Friday, July 13, 2012

Edugaming Conclusion

Although I still have one more day in this workshop (one day in November), I wanted to do a little recap of the Edugaming workshop that I attended at the local community college.

I attended this same workshop last summer with some degree of success.  Actually, the game I created is currently in the grant process.  If all goes well, my game may be published!!!  I really want to share that game with you, but I don't know how that works with my publisher and all.

Anyway, before this workshop my thought of a good educational game is a quiz that is hidden behind glitter and glitz.  Seriously, you could take any quiz you gave your students, combine it with Candy Land, and poof, you have a great educational game.  Wrong.

One thing that stuck with me about an excellent educational game is that you are almost "tricking" your students into doing whatever it is you want them to learn.  I watch my son play video games.  When he was in Kindergarten, he would be trying to collect 100 coins.  One day I heard him trying to figure out how many more coins he needed to reach his goal.  Is the point of Super Mario Bros. Wii to teach students how to do basic arithmetic?  Intrinsic motivation.  Can't beat that!!!

Here is the game-making process as far as I understand it:

1) First, decide what topic you want students to practice.  This topic must be very small.  For example, my game is designed to practice slope and that's it.  Also, the topic has to be something the students struggle with.  If it's something they know, they'll be bored and not play your game.

2) Next, what actions are taken in the game to reinforce the topic from step 1?  This week, three other math teachers and I created a game to help students practice factoring quadratics with a lead coefficient of 1.  In this game, the action is factoring.

3) Keep in mind that it has to keep them coming back.  None of my students ever walk in the room and ask if we can play The Row Game, a quiz-like review game.  But they do ask to play Mafia, a party game.  Are my students going to play a game that I create on the weekend with their friends?  No, probably not.  But I do want to keep them wanting.

4) Now for the game mechanics.  Is it a board game?  a card game?  dice? spinners?

5) Play-testing.  I never realized how important play testing is.  The workshop this week was only 4 days, so my group and I played the game as much as possible between presentations, lunch, brainstorming, etc.  We must have played the game in entirety about 5 or 6 times.  Although I would love to have the game totally complete for my students, I will have to include them in the play-testing process.

6) Optional:  Create a story to go along with your game.  My slope game is called Bounty Hunter, because there are criminals and bounty hunters moving around the board.  The factoring game is called The FACTORy.  I'm also working on a game with a story with snakes and it's called Slither.  Is this glitter?  In my opinion, no, as long as the story fits the math well.
Not all great games need a story.  Checkers does not have a story.  Tetris does not have a story.

As far as I know, there is no template to create an effective educational game.  If there were, there would be more apps for us.  Did you ever search for a high school math app to use in your classroom?  The majority that I have found are glorified formula sheets.  Any math games that I have found are extremely elementary.  Perhaps because the people who know how to do the math are in the classroom and not out there creating the games.

I look forward to eventually sharing my games with you.  Publishing games seems to be a long and slooooooow process.

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