I was pretty skeptical about this class after my initial skimming of the wiki page. I understood the technology aspect, but could not figure out for the life of me how this would relate to my education. After this weeks’ assignment, I am a little more assured that this course will benefit my teaching, but now I am more nervous about what all is supposed to take place over the next few weeks.
My first task was to Google serious games to get an initial definition. It was interesting to learn that they are not just created for entertainment. I enjoyed the TED talks about gaming and their importance to the real world. Jane McGonigal states that these games “gives players the means to save worlds and the incentive to learn the habits of heroes.” I then tried to determine what the difference was between serious games and educational games. I have discovered that they are one in the same. Certain serious games ask the gamer to try accomplishing tasks while at the same time mastering some educational concept.
Because I teach math, I was curious about serious games that concentrated on mastering math concepts. I wondered if they were still considered serious games if they didn’t have a task of saving the world. Since the simple definition considers it to be any game that is designed for a primary purpose, I think almost any educational game would be considered a serious game (their purpose is to educate). I remembered a point that Jane made in one of her TED talks about how gamers are never depressed or disappointed after playing a game, even if they lose. Games are a way of getting away from the stress of their everyday lives. I thought this could also be true of my students who have difficulty with math and have come to dislike it. If they could play a game that was task oriented yet still helped them practice and master the skills they are having difficulty learning, then they might begin to like learning math. So, I searched the Internet and found a website that listed a few educational serious games (http://www.seriousgamesdirectory.com/proj/education/). Many of these games were at the secondary or college level, and were available on various formats including iPads, iPhones, Android, PCs, MACs and online. These games teach various skills such as math, reading, social studies, science, and business.
I also came across a couple of other interesting websites/serious games. Math Snacks are small interactive animations or mini-games that present math in a different way. It focuses on core math concepts that students should know in grades 6 through 8. They are available in many different formats, which allows students to complete their “snacks” anywhere (http://mathsnacks.com/snacks.php).
ThUMP is a serious game that covers many different math concepts from algebra to calculus, making them much more fun to learn. It is a silver medal winner of the International Serious play Awards Competition. It was developed by expert educatirs and master mathematicians for high school and college students. It is available on the Android, iPhone or iPad (http://seriousgamesmarket.blogspot.com/2013/09/serious-games-for-ultimate-math-practice.html#sthash.vPcnQcuF.dpuf).
As I was reviewing these sites/games, I thought of a website that I have used with my own students. At www.sumdog.com, teachers can register their schools in contests against other schools. My middle school class was invited to compete in a regional competition in southwest Alaska. Each student was given their own login information. They competed by playing different games and earning points as a team. My students loved the “competition” and continue to play games at the Sumdog website. You do not have to join a contest to play games at the website.
I am really interested to read the blogs from my fellow educators to read about their opinions of serious games and to explore the games that they have discovered.