Building the Candy Factory

Screenshot of Level 1While it has been very tedious and detailed work, I’m enjoying building my Candy Factory app. It requires creating and keeping track of many variables. I’ve gotten hung up a few times when I didn’t have the code ordered correctly. Verifying answers requires several nested If and IfElse statements that I’ve had to tinker with to get to work the way I want. Overall, I’m pleased with my progress. When I’ve run into a snag, I’ve been able to read the code and find the error in a fairly short amount of time.

I have 3 levels of the game working. The screenshot to the right shows the program in one of my testing modes. The table is for level 1. The answer boxes are for level 2. It took a bit of testing to make sure the variables for the two different levels were working correctly. I kept the “Cartons” answer box visible for a while to make sure nothing was happening with it during Level 1.

I was going to have the user progress through all three levels of the game in one sitting, moving up a level after getting 5 problems correct. I’m thinking I’ll change that. I can let the user choose the level he/she wants to work at and progress up when they feel they are ready for the challenge. I just need to figure out a way to show a user’s progress/score after each attempt.

I’m disappointed with the look of the screens in my program. I found the perfect image to reinforce the groupings of 10 candies, but it shows up a little blah on the screen. It also takes up way too much room. I’d also like a background that gives the feel of a factory. (Oh! I need to look for a factory sound, like a whirring machine or the end-of-the-day whistle.) I wish I was a graphic artist so I could create the exact image I want.

Tomorrow I hope to show my current version to my co-workers for some constructive feedback. Once every couple of weeks we review iPad apps. I’m going to ask them to review my app as harshly as we have reviewed others. I’m sure I’ll come away with a long list of things I’ll want to fix/change.

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App Development Proposal

The final project for EdTech597 is to develop an app of my own choosing. In my previous class (EdTech 532 Games and Simulations) I designed a very large math game that teaches math in the context of internship scenarios. At the beginning of the game, students take and interest inventory. The results are used to place students in fictitious businesses. Their math abilities are assessed in the background, always within the context of their internships. Students learn the math they do not know through the activities and tasks they are assigned to at each company.

The internship game will take a lot of time and resources to develop. The app I am developing for EdTech597 will take me one step closer. The app is one activity within one internship scenario. Students work in a candy factory where candies are sold individually, in trays of 10, and in cartons that hold 10 trays. Working with numbers in this way gives students a context for regrouping. Every 10 candies can fill a tray. Every 10 trays can fill a carton. Cartons and trays can be “regrouped” as needed based on a company’s order.

This week’s assignment was to create an App Development Proposal. I got a little lost in the process because I didn’t have a good understanding of the steps required for this project. I wish we could have had one face-to-face meeting as a class where we could get an overview of the project, ask questions, share ideas, get clarification, etc.

In the process of developing my proposal, I created some of the user interface and see that I have many moving parts that could easily get lost. I will have to be very organized as I create the code blocks or I could easily miss a part that would cause the program to fail. I hope I will able to complete what I have set out to do.

Game Flow

In previous posts I have outlined pieces of my math game idea. In the diagram below, I have attempted to illustrate the game flow. The initial clouds outline the entry into the game. The first cloud is where the animation I posted yesterday will appear. The rest of the diagram takes you through the player’s journey.

As mentioned in this post, players will be presented with a task list. The initial list will be based on their performance on the initial, embedded assessment.

After completing each task, the player will have the option to choose another. New tasks may be added to the list as a player’s skill set improves. Tasks may also be added as bonuses or to provide foundation for tasks players were unable to complete.

The game goal is met when a player completes all tasks needed to show mastery of the Common Core State Standards expected for a given grade. If the player is self directed, they will be given access to tasks beyond assigned grade level. Teachers may also choose to grant access to these tasks to students at their discretion.

AECT Standards

1.0 Design — The design of this game is based on my learning theories mash up. It takes into account a learner’s current skill level, interests, and preferences. The instructional strategies used by the game are based on students’ need to understand math skills on a conceptual level as well as seeing how math is used in a real way. The overall message of the game is that math is interwoven into everyday activities.

Math Game Scenario

I am working on a presentation for my math game. To help convey the idea of the virtual world, I created an animated clip in XtraNormal. This clip shows an interaction that would occur in the beginning of the game. The female character represents the player. This character is customizable so the player can make the character take on any ethnicity, gender, etc. I’m not thrilled with the characters and their voices, but I thought this would make the game idea more “real”.

InternNation
– Watch more Videos at Vodpod.

After this animation, the player will complete an interest survey. The survey will drive some of the choices of activities within the game. After completing the survey, the player will go through a sampling of activities. To the player, it will feel like an introduction to the functionality in the game, but the activities will actually access the player’s basic number sense skills.

AECT Standards

1.4 Learner Characteristics  Research has shown that students are more engaged and have greater investment in a game when they have some level of control. One study even found that students reached a greater level of learning when they could choose a helper character that looked and acted more like themselves. A computer game with some level of individual customization and/or the ability to respond to students’ preferences is more likely to engage students and keep them motivated to learn.

Puzzles

Photo by JacobMetcalf on Flickr.

In a previous post, I described two “toys” that I will include in my educational game to provide a greater opportunity for engagement, motivation, and fun. To provide a greater challenge and connection back to the educational game, the two toys will have optional puzzles.

Puzzle 1 — Packing the Truck

This puzzle connects back to a time-management game in which players fulfill orders by pulling items off a conveyor belt and packaging them into boxes and/or crates. The next step in the process is to put the orders into a truck for delivery. Using some Tetris-like skills, the puzzle is to get a set number of orders to fit in the truck.

Puzzle 2 — Combinations

This puzzle connects back to a design toy. Players design items to be created in the factory. The puzzle is to determine how many unique products can be made with given constraints. For example, one such factory makes T-shirts. A puzzle could be that the factory currently has in stock two different colors of T-shirts in 3 different styles. They also have 8 different paint choices, but only want to use 2 or 3 colors on each shirt. How many different combinations of T-shirt colors, styles, and paint options are there?

 

AECT STandards

1.3 Instructional Strategies
There are many levels to good instruction. Teachers who know their students well know when students are ready for in-depth, “heavy lifting” projects and when they need to back off for a while and do something that may appear unrelated but still has underlying educational value. Students who self educate have their own gut feeling of when they need a break. Puzzles embedded in educational computer games give players the opportunity to take a break from the “heavy lifting” project, yet still learn through seemingly unrelated challenges.

Unobtrusive Assessment

One key feature to my game idea is to use unobtrusive assessments. Involving players in some sort of obvious test activity at the beginning of the game would eliminate the possibility of a player approaching this game as a game. It will be obvious that this game is a learning activity, a school task, not a game. So it is important that assessment throughout the game is done in the background. Players will not know that the game is pulling data, making inferences, and re-shuffling the learning environment “deck” to serve up the next activity the player will need in order to succeed.

In order to be successful in the game, players will have to understand and be able to compute within the base-ten number system. If they can’t, the first tasks will involve concept-based activities that feel like a game but get at the concepts underlying the base-ten number system. Once they are in that game, their actions in the game will serve to assess their understanding. The data resulting from their actions will build upon each other fine-tuning the data-based inference results.

But before they can be placed within any of the tasks/scenarios of the game, some minimal assessment needs to occur. I need to consider several questions before I can determine the type of task that would provide the data needed to determine a player’s understanding of the base-ten number system. These questions include:

  1. What do people do in everyday situations that show their basic understanding of the base-ten number system?
  2. What are the important elements in these situations?
  3. What do people need to know and do, beyond manipulating mathematical symbols, that is related to the base-ten number system?

Using some guidance and an assessment planning tool from, On the Structure of Educational Assessments [1], I created the following diagram to show my thinking around the initial assessment. The basis for the initial assessment idea comes from Gersten and Chard [2].

References:

[1] Mislevy, R. J., Steinberg, L. S., & Almond, R. G. (2003). On the structure of educational assessments. Measurement: Interdisciplinary Research and Perspectives, 1(1), 3–62. doi:10.1207/S15366359MEA0101_02

[2] Gersten, R., & Chard, D. (1999). Number Sense Rethinking Arithmetic Instruction for Students with Mathematical Disabilities. The Journal of Special Education, 33(1), 18–28. doi:10.1177/002246699903300102

AECT Standards

1.1 Instructional Systems Design
One key aspect to designing an instructional system is knowing what you want the student to learn. Once you know that, the next step is to plan the assessment. The assessment is the “bones” of the system. Without it, you can have wonderful activities that go completely astray and go around the mastery of the skill you wanted the student to learn.

1.3 Instructional Strategies
It is important to be aware of foundational skills in mathematics. Number sense skills are the foundation to math, much like phonics skills are foundational to reading. Knowing this, you know where the “fall back” position is. If students struggle in any area in mathematics, number sense is suspect.

2.3 Computer-Based Technologies
Embedded assessment is an exciting possibility with computer-based technologies. Technology is great at collecting data and, following programming rules, use the data to guide user experience. “Data-based decision making” is a high priority in education and technology can make it easy and effective.

Learning Theories Mash Up 3

In a previous post (Learning Theories Mash-Up Update) I described my ideas of how several learning theories work together. I made one update to the post after receiving some initial feedback. The latest feedback I’ve received shows that my diagram communicates something I hadn’t intended. Learning Theory Mash UpThe conclusion viewers draw is that the combination of Cognitive Learning Theory and Constructivist Learning Theory results in Contextual Learning Theory. Instead, what I’m trying to convey is this:

  • Either a cognitive or constructivist (or combination) approach has been used in prior learning.
  • Prior learning set up a base of knowledge and experiences a student can draw from.
  • Now students are ready for contextual learning in an experiential learning environment.

In trying to think about how to visually convey this combination of learning theories, I started thinking about layering process. I’m not sure if I have the visual quite right yet. You can let me know if you think this imagery helps to convey my ideas. This is what I had in mind when I labeled this sketch.

  • Cognitive and constructivist learning comes first. It is an integral part of a students learning experience, thus, it is the innermost part of this fashion sketch.
  • Conceptual learning is added later. It’s a second layer of learning that adds depth and interest to the learning process.
  • Experiential learning is the shirt under the vest. This is optional and can be switched out for other types of learning that could be better enhancements, depending on what is being learned. And, this is where my sketch doesn’t quite work, you could choose not to include another learning theory at all.

Sketch provided by anyjazz65 on Flickr.

 

I’d love to know your impressions of this learning theory mash-up. Does the sketch bring about new ideas of how these theories work together? I’m hoping it conveys a better sense of how they work together, but maybe it only makes it more confusing and less coherent. Can you think of a better way to visually display this idea of the learning theories working together, yet as separate layers?

 

AECT Standards

1.1 Instructional Systems Design
A good game utilizes appropriate learning theories. Having a complete understanding of the learning theory basis for a game will help direct and focus its development while insuring that the final product is educationally effective.