I was doing a little research on online schools and I stumbled on edX. It’s a website where universities can put some of their courses up and people can either sign up as paying customers or free evaluators of the content.
The course I was most intrigued by was the Design and Development of Educational Games. This has been an interesting course (it’s only been going for a month or so), and has exposed me to some excellent games and the current thinking of how we learn from games.
Personally, when I first started playing educational games they were ‘sneaky’. Games like Granny’s Garden didn’t say “Hey, we’re going to be teaching you logic now” or “This is a fun way of getting you to read,” it was just an adventure that did all that stuff implicitly. But since then, educational games have become much more explicit “now, we are going to drill your times tables” or “now I will test you on your general knowledge.” If you already knew it: the game was fun. If you didn’t: too bad for you.
Games are coming full circle, back to teaching the concepts through play rather than rewarding children who already understand the concepts with play.
One knock-on effect of this course is that while I was teaching my class about ecology, I looked around for games that would teach them the concepts and reinforce what we had done in class. A student suggested that it might be fun to make their own games so that is a new summative assessment for the group. They present for play testing tomorrow.
I’ve also been developing a game of my own. It is very much in the prototype phase but I think it has potential. It is called Survival! and it’s a card game to teach about natural selection.
This course has taught me how to help students make their own games. Most groups have opted for a quiz format which is perhaps not so surprising: beginners in a topic do not have a conceptual framework sturdy enough to make complex games.
In summary, I recommend trying out this course (or some of the similar ones available on edX), I have enjoyed myself enormously so far.