New Series: Art Museums and Their Games

For the rest of April, I’ll be exploring the use of educational games in art museums.  This will cover both digital games and analog games.  I’ve come across a few museums who have invested in gaming, but not many.  Museums’ relationship to technology is somewhat new and many critics deem gaming and digital technologies as distractions, detracting the attention and “aura“.  I tend to sway the other way.  Art museums were built with elitist undertones which creates an uncomfortable and stuffy environment.  Gaming, both digital and analog, helps break away at years of aristocratic hierarchies to create a comfortable, entertaining learning environment.  Because honestly, museums can get a bit boring sometimes.  Up first will be the Tate’s app, Race Against Time.  Stay tuned!

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P.S. If you have any suggestions/ideas/thoughts, send them my way!

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Technology’s Man Problem: NY Times Article about Women in Technology

I wrote a few posts last week about encouraging girls to learn code and pursue computer science.  A friend of mine from Seattle posted this article to her Facebook page.  Perfect timing!  

Elissa Shevinsky can pinpoint the moment when she felt that she no longer belonged.

It’s a really interesting story and an interesting issue at hand.  One woman talks about how bringing attention to women in technology only perpetuates the problem and brings attention to the fact that she’s a woman rather than a great technologist…But on the other hand, how can you not comment on such a sexist app?

Hmmmmm.

 

 

Hopscotch: Getting Kids Into Coding

I was very impressed with this coding game, maybe even more than Hakitzu.  In one of my previous posts, I talked about the issue of “genderfying” coding games.  To me, this game seems much more gender neutral and is more likely to attract a larger number of young students!

For the first hour or so, I just placed random blocks around to see what would happen (a child will probably take a similar approach!)  I created a video (not sure what else to call it…) appropriately titled “Explosion”.  It’s literally a bunch of objects shaking and getting larger.  It was fun but didn’t really help me grasp any knowledge of coding…This is where I think walking through students through a more advanced tutorial would help.  Making an object move is pretty obvious, but making them do something is a little more difficult.

My first “attempt”

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I decided to create a game where the Monkey has to catch a monster.  I had no idea how to do this or where to start.  It helped that I could look at what other users has created.  I definitely took ideas/tips from their games in order to create my own.  The end result was a game that actually worked!  And I’m not going to lie, I am pretty proud of it.  It’s so simple and probably not very exciting for other people, but I made it and that’s pretty cool.  I imagine younger students will also experience this fiero!

My game!

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Areas where I had trouble:

Trying to figure out what happens when the monster collides with the edge…

Trying to end the game…I really wanted “Game Over” to pop up on the screen but I could not figure out how to do that.  I had to settle for a giant monkey taking over the screen.

 

Overall, I really really like this game.  The replay ability is huge!  The only problem I have with the game is that the coding language isn’t quite there like it is with Hakitzu.  But perhaps that language acts as a deterrent for younger audiences.  It seems that most educators believe in the “hook em’ when they’re young” theory.  Introducing students to coding at a younger age means an increased chance that they will develop computer science skills as an adult.

P.S. If anyone wants to play my game, it’s uploaded to Hopscotch (free app) and called “Catch a Monster!” under the name, Molly.

The Coding Game: Hakitzu

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I didn’t think I’d like this game as much as I did, but I did!  I know absolutely nothing about coding so the game actually helped me understand the basics.  The scaffolding for difficulty is perfect.  The first levels introduce you to the game and to coding language.  As you move forward throughout the game the user has to enter the codes in manually (there is an option for autocomplete.)  

My one qualm with the game is that it also plays into gender stereotypes…It is essentially a fighting game.  Your main objective is to destroy the other team.  I am not suggesting that the creators of this game create a “girl” version.  I think that perpetuates the problem.  However, with females making up just 18% of Computer Science majors, something should be done.  

This game is incredibly successful in teaching young students (and in my case, adults) the basics of coding but imagine if they could also solve codings greatest problem, getting females on board.  MindShift posted a great article on tips to grab girls’ attention this past September.  The first solution to the problem, is introducing the game to girls early on in their education.  Many researchers say that by the time high school rolls around, girls are just not interested in computer science.  So I wonder, is there a gender neutral coding game?  Or a coding game that might interest girls more than one about fighting robots.

The article goes on to mention that one of the biggest reason girls stay away from computer science is because on misconceptions they have about the field.  It’s not “cool”enough for girls, especially those who feel pressured about maintaining a certain image.  I’m going to keep thinkng about this, but I’d love to see a game that changes that. 

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Here’s Why We Need Video Games In Every Classroom

Here’s Why We Need Video Games In Every Classroom

I found this article from MindShift’s Facebook page.  I highly recommend “liking” their page.  They post a lot of great articles about ways games and technology are transforming education.

The article states that, “…video games can move us away from an educational culture that’s driven by extrinsic competition and commodified rewards. Instead, video games can move us toward a culture of intrinsic motivation, self-reflection, and mindful interaction with the world.”  

Is this giving video games too much credit?  I don’t know yet…

Brain Pop: The Food Chain Game

Our group is exploring educational games that delve into the basics of ecosystems, so I wanted to critique a game that had a similarities to the one we are designing.

I started by using Brain Pop’s search engine.  I have to give the website an A+ for usability.  It’s simple and educator’s can easily explore topics or find something more specific.  I’ve worked with a number of teachers and not to play the generational blame game, but older educators do seem reluctant to use technology in the classroom, possibly because they don’t have the knowledge that seems to be engrained in younger generations.  I think that Brain Pop has created a website that is very easy to use.  

 

The Food Chain Game

I watched the Food Chain video, which explained what a food chain was and how it worked.  The video also highlighted what happens when organisms become unbalanced.  The video was fairly basic so I was hoping the game would help contextualize some of that information. 

Without knowing anything about the game, I imagined it would be pretty interactive.  I hear, “Food Chain” and immediately imagine a game where animals are eating each other to survive.  However, as soon as I clicked on the game I learned that it was more of a “fill in the blank” structure.  You’re instructed to drag and drop the given parts of the food chain into the correct order.  You know you have the correct order when the animals come alive and simulate the food chain.  

The instructions are very straightforward so most children should be able to use the game with minimal support.  I would say the target age range is 3rd to 4th grade.  This guess is largely based on the subject matter, not the difficulty of the game.  In order to be successful at the game, you needs to understand the basic principles of  food chains.  

My first critique is that there isn’t any sound.  While the user does get feedback if they answer correctly or incorrectly, I think it would be more successful (and interactive) if there were sound.  Even in the “simulations” (which I will critique later) there is absolutely no use of sound.  I wanted to stop playing the game immediately.

To make matters worse, the simulations aren’t really simulations at all.  Instead, they’re essentially stop action shorts that show the order in which organisms are consumed.  Artistically, I love them but I guarantee that a 3rd or 4th grader will not care about that.  

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In terms of connecting the video content, the game does a decent job.  The video was very basic as was the game.  However the video spends a good chunk of time talking about the consequences of an imbalanced food chain and the game does not address this at all.  Personally, I think that is an incredibly important aspect of ecosystems, especially as students become old enough to realize humans impact on the ecosystem.  I did like that they incorporated “the human” into the food chain, but that was the extent of the human’s role in the food chain.  

There was scaffolding in terms of difficulty.  The difficulty increases as you move forward.  There aren’t any hints (which probably unnecessary) but there are no explanations either.  I hate games that are too wordy, so I understand the reluctance to incorporate text but I think the game could incorporate more information.  I would suggest adding sound to describe what happens during the simulation.

The game is also very short.  You only go through roughly 7 levels.  There is absolutely no replay ability.  The game is exactly the same every time you play it and it’s so short that you can play it once and never need (or want) to play it again.