Wednesday, July 27, 2005

MERLOT '05: "Technology that Teaches: Games in Education" notes

The was an interesting presentation exploring how the learning experience can be enhanced through simulation and exploration gaming environments. The educational game "Immune Attack" (still in development) teaches students about infections and immunology concepts in a highly detailed 3D environment of the bloodstream. The $1.3 million funding comes from an NSF IT grant, over 3 years. Immune Attack is built on the OGRE game engine and will be released on both the PC and XBOX.

Benefits of gaming environments:
  • active learning experiences
  • experiential learning
  • problem-based learning
  • immediate feedback
  • learner-centered
Some interesting facts (and one comment):
  • 60% of college students are regular gamers
  • US Army online - 3 million have completed basic training online
  • The typical student asks 0.17 questions per hour in the conventional classroom and 27 questions per hour in a one-on-one tutoring situation. Gaming is likely somewhere between the two - probably near the upper range.
  • The cookies on a student's computer can likely tell you more about the student's interests than their teacher.

Some "Immune Attack" game design goals / outcomes:
  • better life-style behaviours to avoid and protect against infections
  • building in negative outcomes that are biologically possible to allow students to make and learn from mistakes.
  • enhance student understanding of complex material
  • adding extra levels, introducing further complexity
Main concerns right now are the cost and amount of research and development that it takes to produce an educational game. Game developments are skeptical of the market potential of such games. Possibly, they could be co-bundled with textbooks.

Although I agree with the principles and benefits of using games as learning tools, I question the return on investment. Think of all the things you could do with $1.3 million...

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