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?
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.
Video Games and Learning*, a video viewing assignment for EdTech 532, provides some key ideas for utilizing engagement and enthusiasm brought from game play into learning. Among the ideas presented, I think the following are important to keep in mind when designing educational activities, games or not.
- In general, people learn with greater ease when they are engaged. Think about the topics you are interested in. You probably remember facts that would bore with friends. And these facts were easier to remember than the 50 state capitals (unless, of course, state capitals are your thing). Educational activities need to provide a hook, something that captures student interest and makes them WANT to know more.
- When we are playing a game, it feels like a huge detour if we have to stop and “learn” something. Learning opportunities can be built into a game almost seamlessly so it doesn’t feel like we are being beaten over the head with a lesson. DimensionM
is a game that requires detours. I honestly don’t understand the success of this game when fun, virtual world, game play is interrupted by a multiple-choice question.
- Tangential learning was one of the biggest points made in this video. We learn tangentially when our interest is piqued by something in a game and we choose to find out more about it. This IS a great way to learn, but it isn’t something an educator can bank on. Some, but not all, students will make the choice to self-educate. Some will find a factoid in a game interesting enough to find out more about it. Educators are required to meet set standards and can’t build activities on the hope that students will self-educate. This is a great idea for inclusion in all games. It’s just not reliable enough for educational products.
There is much the world of educational games can learn from standard, off-the-shelf games (both digital and non-digital). The gaming elements that are appropriate, suitable, and improve the learning opportunity all depend on the activity. As I learn more about gaming elements, I will gain a better understanding of where and when to use gaming elements for their greatest effect.
*If you are a reader of my blog, you know that I always provide links to the videos, articles, or websites I write about. I am purposefully not including the link to this video because I believe the creator used images without permission. There’s a small chance that I am wrong. The reason I believe this to be true is because I work for a company who went through the process of gaining permission for one of the images used and I know that we had to provide attribution, in addition to paying a large sum of money. No attribution is included in this video.
Too often people feel that sharing images on the web falls under the “personal use” clause of the copyright law. With the type of distribution available via YouTube, this avenue of sharing goes well beyond “personal use”. Awareness and understanding of copyright and ownership needs to be improved across digital channels, especially in education, as opportunities for sharing (eg. via iBooks Author) increase.
1.1 Instructional Systems Design–It is important to keep in mind elements such as those utilized in games to improve the engagement factor of instructional systems. Engaging a student is half the battle. If you can’t engage a student, you have lost the chance at helping that student learn. Sure, students can get by without interest. I know I did throughout most of my history courses. I could get an average score by memorizing things long enough to take a test, but what I still remember today aren’t those facts. What I remember is the stories my American History teacher told that brought history to life. I was engaged in his class because of these stories, and my ability to recall facts from that class proves to me that engagement is what I needed to deeply learn.