A Call to Tinkering

It’s been a busy summer for me this year: William and I were married four weeks ago, and when we returned I began working for the reDiscover Center’s Pasadena expansion of their Tinkering Camp project.

The idea behind tinkering camp is to teach kids to use tools, give them access to materials and help them generate ideas, and then just let them do their thing. Continue reading

Gaming Moral Complexity

Friday’s terrorist attack on Paris will likely, as others have before it, result in a rash of violent crimes against Muslims, as well as ratchet up tensions in Europe surrounding the many refugees seeking asylum from Syria. Many Europeans will be, quite justifiably, frightened and angry, and trying to find a way to express and cope with this fear and anger.

As a species, we like moral certainty; we are comforted by a worldview that can easily separate good from evil (and good decisions from bad), and it is in our nature to gravitate to those points of view whenever possible. It can be especially difficult under circumstances like these determine where our worldviews protect us, and where they put us — or others — in harm’s way. Continue reading

Why Context Matters in Games for Learning

sad llama with tee shirt that says I wasn't good at math

Information requires context in order to be meaningful.

From this idea follow a couple of points worth discussing: (1) that games can provide something crucial to the learning experience and (2), that the choice of context in learning games matters enormously.

The other day, I saw one of those shareable quotes on Facebook – a particularly whiny one – to this effect: Another day and I still haven’t used that algebra they made me learn in high school. Apparently you can also pay money to have this sentiment printed on a tee shirt for you. I remember hearing a lot of the same sort of whining in school, with students wondering why they needed to learn algebra (among other things), and it seems like some people, long after graduating, are still nurturing a lingering resentment for what seemed like a waste of time when they were 16.

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STEM in America: Data, Approaches, and Questions (Part III)

Lego women scientists

Part III: Strategies

In Part II, we continued to look at data about students in higher education and what they choose to study; we saw that, although the overall student population for all of higher education became more similar from 2002 to 2012 to the overall national population of 18-24 year-olds, student populations in engineering programs are not following the same trend.

In this section, we’ll look at two programs trying to address and remedy representational disparities in STEM fields. Though one targets K-12 students and the other post-baccalaureates, both identify similar sources for, and solutions to, the diversity problem in STEM education.

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Are We Overlooking Paper Games?

As an educator, I’ve sometimes had the feeling that technology in school was an end in itself rather than a means to better learning experiences. Perhaps you’ve been there, too.

Technology absolutely has its place in learning. A big place, even, especially when it comes to digital games. But I’ve had two occasions this week to think about the place of games that don’t require modern technology, and to consider that they might be undervalued in the exploding field of educational gaming.

Data Theory Play llamas holding board game pieces Continue reading

Choose Better Games: 3 Questions to Ask Before You Play

You’re thinking about using a game in your program.

You’ve probably already evaluated that game based on its coverage of the material students need to learn. That is, after all, why we want games in our classrooms – because they engage students with material that otherwise might not seem so accessible.

Cartoon of Ajax and Achilles playing a board game
Age-old questions.

But don’t stop there – games are more than gamified learning content. To get the most out of using games in your program, push your evaluation further with these three questions, designed to probe a game’s potential for giving players a deeper, more engaging learning experience.

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Convincing Data: What Makes Learning Games Work Better? [Infographic]

Do you need to make a case for using learning games in your classroom or school? Data is your friend. Though studies on the benefits of learning with games are still scarce, the Gates-Foundation-funded GlassLab (“Glass” is for Games and Learning Assessment) managed to put together a terrific meta-analysis of 69 studies measuring the effects of digital games on learning, involving a total of 6,868 unique participants. And it’s available to the public! This infographic sums up the principal findings:

GlassLab Meta-Analysis games and learning effects study infographic

Not only does the meta-analysis ask whether or not games have an effect on learning outcomes (they do), but it also looks at some of the factors that make games better or worse at helping you teach. I highly recommend reading the study summary on their website – it’s well-written, and the methodology is clearly explained, along with many subtleties the infographic doesn’t convey.