By Alix E. Peshette (Cross-posted from http://edtechgoldrush.blogspot.com/)
There is a residual knee-jerk reaction to the idea of kids using computers to play games. It’s the sworn duty of every teacher who has one or more student computers in the room to keep the kid on the computer on-task.
Sure, as educators, we long ago opened our computer time to remedial software and it has had some benefit. However, the digital natives are getting restless and have both the interest and the skills to engage in constructivist learning with computer games. So, where does one find computer games that go beyond remedial into the realm of remarkable? Here are some resources to explore.
Robots, anyone? Technology, programming, science, chemistry and physics all come to together in the learning experience of designing something that moves, competes and wins.
Sodarace - Human and machines create and compete
Sodarace is the online Olympics pitting human creativity against machine learning in a competition to design robots that race over 2D terrains using the Sodaconstructor virtual construction kit.
MeChem- Building Better Bots through Chemistry
How good a bot builder are you? Can you select the right materials for your armor, weapons, power plant, capacitor and coolant to create a male or a female MeCH that can turn other MeCHs to scrap metal? What a way to learn chemistry!
Want the dependability of a downloaded program that offers a wonderful first experience in programming? Welcome to Scratch; free tile-based visual programming software from MIT.
Scratch is a new programming language that makes it easy to create interactive stories, animations, games, music, and art.
It is designed for ages 8 and up to help develop 21st century learning skills. As students create projects, they learn important mathematical and computational ideas, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the process of design. I played with it and really enjoyed how easy it was to program avatars using the visual script blocks.
Along the lines of games that fall into the category of simulation, here are a few offerings:
The Education Arcade has developed an online simulation built around the American Revolution. The supporting materials and projects look engaging and open to creativity. In addition, other simulations are in the development stage.
Nobelprize.org has a gallery of games and simulations based on the Nobel prize-awarded achievements. Students play through games and simulations that test and build their knowledge in physics, chemistry, physiology or medicine, literature, peace and economics.
Games and puzzles comprise a large portion of the online java-script experience. Check out this gem. The Thomas Jefferson Lab National Accelerator Facility has a great K12 Education department with tons of games and puzzles.
So how can a classroom teacher with a few computers make it easy to direct students to selected educational games?
Plan A: Create desktop shortcuts of the web addresses, put them in a folder and place that folder on the student machine desktops. Go to a web page, find a blank spot (avoid images, embedded video, etc.) right-click and select Create Shortcut. Up will pop a window stating that “A shortcut to the current page will be placed on your desktop.” Return to the desktop and harvest all those shortcuts into a folder. Use a flash drive or network drive to put the folder onto the student computers.
Plan B: What if the student computers are “frozen” with some form of software that dumps any changes to the basic image once the machines are turned off? Get a Delicious or FURL account, ask the IT people to unfreeze the computers and place a permanent shortcut to your Delicious or FURL account. Refreeze the machines and just update the web resources in those online accounts.
Plan C: What if Delicous and FURL are blocked by the district filter? Talk to the IT Director and ask that YOUR Delicious or FURL sites are unblocked in the name of educational technology.
Plan D: What if your request falls on deaf ears because the prevailing view is that there are no educational benefits to computer games in the classroom? Beef up your campaign with commentary and research from educational technologists!
Duvergne Smith, Nancy . "Games and Their MIT Makers. Participatory games advance education.." Technology Review May/June 2007 5/15/2007 http://www.technologyreview.com/article/18678/
Shaffer, David Williamson . "Epistemic Games - Building the Future of Education." Epistemic Games. Tuesday August 01st 2006. University of Wisconsin-Madison. http://epistemicgames.org/eg/?cat=28
Jackson, Lorrie . "Sites to See:Online Games." Education World 05/02/2006 http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/sites/sites082.shtml