Serious Games – Blog 1 #etlead

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.

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10 thoughts on “Serious Games – Blog 1 #etlead

  1. kerigray2010

    Hi Brandi,

    I am also a math teacher in southeast Alaska and I too am curious about how serious games can help my math students. I enjoyed looking at the different serious games that you posted about. I especially liked ThUMP, I will probably download it and see if it would be appropriate for my students to use to practice their math skills.

    One thing that I worry about is how much time it will take to research, play, plan, assess and then implement a serious game in the classroom. Do you have any ideas or thoughts on this topic? You said you use Sumdog in your classroom. How long did it take for you and your students to learn the program. How do you assess your students when they are using the program?

    I found an article on the difference between an App and a Game http://www.edutopia.org/groups/games-learning/679676?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=post&utm_campaign=community-DifferenceGamesApps-new that you might be interested in.

    Thanks, Keri

    Reply
    1. bsportie Post author

      Keri,

      Sumdog is a great website in that it has lessons and assessments sort of built into the program. It took my students about an hour to figure out how the website worked and its objective. They really liked playing the games to earn the points and upgrades for their characters. My school was invited to participate in a contest, so we jumped right into that in the beginning. After the contest was over (it lasted a week), my students were hooked and now like to play whenever they have free time. As a teacher, I can go into their accounts and assign games that focus on certain topics. There is also a report that assesses how well the students are doing. The students don’t realize its an assessment tool for me also, they think its just fun games to play.

      Thanks for the article, it was very interesting as I didn’t think there was much of a difference 🙂

      Reply
  2. parrets2014

    Brandi I really appreciate your evaluation of serious games being one in the same as educational games. I have wrestled a bit with the same idea this week. I think one of the big ah-has for me this week is that playing a serious game happens parallel to everyday life. One of the sites I visited stated those playing the games are living in an alternate reality making change in their actual reality (worldwithoutoil.org).

    Reply
    1. bsportie Post author

      Yes, I agree that playing the games really helps you to understand the difference. I have played a couple of serious games myself, and also read some great resources from other students that have helped me to better define a “serious” game. I think going through this whole process is also going to help me better assess the games that I allow my students to play and how they will benefit my students learning.

      Reply
  3. sllambries

    Brandi,

    I really like how you tied the idea of Serious Games to mathematics. I tried to look into the difference between educational and serious games as well. It seems to me, though I am by no means an expert on the subject, that serious games are slightly different than educational games. Many games can be educational without focusing on a serious topic. Here is a website I found helpful: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/06/the-difference-between-games.html
    Also, here is a link for a diagram explaining serious games and gamefication.
    http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2013/06/the-difference-between-games.html (Image taken from: http://playfulpandas.org/)

    According to ‘playfulpandas.org’, “Serious games use RHETORIC to persuade the users about serious issues Rhetoric is a discourse or reasoning to change the opinions of others.” Also, serious games are generally “immersive and require concentrated attention for lengths of time.”

    I am certainly still learning and I think some educational games would be considered serious games, however I question as to whether or not all educational games are serious games.

    Reply
    1. bsportie Post author

      Sara,

      Thank you for the wonderful resources. This really helped me in better understanding what a “serious” game is and its difference to many educational games. I agree with your understanding in how a “serious” game can be education and educational games can be “serious” BUT they are not necessarily one in the same. This will definitely help me in our upcoming week’s assignment.

      Reply
  4. sroleff

    Thank you for your wonderful resources for math games. I am also a math teacher and was wondering how serious gaming could be used with my classes. With the adoption of the Common Core standards, it feels like I am forced to jump from topic to topic with little time available for added activities. As I was searching this week, it was challenging to find serious games that seemed useful for high school level mathematics. Your recommendation for Thump caught my attention because it was one of the few games that catered to the needs of higher level math students. Thank you for bringing that game to my attention. My plan is to download the app and play around with it. Since I am running emulator software that allows me to project my iPad on my Smart board, I can preview it with some of my classes to get student opinions. It may be a great resource for students who need remedial training. Being able to project my iPad screen through my computers multimedia display will make this even easier to show the class.

    One of the sites that I mentioned in my blog (and have used with my classes) is Brainpop.com. The site contains resources for multiple topics and grade levels. The games are very short but are useful for many of the things that are taught in most school systems. There may be some things on that site that you could use in your classrooms as well. Your students may not end up solving the world’s problems but they may become better at solving equations.

    Reply
    1. bsportie Post author

      Scott,

      I also teach secondary math. Please let me know if you try Thump with your students soon, and how they liked it. I am hoping to do the same with my own students, but I am currently on maternity leave, so it will have to wait. Btw, I also came across Brainpop and thought it looked like fun. I believe my middle school students would love this particular website.

      Reply
  5. Thomas

    Brandi,
    Thanks for the post. Thanks for the math games. I think math games are the easiest to find on the internet (wonder why) and you have a great list. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  6. Mrs. Pickrell

    I always really appreciate math games. It just feels right! Perfect practice makes perfect (so says my piano teacher), and fun repetition is the way to do that! Thank you for these links! I will definitely be checking them out!

    Reply

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