Topics: Martha Madison & Voters Ed
Let’s be honest, you and Flash were great partners when you met. It was a great beginning. Together, you enabled students and faculty to have a nearly seamless user experience across a wide variety of platforms. But it just isn’t working any more, and you've grown apart. Flash’s computational overhead leaves you feeling drained, its lack of support on mobile devices means you can’t travel together and perhaps most importantly Flash can’t keep a secret, so your privacy feels vulnerable. And your friends, like Chrome, are telling you it is time...
I’ve helped create and shape videogames for many years now, and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of working with talented, creative people who share my passion and want nothing more than to build something that will knock your socks off. Game development can also be really, really difficult as well. One of the most challenging aspects of making a good game is the fact that, as content creators, we never actually have full control over the content once the game is done and in the hands of consumers. We build the framework and lay the ground rules, but the details are handled by the individual players.
This is a unique challenge for videogame production, as compared to other creative pursuits such as filmmaking, book-writing, or painting. Because the consumer of a game has a certain level of control over the experience, it is impossible to foresee all the possible ways in which players will interact with our games. Educational games add an additional layer of complexity, since we have to ensure players not only have fun with our games, but must retain the information as well. This leads to one of the most important questions in our field: how can we ensure our games are fun and perform well, when we cannot even begin to fathom all the different ways in which players will interact with them?
Recenly the Iowa caucus, the first test of electability for many of the presidential candidates, was held. Like many voters, we at Second Avenue are thinking about the 2016 election and following it closely. Here are some of the questions we found ourselves asking:
How did two states, Iowa and New Hampshire, come to dominate the early discourse in the presidential primary?
How has the selection of presidential candidates evolved over time?
Is this process partially responsible for the increasingly bitter partisan divide?
How have parties evolved and how has the geographical landscape of party affiliations changed along with them?
How, as a parent or educator can you have this conversation in a constructive, non-partisan way in a classroom or in your family room?
Lots of questions, so we rolled up our sleeves and decided to answer them with input from middle school and high school teachers and expert insight from Professors Ferber and Sutton from the Rochester Institute of Technology Political Science Department.
Women, a little while ago, I found myself feeling a bit like a high-schooler who has just spied a favorite lead singer at a concert…except instead of a concert I was in the executive offices of the White House. During our meeting on educational technology, I thought I caught a glimpse of someone really incredible in the hallway just outside the door.
“Was that Megan Smith?! She is a rock star!!!!!” I whispered. Indeed it was. The Chief Technology Officer of the United States and previous VP of Google was right in the hallway, waiting to talk to our group about inclusion as well as game-based assessment. I was over the moon – this remarkable woman has helped transform the world of technology, while also supporting the inclusion of women in minorities in both education and the workplace.
This topic, inclusion, was one of the themes of her discussion with our group. Referencing Grace Hopper, one of the first American computer scientists and inventor of the first programming compiler, Ms. Smith reminded us of the great potential talent in STEM among our women, and minority groups. She asked us to focus our efforts on repairing the wide representation gap between these groups and majority groups in the STEM fields. The under-representation problem has persisted for far too long, and Ms. Smith suggested that educational games and access to low-cost maker technology such as Raspberry Pi offer partial solutions to this complex problem.
On a recent Saturday morning, local participants were invited to the Student Innovation Center at the Rochester Institute of Technology, where Representative Louise Slaughter introduced this year’s Annual Congressional App Challenge. In its second year, the App Challenge invites high school students across the nation to submit their designs for original mobile and computer applications.
As representatives from the industry, Second Avenue Learning presented on the importance of diversity in product teams and end-user requirements gathering and testing. Faculty from the University of Rochester discussed game design, the Strong National Museum provided information on game history, and a member of local game studio, Workinman, explained important factors in game development. All of these issues are of critical importance for app development.
Second Avenue was delighted to participate in this year’s ED Games Expo, sponsored by 1776 and the Entertainment Software Association! After all, everyone loves a good “game night” from time to time, right? (In our office, when we finish our writing, designing, coding, and testing for the day, many of us play Super Mash Brothers, a vintage game like Street Fighter, or even old school board games – they help us think about our own designs). The ED Games Expo was like a game night extravaganza, with attendees not only playing games, but also meeting the developers.
This year’s event featured 30 developers, funded by Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences, the National Science Foundation and four other Federal agencies. The Expo also showcased commercial learning games developers, including Minecraft EDU, Ubisoft, and PBS Kids ScratchJr.
Topics: game-based assessment
When the Deputy Assistant to the President for Education walks into the room, followed shortly by the United States Chief Technology Officer, you know the conversation is about to get really interesting.
Of course, in our case, the conversation was already interesting. Sitting in the beautiful and historically remarkable Indian Treaty Room at the White House complex, we were part of an incredible discussion on a relatively new development in education; game-based assessment. Our program officer and a champion of serious and learning games, Dr. Ed Metz, led the charge by bringing together representatives from educational technology and serious games companies throughout the country.
The White House is interested in exploring game-based assessment as part our country’s testing solutions of the future.
Together with our colleagues in the field of game-based learning, we explored the challenges and opportunities offered by measuring learning, not through paper and pencil or computer-based tests, but by asking students to play games. Like so many of the others in the room, we believe that games have the potential to offer both teaching and learning opportunities, as well as the ability to provide deep and comprehensive evidence of teaching and learning. With the passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, the door has been opened for other types of assessment, including game-based assessments (GBA).
Topics: game-based assessment
Our team is in the process of designing the next several units of game-based curriculum for our Martha Madison series, which we are continuing to develop with support from the National Science Foundation. For those of you who haven’t yet met Martha, she is a plucky meerkat scientist who invites middle school students to learn about science through problem solving adventures.
As part of our design process we often play with science concepts ourselves. It isn’t uncommon to see sketches on white boards, paper cut-outs and bits of lab equipment all around our office, not to mention the growing pile of magnetic toys in our development lab. Since we think about play and want our students to be really immersed in science, we decided that it was time for a field trip to spark our design thinking!
In a brilliant discussion of the use of games as assessment tools, Rebecca Rufo-Tepper outlined several creative ways that real teachers, right now, are already using games in their classroom. In every discipline, and sometimes across disciplines, teachers are examining student learning through their gameplay. How do they do it?
Because few serious and educational games are designed specifically as assessments, teachers often assess "outside" the game. For example, a world history teacher may ask students to play Civilization V and then write an essay comparing the alternative history experienced in the game with actual history. In this case, the essay assessment happens after the gameplay, but the game forms the context of the assessment experience.