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Old 08-17-2007, 06:23 PM   #1
Aesahaettr
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Educational Game Mechanic

One thing that has struck me about video games is the ease with which kids pick up the game's mechanic. Your average gamer deals with some pretty sophisticated mental processing, especially statistical math.

I wonder, might there be a good way to design a game, the mechanic of which reflects real-world concepts? I'm not talking about "answer math/science questions to get points, yay," but rather something more subtle (and not-lame). Something where in a student who learns is not rewarded by winning the game, but rather is rewarded by playing the game. Game play then reinforces the learned concepts.

I'm not sure how such a mechanic might work, as of yet. Just something to mull over.
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Old 08-17-2007, 06:30 PM   #2
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re: educational games

I like this idea. One thing that just popped into my head was a really basic physics simulation--like all those flash games that involve throwing something in an arc to hit something else. But there could be more complexity--and more information. For example, being able to modulate the downward acceleration on the object or the shape/mass of the object to change the way in which it would fall--while at the same time seeing all the reference numbers in some column. This might inspire them to pick up a pencil and paper and predict what they need to do as opposed to trial and error.
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Old 08-17-2007, 06:54 PM   #3
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One idea that I've had is a Rube Goldberg-esque world-building game, wherein players build contraptions from a toolkit of mechanics with adjustable parameters (i.e. a cannon with adjustable angle and strength). Any number of physics principles could apply easily--buoyancy, objects in free-fall, springs, levers/torque--as well as other fields, if we get a little creative.

Players could solve problems/missions, visit and interact with each other's devices, and collaborate on projects. Perhaps there could even be an option for players to design their own new mechanics and add them to the public toolkit.
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Old 08-17-2007, 08:13 PM   #4
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the key of in-game learning is in the way the brain picks up on stuff, which is mostly trial and error, with some help from game hints & tips (which most people read afterwards anyway). with a new game, both adult and kids talk to each other to master the controls, then start playing on their own to find out about game strategies.

there's a lot of ways to teach stuff in a game-- you can add adjustable parameters about a specific subject, or maybe fixed standards such as in The Sims, that teaches about life itself.

there's lots and lots of stuff to learn, isn't there?
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Old 08-19-2007, 11:56 AM   #5
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could someone repost this if this aint where it go?

This might be off topic,

but... uh...

I have often thought to myself how much more fun I would think school was if it were a video game. Fundamentally the same, only virtual.

I think many things have been reinvented and in some cases, entirely replaced by their virtual counterparts. Example: they no longer manufacture the breadboards needed to build pinball machines. Hence their growing commodity status, as the "transferable market value" of pinball machine repairmen. Now, arcades are nearly dead, yes yes? But; EVERY CHILD I KNOW can whoopass at pinball. How is this? the familiarity that bonds today's child to that game is just as strong- we just grew up playing it on the Apple II GS, or the NES, and now our children are playing tennis on the wii. Same exact game, new look, and the fundamental difference is, it is moved INTO the house rather than out of it.

This makes room for nuancing that manufacturing cant allow. it is far more expensive to manufacture an adams family pinball machine alongside a KISS pinball machine than it is to do the same with software.

(I got mad respect for software folks, but I have done manufacturing design, and I have worked in software development, and I'm telling you; one task is simply more expensive and time consming than the other. Dont mean to offend anyone.)

That said, I think a semiserious joke brightpearl lay on me a week ago hits home with this issue- and that is...

"Ive been considering homeschooling my kids so that they're taught evolution"

Schools are underfunded and in america, the curriculum not only sucks but is chock full of idiot patriotic lies, and frankly, pretty much everywhere else save for germany and france. But even there; so help you god if you dont pass the Bac, or whatever the german equivalent is called. Then its metro boulot dodo for life.

I say that "one laptop per child" would be INSANELY REASONABLE if legitimate middle and high schools were made even partially virtual. Imagine the commute time it could save. Imagine how many families would be saved the burden of selling their home and buying a new one elsewhere because they discovered that the elementary school was only stellar at the cost of the underfunded overcrowded middle school. Your french class, your japanese class, could easily be taught in virtual france, or japan, and you could be right back in time for grammar.

Anyway. this may have been the wrong place to post such thoughts,
It feels at first like an idea thats so already done and yet impossible to realize...

All Im sayin is; If I were to see an educational learning tool, I would want it to be an MMOG.
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:17 PM   #6
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^Hmm. You're right, I was only partly joking about the homeschooling thing. If I could afford it, I would do it.

That said, I'm not sure that online ed can wholly replace communal schools, just because of the IRL social aspect (think about how many people from The Show forum turned up at meetups, how many wanted to meet RunningFool -- there's an IRL component that is irresistable and irreplaceable), but I know people whose kids are cooperatively homeschooled, and that has real appeal for me. I think they all need to get together sometimes, but the broadening of possible subjects, teachers, and teaching methods that the interwebs provide is astounding. And, I have to say, in some communities, there is a degree of bonding possible that I wouldn't believe if I hadn't experienced it. I don't know what it is, exactly, but it would impact the learning environment for better and worse.

I hadn't been thinking of a project along the lines of something for homeschoolers, or people wanting to add quality to a public school education, but I think that's a good idea, very fashionable (, I know, but that's important for grants), and something that's needed...

Btw it's good to see you over here, Fjeff.
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Old 08-19-2007, 01:18 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FJeff View Post
That said, I think a semiserious joke brightpearl lay on me a week ago hits home with this issue- and that is...

"Ive been considering homeschooling my kids so that they're taught evolution"
Amen to that.

The more I think about it (and this continues to diverge from the original topic of this thread), the more I'd like to see a really good space for enacting simulations, particularly in physics and chemistry (though I'm desperately trying to get biology in there, too ). This wouldn't be to replace legitimate hands-on lab experiments, but rather a more free-form playground for visualizing concepts. Sometimes you want the rigor of testing hypotheses and analyzing data. Sometimes you just want to know what happens when you shoot a ball out of a cannon or mix two chemicals together.

I've done some virtual labs in my day, and the ones I've encountered SUCK. They're all work and no play. Sure, they do a decent job illustrating a lab setup that might be expensive, dangerous, or inconvenient in real life. But they're hardly better than just reading a lab manual; your actions are locked in a narrow pathway (leaving no room for mistakes or play), and it just ties an abstraction to an abstraction (instead of tying an abstraction to tangible reality).

Rather than focus on drilling theory, I'd like to see virtual spaces be used to exercise intuition. That means something that looks and (especially) feels more realistic than a textbook diagram.

I'm kinda riffing off my Rube Goldberg idea here... give students a whole bunch of toys with adjustable parameters, and let them play. Once they get an intuitive feel for how things work, they can start getting deeper into the calculations involved to see what they've been doing and how they can refine it.
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Old 08-19-2007, 03:09 PM   #8
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Chemicals!

Rube Goldberg + Chemistry = Multi-Step Chemical Reactions!

What if you allow the user to build a couple of molecules (or three, or infinity...) from a bank, with some end goal in mind? For example, say you had (placed on the board) 2 O2 molecules, and you wanted to end up with one CO2 molecule and 5 H2O molecules. Then the user would drag atoms and single bonds and double bonds, etc. into another space, and then would "see" the reactions in real time. This could be applied to multi-step reactions, or reactions with catalysts as well.
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Old 08-19-2007, 03:35 PM   #9
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^I know I'm all stuck on mapping, but if you did something like that, you could map everyone's results...would be especially effective if there were lots of possible combos.

PS It's good to see you over here, too, Aesa. And it's nice to meet you, Bob.
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Old 08-19-2007, 07:23 PM   #10
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i thought physics and chemistry were cool at school because of the explosions, i enjoyed the tension that came with handling hazardous materials, and watching what they do! i think it'd be a shame to use something online for kids.

how about language training? with movie clips, learning words by looking at a picture, chat function, recording mode (both audio and video) and some really weird stuff.. like episodes of cartoons or tv shows everybody knows, but in a different language.. something that people are already familiar with.

learning words by looking at a picture: you see an image of a tree. clickable are: the tree trunk, leaves, berries/nuts/fruit, roots, bark, etc. then you can zoom in on eg. the leaves and find bugs there, with all their names and features.
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:20 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frieda View Post
i thought physics and chemistry were cool at school because of the explosions, i enjoyed the tension that came with handling hazardous materials, and watching what they do! i think it'd be a shame to use something online for kids.
Like I said, virtual simulations shouldn't replace real hands-on lab stuff. Explosions are cool, and kids should definitely still get to see this stuff first-hand in class (not just for the hands-on aspect, but also to be taught proper lab procedure).

But precisely because these materials are hazardous, there isn't as much room for free-form experimentation in the classroom. You can't just throw chemicals together willy-nilly. Even in a fairly mundane physics experiment, you have to be careful not to break the equipment or cause injury (i.e. flying marbles or overstretched springs). Resources and safety are limited in real life.

I think having a virtual simulation playground would give kids a better intuitive sense of what's going on, and hopefully in turn make them more appreciative of the experiments they perform in real life.
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:27 PM   #12
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^That's a good point. One of the strengths of virtual simulations is that you can try things that aren't practical or safe in the real world. I agree that it doesn't replace the real world, however.

I like the idea of language training, too, Frieds. I'm a linguistics nerd. It would be fun to make it interactive with people from 2 countries -- English-speaking kids wanting to learn Dutch for ex, could learn from and teach Dutch-speaking kids wanting to learn English. That would allow cultural exchange as well as language learning, and it would be more fun in that it would open up learning up-to-the-minute slang, etc. Although, most Dutch kids probably already speak more correct standard English than most American kids...

I vote for Icelandic. I wanna learn Icelandic myself.
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Old 08-19-2007, 09:41 PM   #13
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Dartmouth is big on using the Rassias Method for language training, and I definitely saw a lot of payoff from it. Some more details on the method are here, but in short it's a dynamic exchange between instructor and students that breaks down inhibitions and fosters spontaneity and comfort with a language. One of my favorite parts of the Method is the reliance on verbalization; we learn language by speaking more easily than by reading.

It would be neat if we could bring that kind of method to a digital language tool, but I'm not sure it can be done...the dynamic interaction that the digital medium provides is different from that required by the Rassias method. Teleconferencing with a human instructor (apart from being impractical for many people) has too much lag for the spontaneous aspect, and even a good program is still far too impersonal.
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Old 08-20-2007, 02:23 AM   #14
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I see the concerns about real time talking. However, if we are to meet (and hopefully surpass) the current academic standards lag time is not a problem. Speech is a requirement but so far virtuality has not been addressed and speech components can be done online through simple video.

I am loving this content and can see where English strands could match up and intertwine with it making it interdisciplinary.

As far as lingua franca goes though, there needs to be one. Not always maybe, but to start it will be important.

Of course this is all if you guys are thinking of something that would effectively encompass US standards and hopefully make them better.
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Old 08-20-2007, 01:43 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frieda View Post
i thought physics and chemistry were cool at school because of the explosions, i enjoyed the tension that came with handling hazardous materials, and watching what they do! i think it'd be a shame to use something online for kids.

(...)
Think it should be kinda interdisciplinary anyways - love the language idea!, also what Pearl already suggested in that direction - except for the explosions/poisons part pure chemistry/physics could become too boring. 'Real-life' connections of the academic content would important, like where do this chemical(s) (reactions) occur in familiar things, cool applications of physical principles, etc.
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