Many professional associations are taking a second look at eLearning for revenue generation or for recruitment appeal to the next generation to take interest in their profession. Today Web Courseworks’ games and simulations group released an educational game on the Internet casual game circuit. The game Gridlock Buster is designed to engage and motivate teens and young adults to seek out more information about traffic engineering. The Institute of Traffic Studies (ITS) at the University of Minnesota funded the game to supplement a classroom-based summer camp curriculum. Associations responsible for increasing teenager interest in a specific occupations should visit Krongregate and play.
I’ll confess that I may not have been at the ASTD conference every day this past week, but I do have some impressions of the event I’d like to share. I was pleasantly surprised at the large turn-out (unofficial estimates are somewhere around 8,000), which was comprised of a large contingent of international attendees and probably a good amount of people networking for a job. This was my first visit to ICE since the DotCom Era. I sensed some of the same vibrancy of those heady days when eLearning exhibits reached several stories high. Yes, the eLearning folks are getting their swagger back, especially newcomers like Citrix’s “GoToTraining Beta.” That’s right, you might start seeing trainers chain-sawing their flip charts on new TV commercials. I was a little disappointed that ASTD decision makers, whoever you are, did not put the eLearning vendors together. It would be nice next year if post-secondary education booths targeting unemployed trainers also had their own little section.
I am helping a game-based learning client work on a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant (thank you for the tip, Anne Derryberry). My thoughts are connected to our Games Can Teach blog’s on-going discussions concerning the definition of game-based learning and the different types of gaming as well as the research needed. To be sure, there have been ample grants to universities for various studies on the aspects of video games and learning which has provided evidence based research to act on. This interest in video games and learning has had an influence on my practice. We recently developed a new version of an ATOD prevention curriculum, which in 2004 used arcade games to reinforce the lecture style slide shows. In the reinvented version, our team embedded the learning within one exploratory game that utilized video game design mechanics to promote higher level thinking on the part of students. Promoting higher level thinking (see Bloom’s Taxonomy) is a key differentiator between edutainment and immersive or serious educational games.
When you attend a conference you expect the keynote speeches to deliver inspiration. Training Magazine’s conference held this week in Atlanta did not disappoint. In fact I found myself laughing loudly and crying softly while listening to Tuesday’s keynotes.
First a note about economic impact: Yes, attendance was down, especially pre-conference participation. The headline of the Show Daily magazine read: “Game On or Game Over” Oops…double meaning? My article on project managing game and simulation development certainly came out at a pretty inopportune time.
Did the first eLearning Conference of 2009 suffer the same fate as the consumer electronics show in December? Were the numbers down? I asked the conference administrators several times what the attendance numbers were at the annual TechKnowledge conference held last week at the Las Vegas Rio Convention Center. The answer was repeatedly a suspicious “We don’t know yet.” My favorite part of the conference? Tony Karrer’s keynote speech on day two.
A quick search of Wikipedia finds that we need to do some work documenting and updating the definition of “serious game” and “game-based learning” — at least in Wikipedia. Consider this post a call for “all hands on deck!”
The number of groups, institutions and individuals working on the subject of games and learning is growing. Academia has been studying video games and learning for the better part of two decades. Most academics would agree with Wikipedia’s definition of “serious games.” I also like the cryptic “game-based learning” definition that currently exists in Wikipedia: “Game-based learning is a branch of serious games”. My understanding of a geeky separation factor between the two has been that video games are built with complex “game engines” usually costing millions, while casual games or “edutainment” games have been built in Shockwave, Flash, and Java (to mention a few programming languages) sometimes at no real monetary cost. According to Jim Gee, the commercial video game by its very need to competitively succeed in the marketplace has evolved into a strong pedagogical machine. The video game must be challenging and that requires continuous learning (“keep the gamer at the edge of his/her competency level”). I am personally more interested in “game-based learning” (a definition that needs the most work on Wikipedia) since as a subset of the “serious game,” it generally refers to games built for the purpose of teaching a body of knowledge. The eLearning Guild in its research document, “Immersive Learning Simulations”, attempts to group both games and simulations. The guild audience primarily consists of corporate eLearning employees. Here is a brief listing of what might be included in a Wikipedia definition of “game-based learning” throwing a wide net of potential constituents involved in teaching something using games or simulation, however “casual”: