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Educational Gaming for Free Spirited Skeptics Theory and Challenges of Pedagogical Games. May 8, 2012 Elizabeth Pyatt Who Am I?. Elizabeth Pyatt Instructional Designer Penn State since 2000 Solitaire addict, just brought Wii

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educational gaming for free spirited skeptics theory and challenges of pedagogical games
Educational Gaming for Free Spirited SkepticsTheory and Challenges of Pedagogical Games

May 8, 2012

Elizabeth Pyatt

who am i
Who Am I?
  • Elizabeth Pyatt
    • Instructional Designer
      • Penn State since 2000
    • Solitaire addict, just brought Wii
      • Minesweeper, Puzzles, PacMan, Space Invaders, Missile Command, Jeopardy
  • Educational Gaming Commons
  • What’s a Game?
    • Does there have to be a winner?
  • Potential for Learning
    • PBL, motivation/affect, teams…
  • Skeptics Corner
    • Leading to “What to Avoid”
  • First Steps
but first a contest
But first a contest
  • How many games will I mention?
    • Need names plus count
  • There are some prizes on the line.
  • Audience will determine accuracy of list
what s a game
What’s a Game?
  • Favorite games (any genre)
  • What do they have in common?
official characteristics
Official Characteristics
  • Set of rules/restrictions
    • Semi-arbitrary (e.g. no hands on the ball)
    • Context is “Not Real”
  • Scoring Method
  • Competition (& a “Winner”?)
    • Many expect there to be
    • Sometimes you beat the computer…or yourself
  • Successful games are “fun”
  • There’s some candy on the line…
interesting parameters
Interesting Parameters
  • Electronic vs. Non-Electronic
  • Team vs. Individual
  • What Skills are Being Practiced?
      • Math, Word, Strategy, Dancing, Music
      • Meditation, Building, Flying, Farming, Sales
  • Time investment
      • Casual (short & sweet)
      • Non-casual (lots of investment, high reward)
  • ± Background Narrative
  • Games vs. Puzzles vs. Toys
      • How many outcomes?
educational possibilities
Educational Possibilities
  • Games invoke a variety of pedagogical principles such as…
group learning
Group Learning
  • World of Warcraft
    • Discuss strategy, plan missions
    • Make trades
    • Compile notes
    • Practice English grammar
  • Econ in Outer Space
    • A game in which students build a modern economy from scratch post spacecraft wreck
      • ECON 201, UNC Greensboro
  • What’s it like to be another person?
    • “Warrior” is a common role BUT
    • Business Administrator
      • Sims & ECON 102 Sims (Campus)
    • Bucket of Beans (S. Pacific Reciprocity)
      • Players learn the value of “cashing in” favors
    • StarPower
      • Establish an arbitrary upper class via trades
      • This class can establish new rules
        • BEWARE
pbl challenge based learning
PBL/Challenge Based Learning
  • Games are often won by solving problems
    • AKA “Quests” or “Missions”
  • Educational Quests
    • Beer Distribution Game (used in Smeal)
    • Oregon Trail
      • Rare educational game that was a commercial success
simulation game genres
Simulation Game Genres
  • God Game
    • Game in which players control parameter of universe (e.g. SimGames)
  • History Sims
    • Age of Empires
    • Trial of Lizzie Borden (U Mass)
  • Science Simulations
    • Flight Simulator, Spore

Played as part of HPA 101

leveling up
Leveling Up

Pac Man Maze levels

Pac Man 5D which presents a variable 3D grid. Invented by a Russian gamer.

mastery learning
Mastery Learning
  • Achieve Minimal Score before moving to next Lesson
    • AKA complete level 1 before level 2
  • Scaffolding
    • Each level introduces new element
    • Adding a touch of difficulty adds interest
      • Too little is boring
      • Too much causes gamers to quit
      • Zone of Proximal Development
  • Unlocking in Games
    • Leveling up unlocks new tools (reward)
      • New equation? New diagram?
drill and kill
“Drill and Kill”
  • Games encourage practice
    • And automaticity of skills
    • Such as pattern recognition
    • But with fun graphics & music
see also
See also
  • Math drills
    • More fun with tiny angry scientists?
      • Algebra Meltdown (
  • Vocabulary and spelling
    • More fun as Hangman, crossword?
  • Identification
affect motivation
  • Games can add motivation to
    • Chores (Chore Wars – competitive chore points)
    • Jogging (Nike Plus) – badges, leaderboard
    • Self-Improvement (SuperBetter)
skeptics corner
Skeptics Corner
  • Games “better than reality”
    • Aren’t we supposed to be helping students deal with reality?
    • YES…however
      • Gamers often good at tackling real world challenges and learn real world skills
      • Reflection can help them see how…
just games
Just Games?
  • What about
    • Active Star Trek fan communities…
      • Or Dorothy Dunnett readers
    • Knitters, needlepointers, metal workers
    • Toastmasters
    • “Stovetop” league? Monday Morning quarterback?
gaming the system
“Gaming the System”
  • AKA Cheating
  • Games
    • Cheat codes, destroying weaker opponents
    • Some socially OK, others not
  • In School
    • Academic Dishonesty
    • BECAUSE…
when games are high stakes
When games are high stakes…

Survive annihilation. Win free nail polish for life?

can we still have fun
Can we still have fun?
  • Low Stakes vs High Stakes
    • Games (low stakes) + reflection (higher)
  • Students do enjoy
    • Change from lecture/quiz
    • Leader Boards (when low stakes)
    • Games if logistics not too burdensome
    • A certain level of goofiness or joie de vivre
  • Game may teach crucial skill
    • So maybe we do require it anyway
can we make failure an option
Can we make Failure an Option?
  • Games teach via mistakes
    • Because they allow resets
      • Gamers comfortable experimenting
    • Can we use more “maximum scores”?
    • Can we give hints
      • Maybe with minor points deductions
thinking game goals
Thinking Game Goals
  • Games can allow for:
    • Strategic/Systems thinking
    • Experience as a different person
    • Add motivation
    • Practice of low level skills/knowledge
  • Games don’t
    • Convey content (except in the “narrative”)
oregon trail
Oregon Trail
  • Goal: Teach about life on the Oregon Trail

Life on the Oregon Trail is very hazardous, requires careful planning, and crosses a variety of terrain

quick starts
Quick Starts
  • Casual Games
    • Hangman/Peril/Typo
    • PowerPoint Templates
    • ANGEL games (crossword/match)
  • Gamification
    • Badges? Quests? Avatars?
  • Case Studies (gussied up)?
    • Many avatar/graphics tools
fun play
Fun Play
  • Find the challenge “sweet spot”
    • Not too easy or too difficult
    • Challenging gun for faculty ≠ fun for students
  • Allow for goofiness
    • Graphics, sound effects, puns
  • Allow for some “low stakery”
    • Can activities be replayed?
what do you mean goofy
What do you mean “goofy”?
  • Many use great cartoons but do we
    • Show warriors fleeing the scene after a mistranslation?
    • Simulate explosions in engineering?
    • Turn ourselves into an avatar?
    • Turn homework into “quests” or “missions?
      • Add game graphics to assignments?
    • Allow students to earn points towards late assignment submissions?
    • Unlock “power” equations? Tools?
explaining functions w subs
Explaining Functions w/Subs
  • Using cash register buttons as metaphors for algebraic functions in Math 21

Starring Deb Mirdamadi, Mont Alto Campus

today we learned
Today we learned
  • Games can be good learning environments
    • Problem solving, skills practice, collaboration
  • Games have many facets
  • Games in school ≠ games in the wild
    • But hopefully can be fun & educational
  • Gaming does require a mental readjustment for instructors
    • But there are many paths to victory
who am i1
Who Am I?
  • Pragmatrix
    • Super Powers
      • Master of Learning Objective Congruence
      • Assessor of Pedagogical Games
      • Explorer of New Technologies
      • Queen of “Keeping it Real”
some references
Some References
  • McGonigal, Jane
    • Reality is Broken: Why Games Make us Better.
  • James Paul Gee
    • What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy
  • Koster, Ralph
    • A Theory of Fun
  • Bartle, Richard (player types)
    • Hearts, Clubs, Diamonds, Spades: Players who Suit MUDs
contest results
Contest Results
  • How many games did I mention?
    • Must provide names