My Session at the Great Ideas Conference 2013
This year’s Great Ideas Conference will be held March 10-12, 2013 at The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, CO. I am especially excited for this tenth anniversary, because I will be co-presenting “Next Generation Learning: GAME ON! The Power of Online Games and Why Associations are Playing Along” with Bill Schankel, Senior Director of Marketing of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers. This conference has always been one of my favorites, as not only do I get to present on a topic that intrigues me, but furthermore, I can connect with peers and hear the “Great Ideas” of others.
Highlights of the conference this year include “Two Fascinating and Brilliant General Sessions”. Sally Hogshead will be presenting at the Opening Session. She is a New York Times best-selling author and NBC’s Today Show Commentator, and will be discussing how to develop a fascinating brand. The Closing Session will be led by Simon Bailey, a thought leader and author who will help you transition from average to brilliant. The Great Ideas Conference also holds education sessions that range from Creativity Stations and Photo Sessions, to Mobile Playgrounds and Micro-Skills Sessions.
Bill Schankel and I have decided to tackle the topic of online games, and the power that they hold in the association realm. Games seem to have an unmatched ability to create and unite a community. Associations can capitalize on this trend by using online games to help recruit new members and spark the next generation’s interest in their profession. We hope that this session helps others learn from our organization’s successful venture into this area, and furthermore helps clarify what contributing factors one should consider when developing and deploying a game-based learning initiative at his/her own organization.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson and Jillian Bichanich. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
Earlier this month, I previewed a talk at the Games+Learning+Society Conference 8.0 at the University of Wisconsin. Jody Clarke-Midura and Jennifer Groff have since given their much anticipated talk titled “Formal Game-Based Assessments: The Challenge and Opportunity of Building Next Generation Assessments” and it is now available to watch online here. I think they make some important and realistic points about the future of game design in education, especially when it comes to using games in educational testing.
Clarke-Midura and Groff laid out the pitfalls facing innovations in game-based assessments as well as their promise. They also provided two examples of current game-based assessments which blend the methodology necessary for a reliable assessment as well as the engaging and creative elements of game design that are just as important.
One prominent example presented was a game-based assessment which tested middle-school age children on critical thinking, research and evidence collection. In the game-world, students used an avatar to navigate through a virtual world to solve a problem—they need to figure out through research and evidence collection why a frog was mutated to have six legs. They could be assessed based on their actions and conclusion in the virtual world.
Clarke-Midura and Groff don’t want actual games to be assessments though. Instead, they want to take aspects of game design and incorporate it into building more effective assessments. That crossroads promises better assessments, but also poses issues for both game developers and those who measure and evaluate psychometrics.
It may seem counterintuitive to draw from games—which are dynamic environments—to design assessments, which must be tightly contained environments to ensure standards are consistent. However, there are parts of game design which should be incorporated into tests, Clarke-Midura said, such as
- Clear goals
- Freedom to experiment
- Freedom of identity
There is some tension in actually incorporating game-based assessments in schools. Clarke-Midura explained that Race to the Top, a program put forth by the Obama administration to foster learning in K-12 public schools, has provided funding to schools, which in turn means there is more interest in game-based assessments. However, there has also been some hesitation—while teachers and administrators see game-based assessment’s value, they are hesitant for it to become mainstream and widely-used even though the assessments would work on existing technology.
But why make the switch from pencil and paper tests to game-based ones? Clarke-Midura said multiple choice tests—which are widely used in Wisconsin to test fourth and eighth grade competency in many different subject areas—show proficiency in facts, but do not show proficiency in reasoning, research and critical thinking. A game-based assessment can measure actions in a virtual world to measure those cognitive cornerstones.
An Expert’s Opinion
Clark Aldrich, author of the Complete Guide to Games and Simulations is a thought leader on how scenario based test questions could add to the validity of high stakes tests like the SAT. I was very curious as to his reaction to the GLS Session on Game based Assessments.
Click the play button below to listen to the interview.
Clark Aldrich Interview – Thoughts on Formal Game-Based Assessments
The traditional multiple-choice assessment has some flaws, and people are turning to computer game models to try to not only fill some of the gaps, Aldrich said, but also to test individuals in different professional and academic spheres on many different and complex topics that traditional tests cannot.
“As far as game-based assessments go, the future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed. We’re already seeing assessment models that are pushing this boundary. But it brings up a lot of questions. In this example that we saw [in the presentation], one of their big takeaways is a computer game is necessarily a teaching mechanism. Inherent in almost any computer game design is learning. With this kind of academic assessment, you don’t have the option of teaching them anything. There’s no feedback. All the cues that we’re so used to aren’t there. It’s a whole new way of designing an interactive experience and has the ability to capture a lot of information,” he said.
“[We should move] toward this kind of assessment because we can do it now. It’s the simple reality of, if we can measure more kinds of things, measure them faster, come to conclusions faster and feedback the information on what we’ve learned faster, and at less cost, then we ought to do it. It simply makes sense to do. Simply putting it online has benefits, but online testing also has the potential to tap into more advanced assessments and applications, like the example in the presentation,” Aldrich said.
Aldrich said the presentation was important simply because people need to start thinking about game-based assessments and their possibilities, especially in their nascent stages of development. The efforts at game-based assessments definitely indicate that there is a long road ahead for them to be all they can be, however, the first attempts are nonetheless impressive.
The other opportunity is moving away from putting people on a bell-curve when results are measured. Instead say, “What are you good at, and what are you bad at, and what are you good at in ways other people are not?” Future analysis wouldn’t look at a percentile, but rather what people are uniquely good at compared to others, and how can we design a customized curriculum, not how you stack up against your peers.
Don’t miss Clark at the Serious Play Conference in Redmond, WA from August 21 to August 23, where dozens of speakers will talk about the future of gaming, education and industry.
Jody Clarke-Midura is a learning scientist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, currently heading the Virtual Assessment Research Group. The group’s research focuses on designing and studying virtual assessments as a way to gauge critical thinking and inquiry in scientific disciplines.
Jennifer Groff is currently the Director of Learning and Program Development for the Learning Games Network. She has also worked and researched at the MIT Education Arcade as well as the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She has multiple graduate degrees—one in educational technology, and another in neuroscience in education. Her research has a specialized focus concerning how the crossroads of education, technology and design work together and are evolving.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson, Karissa Schuchardt and Adelaide Blanchard. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
Leaders and top researchers in the videogame industry will gather tomorrow and Friday for the eighth annual Games+Learning+Society Conference, held at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union. The videogame landscape has changed both in technical capacity and creative development, and videogame and learning experts will discuss how these innovations can be applied to learning and education systems.
I’ve never been shy about the fact that I think a well-made game can teach players skills and concepts that translate to everyday life. Videogames cannot be dismissed as child’s play– multiple speakers at GLS 8.0 will make a compelling case that popular gaming systems and games themselves can change the way people learn and elicit problem solving skills in the gamer.
If you’re curious about the speakers but can’t make it down to the UW campus, the GLS 8.0 is streaming many of the presentations online the same day they are given. You can find them here to tune in.
There are some fascinating developments coming down the pipeline, including a presentation on potential game designs to teach playing musical instruments to a mobile app game which may help people quit smoking. But not every topic of study is on something in the early stages of development: Some researchers and experts will be offering academic takes on the educational merits and possibilities of well-known games like World of Warcraft and popular systems like the Xbox Kinect.
What would a conference about games be without, well, games? GLS 8.0 has an educational arcade conference-goers can peruse during the day on Friday. The arcade hosts a bevy of games, most of which take a creative approach to teaching and exploring complex topics. For example, “You Make Me Sick” lets students play as bacteria to show how infectious diseases spread, and “Crazy Plant Shop” lets players “build” fictional, wacky plants to demonstrate recessive and dominant genes.
While I won’t be in attendance at GLS 8.0, I’ll be keeping tabs on the event, especially Jody Clark-Midura and Jennifer Groff’s talk on Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Memorial Union about how testing systems relate to games, titled, “Formal Game-Based Assessments: The challenge and opportunity of building next generation assessments.” It is one thing to have a well-designed and stimulating game aimed at learning, but it is another to develop a system that gauges how effective players are learning. The speakers will posit some ideas as to how to connect effective games with equally effective assessments. You can watch the cast here.
Managing eLearning is written by the Blog team at Web Courseworks which includes Jon Aleckson, Karissa Schuchardt and Adelaide Blanchard. Ideas and concepts are originated and final copy reviewed by Jon Aleckson.
The Reports of Flash’s Death are Slightly Exaggerated: Implications for eLearning Managers
Over the last few weeks, Flash has been quite the technology water-cooler topic. Some people are predicting the end of Flash entirely with the looming promises of HTML5. Don’t forget to take into account where these reports are coming from. Many of the exaggerated claims of Flash’s uselessness come from pundits with an agenda and those talking about web site pages not eLearning initiatives. Adobe recently announced it will no longer develop the Flash Player for mobile devices. Does this mean Flash has seen its last day? Hardly. Well, at least not in the short-term.
If you read blog posts like that of Tony Karrer carefully, he calls the end of Flash “a long and slow death” and that we are years away from its ultimate demise. It’s true. Flash currently serves as a plug-in proprietary technology that allows for advanced functionality like interactivity and animation within the confines of HTML and its extensions. As noted in the timeline below, HTML5 isn’t projected to be fully developed until 2014 and global research agency Millward Brown reports figures that suggest Adobe’s Flash is available on 99% of desktops in mature markets. It’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
In recent years, smartphones and tablets have driven the craze to create a language that works on both desktops and smartphones. HTML5 provides this promise of an open standard with capabilities to create full games natively within the desktop or mobile browser without the need for Flash.
With all of this in mind, the decision to move away from Flash as a manager of eLearning is a complex one. If you’re concerned about what to do, here’s my take: Consider the market demand, company resources, and the technology’s functionality.
What bloggers have avoided in their rampant push for HTML5 is recognition of the corporate IT stranglehold on Internet standards. Corporate IT departments run very conservatively. Remember how long it took for corporate IT professionals to approve Flash? Many corporate desktop users’ computers are ruled by an iron fist and there will be slow migration to workplace browsers using HTML5. The majority of corporately controlled computers in use are using older versions of Internet Explorer and HTML 5 is not supported on Internet Explorer 6, 7, or 8.
eLearning is a dominant fixture in the corporate world. Since a lot of self-paced eLearning modules are created for viewing on a desktop, there is a lot of life left in Flash even without mobile device capabilities. For many compliance-type training courses, desktop delivery has proven to be most effective for their content and controversy over whether employees should be required to utilize their own mobile devices or tablets to complete training on their own time will keep it around for a while. Before making the jump to HTML5, consider how responsive your core client market is to the change and forecast impending demands for the future.
If you’re a manager like me, you’re working with employees who are Flash developers and you want that technology to live as long as it can while you’ve got that talent in your arsenal. Joab Jackson, author of “Adobe Flash vs. HTML5” quotes IDC software analyst Al Hilwa as saying, “The old adage goes, the best language to use is the language you know.” Flash developers are ubiquitous and the sheer number of them will ensure our teams create using Flash for at least the short term.
When it comes to eLearning, most of us are working with finite resources. Therefore, when looking at how long Flash will live, you have to determine how economical it is to make the switch HTML5. Don’t underestimate the initial costs of training programmers and converting legacy eLearning projects. Conversions take resources and will not be a priority in this economy unless driven by specific special projects like outfitting a board of directors with iPad compatible eLearning resources.
Most importantly, for those of us promoting engaging, interactive eLearning, current capabilities of HTML5 to recreate the interactivity of Flash, puts us back in the Internet Stone Age of 1995. While projections of its capabilities when it is completed in 2014 certainly provide more creative freedom for developers, it still pales in comparison to Flash capabilities as it exists today. In terms of interactive learning activities, it will be a while till HTML5 is a viable competitor with Flash in this regard. HTML5 is just not ready today as a tool to build interactive components like simulated communities, branching engines, and video game-like activities.
The good news is eLearning managers don’t need to make a decision on this today. As HTML5 is further developed, I believe the costs and benefits will become clear, especially to developers. Regardless, Samantha Amjadali quotes Adobe Evangelist Paul Burnett her article “Why the Web Needs HTML5” who says, “Flash will always sit alongside HTML in order to add more engagement than is available in HTML and CSS.” HTML5 will make things much more interesting for developers, but until it can outperform competing plug-in technologies, it won’t be able to replace Flash.
The Road to HTML5 – An excerpt from “Why the web needs HTML5” by Samantha Amjadali
For the first time, simple text documents can be linked to and accessed easily by anyone connected to the internet from anywhere in the world. Before this, only documents on the same computer could be linked to and access involved typing commands rather than simply pointing and clicking. Basic HTML also included the ability to add bullet lists, block quotes and pre-formatted text. A previous document access system, Gopher, was in existence at the time. It was far more rigid and hierarchical than HTML and remains in use by a small group of enthusiasts.
HTML+ (late 1991-94)
Tables are introduced, as is the ability to create questionnaires that can be filled in. Mathematical equations can now be created natively (though this feature is fully replaced in 1998). Large documents can be split into small modules to enable faster load times. HTML+ is later folded into HTML 3.
HTML 2 (1995)
Work on HTML 2 started long before HTML+. It combined HTML, HTML+ and various other tweaks in the intervening three years. HTML 2 marks the introduction of server side-image maps (allowing hotlinks to be created on images).
HTML 3.2 (January 1997)
The proprietary blink and marquee tags are dropped but other proprietary tags that are by now in common use are officially folded into standard HTML. Integration with style sheets (a separate, though allied, technology), which allow more efficient and complex module-based layout, are also brought into standard HTML for the first time and footnotes and forms are improved.
HTML 4 (December 1997)
Version 4 doesn’t bring many huge changes to HTML other than a number of browser-specific tags being made standard as well as support for other languages. Disability support is introduced, as is extended handling of scripting and reworked style sheets.
Work on HTML 5 started as far back as 2004 but it wasn’t known as that until 2007. Work on HTML5 is expected to be completed in 2014; however, as it’s being described by HTML5 editor Ian Hickson as a ”living standard”, even that target may be optimistic. HTML5 brings with it the ability to display audio and video natively within a browser without plug-ins as well as dynamic rendering of 2D shapes. It also features improved accessibility, security and forms.
Read what else Samantha Amjadali has to say in her article “Why the web needs HTML5” online.
Read what else Joab Jackson has to say in his article “Adobe Flash vs. HTML5” online.
As the summer winds down, so does my conference schedule. However, I had the opportunity at the end of August to attend the Serious Play Conference at the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA. The event was a great mix of academics and practitioners, all excited to discuss the very latest on game development and design.
I was thrilled to hear from such renowned developers like WILL Interactive who demonstrated the capabilities of video-based interactive education. The top-quality demo showed how developing content with high production value truly enhances the learning experience. Pearson and Microsoft also had strong showings at the conference. Their industry experience enhanced the discussion on promoting games and simulations as vehicles for learning.
As a speaker at the conference, I had the opportunity to lead sessions on “Rigorous Methodologies and Skill Sets for the Simulation/Game Development Process” and “MindMeld – Collaboration with SME’s and the Value of Rigorous Processes.” Both discussions gave participants the opportunity to explore how collaboration within the development process leads to a better final product.
Each year at the event, serious games are selected as medal winners at the International Serious Play Awards. The program recognizes the outstanding work of the top twenty project submissions with corporate, military, healthcare and school/at home learning titles. I am very proud that four of this year’s project winners came from Wisconsin. The Play True Challenge and Distraction Dodger projects were both submitted by Web Courseworks.
Silver: Play True Challenge, World Anti-Doping Agency (Games for Good)
Silver: Emergency Birth, Engender Games Group Lab – University of Wisconsin-Whitewater (Games for Good)
Bronze: Distraction Dodger, Web Courseworks (Education)
Bronze: Virulent, Morgridge Institute for Research (At Home Learning)
Check out the rest of the award winning projects: http://www.seriousplayconference.com/2011/08/.
I wanted to take a moment to give credit where it is due and say congratulations to the Morgridge Institute for Research at the University of Wisconsin – Madison for the release of their new game, Virulent. One of our staff members at Web Courseworks, took it upon himself to write up a review on it for the latest post on the Games Can Teach blog. If you have a few moments, please take a look at the game review.
I am thrilled to announce that I have recently had the privilege of being invited to speak on an expert panel at the International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH) on January 24th. The topic is regarding how serious games can play a role in healthcare education, both on a consumer and CME level. Read more…
The Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin has been supporting youth health education programs through their Children’s Health Education Center (CHEC) for the past twelve years. In 2004 the Center started the www.bluekids.org program to focus their efforts on reaching youth, educators, and parents via the Internet. Over 12,000 students participated in CHEC’s teacher-facilitated game-based learning curriculum last semester alone. When tasked with quantifying the impact of interactive web-based programs on youth behavior and attitudes, CHEC and researchers at the Children’s Hospital have come up with very positive preliminary results. Watch a video of one teacher’s experience with the program.
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. Read more…
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. Read more…