physical burdens5. A new literacy emerges: software literacy6. Education’s long tail7. Teachers and pupils trade roles8. Synergies with mobile banking and mobile health initiatives9. New opportunities for traditional


Beyond the Console: Gaming, Learning & Literacy

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Tanner Higgin is a PhD candidate in English at the University of California, Riverside studying race, gender, and power in digital media cultures. He’s also researching and developing play and project-based curriculum at the nonprofit organization GameDesk. Higgin’s dissertation, Race and Videogames, draws from his own gaming experiences and develops a new type of literacy attached to the u nique ways race functions in videogame culture. He discussed his research with 11 other participants and a handful of mentors this past August at the DML Research Associates Summer Institute. In the video below, Higgin talks about


Reality, the Game: Interview with Interactive Expert Jeff Watson

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When I read Henry Jenkins’ description of the Pokemon-like card game he played with entering students at USC’s interdisciplinary Cinema School, I realized that the project Tracy Fullerton had described in September, 2011, had come to pass. Don’t think “gamification of education.” Think “turning a social icebreaker into transdisciplinary collaboration among former strangers.” Jenkins described his own encounter with the game: A few weeks ago, I was sent a pack of collector’s cards — with my picture on them! — and asked to show up in the courtyard outside the USC Cinematic Arts facilities so that