Fiction on gaming

A couple of new YA fiction books about gaming have recently been published and are must reads for teacher librarians, library staff, teachers, parents and of course young adults themselves.

I recently read and reviewed For the win by Cory Doctorow. Covering a global approach to gaming, much of this book is actually based in fact. It’s quite scary to think that economies are influenced by the invisible and virtual gaming economy and that young adults can earn more money from gaming than their currently parents earn. For the win is available in paperback or ebook format and the ebook download is free. My review is here, thanks to CMIS.

Helen Boelens alerted me to another new book, this one by Salman Rushdie.  Helen explains that “Luka and the Fire of Life makes references to Super Mario and there is a strong connection between the story and the video game.” Information about this book from The Huffington Post is available here and a review by The Guardian is available here.

It seems (and it is) a long time ago that Space Demons was published. However I think that these books are an excellent way of discussion and coming to terms with gaming and how it affects our young adults. We can build on this information. Remember that the 2010 K12 Horizon Report assessed gaming as becoming mainstream in education in 2-3 years. One of those years has almost passed.

Stop Disasters Game

The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction brings you and your students the Stop Disasters game.

Stop disasters

The aim of the game is for students to learn how they can stop disasters from occurring. The FAQ page explains more:

Who can play the Stop Disasters game?
Anyone with internet access can download and play the Stop Disasters game from this web site. The game will not be ‘downloadable’ as an exe file on your hard drive. Instead it will load into a browser window.

Do I need a special computer?
No, any computer built within the last few years will be sufficient – Mac, PC or Linux based, with a screen resolution of 800×600 pixels.

You’ll need an up to date browser, with Flash Player version 7 or higher. You can download the latest Flash plugin from here:

How long does it take?
Each scenario takes between 10 and 20 minutes to play, depending on the disaster you are trying to prevent and your skill level. There are five scenarios to play, and each can be played on easy, medium or hard difficulty levels.

What age do you need to be to play?
The core audience is 9-16 year old children, but anyone can play and enjoy the game, and everyone will learn more about preventing disasters.

The game is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, French and Russian, which makes it excellent for language classes.

A series of fact sheets for teachers have been developed and include:

  • Tsunami Fact Sheet
  • Hurricane Fact Sheet
  • Wildfire Fact Sheet
  • Earthquake Fact Sheet
  • Flood Fact Sheet

There are also videos and links to other resources.

A fun way to teach students about natural disasters, but also to demonstrate that they have the power to help minimise or stop them occurring.

CSI: The Experience Web Adventures

Any school studying forensic science will probably be interested in this site.

CSI web adventures

Funded by the US National Science Foundation in conjunction with other organisations, CSI: The Experience Web Adventures provides three adventures, one each for beginner, intermediate and advanced. Registration is free and players can either sign up or play as a guest with no login (this means you won’t be able to save your game to resume playing at a later date). CSI characters help guide you through the adventure and offer help when needed.

This could be a good site for language learners as adventures are available in German and Spanish as well as English.

There are a number of resources for educators for students at different levels, a family guide, as well as links and other activities. Please check the site out before using with students as the nature of crimes involved may not be appropriate for everyone.

Thanks to Richard Byrne from Free Technology for Teachers for supplying the evidence!

Gaming and Families

Recently the UK’s Futurelab organisation published a report about ‘the benefits and risks to children’s wellbeing and learning associated with playing computer games.’ As most of us either have children or relatives who are children who play computer games and/or are considering introducing or have introduced gaming into schools, this report will be of interest.

questions addressed included:

  • What role do computer games play in the social, leisure and informal learning activities of families (parents and their children)?
  • What are the attitudes and perceptions of family members towards the benefits and risks of playing computer games?
  • How can we support parents and their children to appreciate and understand the benefits and risks associated with playing computer games?

Three documents outlining the project and results are available.

One of the key findings was

Parents and young people, that is, those aged 5-15, perceived that there were benefits to playing video games as a family, with the main motivation being enjoyment.

The important aspect of this is communication and connectedness within the family for building and maintaining good relationships. This should be applicable to school as well.

Guitar Hero World Tour at Preston Girls’ Secondary College

To help engage and enhance student interaction at the VCAL level (alternative year 11 and 12), Preston Girls’ Secondary College teachers Les Kyle and Judith Way have developed wiki that houses a unit of work based on the wildly popular Guitar Hero video game.


While the main foci of the unit are literacy and numeracy, Les and Judith hope other skills will come out of the program. The program will begin in term 1, 2010. Les and Judith explain:

Introducing literacy and numeracy at senior years is always difficult. It always needs to be embedded into types of work the students find interesting and what better way to get the students’ attention by using Guitar Hero as a starting point.

Upon forming their ‘bands’, students will be blogging about imagined tours, CD releases, booking and travelling to venues around the world and so on. Numeracy skills come into play when deciding who much to pay roadies, how much tickets will cost and how the money will be split between the band. Students will need to be aware of their audience when blogging and develop a convincing history of their band.

Other skills such as cooperation and collaboration, problem solving, researching and investigating, mapping and creativity. Students will also be learning how to use web 2.0 tools such as Big Huge Labs to create posters, tickets and CD covers. Voki or other sites will be used to develop avatars and students may film their ‘concerts’ to upload to teachertube.

We hope that this unit of work will grab the students’ imagination and keep them actively involved for the entire time.

(With thanks to staff at Perth and Kinross Schools in Scotland for the seed that developed into this wiki.)

Hopefully the students enjoy their numeracy and literacy lessons! It will be interesting to hear how it all goes.

The iPad has landed, well almost…

The Apple iPad has landed. At 5am this morning (Melbourne time) Apple launched their latest creation, the iPad. It looks like a large iPhone or iPod touch.

It has a 25 CM display screen. One really cool demo covered the New York Times where users can read a copy that is laid out exactly like a real newspaper. It also has embedded video to add to the stories and menus to access other pages quickly.

A full size keyboard pops up when you use it in landscape. It has high definition video and lots of application for gaming. Photos can be added directly to Flickr and Facebook.

But the big thing for us guys is iBooks. The iBook store is on the iPad and Apple have already partnered with Penguin, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon and Schuster. Interestingly some prices for books were pictured during the launch. Although in US dollars, Twilight and The Lovely Bones were listed at $4.99. That’s very appealing. Obviously a full colour screen so covers display as per the real thing. Fonts can be changed and enlarged to suit individual readers.

Bad news though; iBooks is apparently only available in the US upon the release in March. This is a serious problem for any Apple market outside the US, but understandable really due to publishing territories. Wonder when other territories will come onboard? No doubt this will happen though, as iTunes wasn’t available to other territories at one stage.

But the most important and fairly basic question that we as library professionals and educators have to ask is will the iPad bring more people to reading? I think the answer is yes and surely that is what we are all about, what we strive for in our work every day.

A view of the bookshelf and eReader

A view of the bookshelf and eReader

iWork, a suite of applications has been added to the iPad. iWork includes speadsheets, documents and presentations and is compatible with Microsoft Office. The spreadsheets look amazing and a numeric keypad pops up for data entry. These apps will cost (US) $9.99 each, whereas the iWork complete suite for Macs cost a$129.

As there will be a full sized keyboard dock for the iPad, it makes using the iPad as a regular computer so much easier.

The device weighs approximately 680 grams and according to my calculations is just over 1 centimetre thick. The iPad will come in 16, 32 and 64GB. There are WiFi and 3G models. The 3G are unlocked and should be able to use any carrier.

Pricing starts at US$499 for 16GB, $599 for 32 and $699 64GB WiFi models. 3G models add an extra US$130. The WiFi model will be on sale in 60 days, this availability is worldwide. We won’t have to wait here in Australia. The 3G model will be on sale in 90 days, but international pricing for plans or prepaid accounts will take until June or July to be locked in. As the 3G model has a Sim card tray, here’s hoping that we’ll be able to use the Sim card for mobile broadband access.

The pricing here is important in terms of the Kindle DX. Currently at A$489, the Kindle will face stiff competition from the full colour multi-faceted iPad. Will be interesting to see how the availability of book titles pans out on the iPad. Perhaps it is no surprise that a free Kindle app for iPhone and iPod touch was released today.

Apple’s specifications can be accessed here. A VoiceOver screen reader should mean that vision impaired people can use the iPad. It seems there is no camera for video conferencing or Skyping and the rumour of solar power was just that. The Engadget people covered the iPad launch event live, so for lots of news, photos and specifications, head over there. And here is a short video of the launch:

Questions about how the iPad may impact on school libraries are pondered here.

Here is the official Apple video of the iPad.

Videos part of game plan for happy kids

This article appeared in yesterday’s Herald Sun. More and more academics are doing research in relation to the benefits of video games and the relationship between video games and learning.

By Greg Thom, From: Herald Sun, December 10, 2009 12:00AM 

Helping: Academics say video games can be good for kids. Daniel, 8, and Ashley, 10. Children.Picture: Ian Currie Source: Herald Sun

Helping: Academics say video games can be good for kids. Daniel, 8, and Ashley, 10. Children.Picture: Ian Currie Source: Herald Sun

PLAYING video games may help boost crucial social skills needed by pre-school children to help them succeed later in life.

 Childhood development experts suggest fun games, which encourage teamwork and friendship, can lay the groundwork for positive interaction between children, leading to better behaviour and academic results.

They say parents’ obsession with ensuring children can read, write and count before reaching primary school can lead to a lack of emphasis on developing social skills.

Children who are socially successful at school are more likely to enjoy it, have a positive outlook on learning, display higher self-esteem and develop good coping skills.

Melbourne University childhood development expert Prof Michael Bernard said social competence had to be taught at home. He said many parents falsely thought children would reach primary school equipped to meet social needs.

“Some children come from home backgrounds where they never learn (playing naturally), and what’s important in the early years is to help up-skill them in social skills,” he said.

Children who did not know how to engage with others while playing would suffer later.

“If they don’t come to school with those skills, they’re at a very big disadvantage in terms of their emotional wellbeing,” he said.

Video games fostering social skills should be encouraged.

A recent paper prepared for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority by early childhood researchers Patricia and Don Edgar said video games could help children develop skills such as comprehension, decision making, collaboration and leadership. But parental involvement was crucial.

Examples of helpful games include Wonder Pets: Save the Animals, about three friends who rescue animals, and games based on the pre-school hit Dora the Explorer.


Sharendipity – create your own games

Sharendipity is a site that lets you create your own games and then upload them to the site, embed them into other websites or just use games that other people have developed.


Their website states:

Sharendipity is the fun and easy way to create fun, social games without programming that can be shared with your friends or embedded on your website. Or simply browse and play the creations of others, challenging your friends to beat your high score! Create a game in four easy steps or try the advanced game creator!

There is a wiki and a blog to assist if you need it as well as a forum to consult other Sharendipity members. Looks like fun for teachers and students alike.

Handheld Learning Conference 2009

If you are interested in gaming and handheld devices for learning, then you may be interested in the proceedings from the recent Handheld Learning Conference in London. Thank you to presenters and organisers for sharing both audio and video files from the numerous sessions.



Navigate to: Photographs | Video: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | Discussions

  Photographs:Monday 5th October – The Handheld Learning Festival
Tuesday 6th October
Tuesday 6th October – The Handheld Learning Awards for Innovation & Best Practice
Wednesday 7th October  Audio & Video:Monday 5th October – The Handheld Learning Festival“Best Practice in Action” – 11:00 – 17:00 (online discussion)
Dawn Hallybone, Senior Teacher/ICT Co-ordinator, Oakdale Junior School, England – “Consoles in the classroom”
Philip Griffin, Y6 Teacher, Radstock Primary School, United Kingdom – “Technology v Pedagogy”
Paul Hodgkinson, Co-ordinating Officer, ITSS (Durham County Council), United Kingdom – “24/7 Learning with families”
Joyce Ness, Education Consultant, RM Education, United Kingdom – “One size doesn’t fit all”
Katrina Smith, School Improvement Facilitator for/Head of ICT, Priory School Business & Enterprise College and Leading Edge School, England – “Handheld devices to enhance learning and teaching”
Adam Blackwood, E-Advisor, JISC RSC SouthEast, England – “Transforming Engagement with Proximity Communication”
Richard Scullin, Founder,, United States – “mLearning in the cloud: a drop(.io) in the bucket”
Shawn Gross, Project Director, Project K-Nect, United States – “Mobile Phones for Math and Science”
Gavin Cooney, CEO, Learnosity, Ireland – “Use of mobile phones for language learning”
Derrick Welsh, Artist – “Cellphone touch screens to bring drawing messages?”
Nick Short, Royal Veterinary College, London – “Androids for Africa”
Louise Duncan, Leading Teacher / eLearning Co-ordinator, Shepparton High School, Australia – “Essential ingredients for the successful implementation of mobile learning”MirandaMod11:00 – 13:00
HHECKL11:00 – 13:00
“Pecha Kucha for 21st Century Educators”14:00 – 16:30
The Nesta Challenge14:00 – 16:00

“Learners Y Factor” – 14:00 – 16:30 (online discussion)
Burnt Oak Junior School
Loughton School
Normanby Primary School
Oakdale Junior School
Packmoor Primary School
Scargill Junior School

The Handheld Learning Awards for Innovation & Best Practice

Tuesday 6th October

Conference Opening Session – “Reflections on Learning” – 09:30 – 13:00 (online discussion)
Industry Announcements
Graham Brown-Martin – Welcome & Introduction
Opening Address – Zenna Atkins, Chairman, Ofsted
Malcolm McLaren, agent provocateur & artist
Yvonne Roberts, Senior Associate, Young Foundation
James Paul Gee, Presidential Professor, Arizona State University

Conference Session Two – “Creativity & Innovation” – 14:30 – 17:30 (online discussion)
John Davitt, International Learning Advocate
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, CEO and Co-Founder of
David Braben, Founder & Chairman, Frontier
Tim Rylands, Teacher & Innovator
Dr. Phyllis Hillwig, Chief Operating Officer, Words & Numbers, United States – “M-Learning: Challenges in the US Market”
Linda Hahner, President, Out of the blue design inc, United States – “Literacy Mobile Applications”
Dr Naomi Norman, Director of Learning, Epic, United Kingdom – “Be the best – mobile learning and the Army”
Tony Vincent, Independent Consultant, LearningInHand, United Kingdom

Breakouts 14:30 – 18:00:

Games for Learning
Social Media for Learning

Wednesday 7th October

Conference Session Three – “Inclusion” – 09:30 – 13:00 (online discussion)
Donald Clark, e-Learning Expert
Niel McLean, Executive Director, Becta
David Cavallo, Chief Learning Architect, MIT OLPC
Professor Elizabeth Hayes, Arizona State University
Sal Cooke, Director, TechDis
Sir Tim Brighouse, Former Commissioner for London Schools
Helen Milner, Managing Director, UK Online Centres
Learners Y Factor’s Winners Presentation

Conference Session Four – “Transformation” – 14:50 – 15:50 (online discussion)
Clare Woodward, Lecturer, The Open University & Mike Solly, Senior Lecturer, Open University, United Kingdom – “Mlearning in the developing world: not 3G but 4C”
Nabeel Ahmad, Mobile Learning Design Leader, IBM Learning, United States – “Mobile, Connected, Empowered, Transformed”

Closing Keynote – Ray Kurzweil (online discussion)

Breakouts 09:30 – 16:00:

Research Strand (part 1) – 09:30 – 13:00
Research Strand (part 2) – 14:30 – 16:00
Spotlight Scotland (part 1) – 09:30 – 13:00
Spotlight Scotland (part 2) – 09:30 – 13:00
Emerging Technologies and New Practices14:15 – 16:00
UK Policy Strand – It’s All In Hand09:30 – 11:00
UK Policy Strand – Leading Learning in Handheld Technology11:30 – 13:00
UK Policy Strand – The Impact of Mobile Learning14:00 – 15:15
UK Policy Strand – ICT Register Showcase Session15:15 – 16:00


Opening Conference Session – “Reflections on Learning”
Conference Session Two – “Creativity and Innovation”
Conference Session Three – “Digital Inclusion”
Conference Session Four – “Transformation”
Best Practice in Action Session
Learners Y Factor
Handheld Learning Awards for Innovation and Best Practice
Delegate Reflections
Blog Roll for Handheld Learning 2009

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 October 2009 17:50 )

Plenty here to keep you busy for weeks!

International Digital Entertainment Festival

Hamish Curry, the Library & Online Learning Manager, Learning Services at the State Library of Victoria has kindly sent the following information:

I’d like to bring to your attention the programs we’re delivering for the International Digital Entertainment Festival (iDEF).

The full list of programs we’re delivering is available here, but highlights include –

  • Friday Oct 30 – two schools programs featuring speakers Vincent Trundle from ACMI, and Dr Joanne O’Mara from Deakin Uni highlighting her research into ‘Literacy in the digital world of the 21st century: learning from computer games’
  • Friday Oct 30 – a free screening of the gaming doco Second Skin, which will be its first screening in Australia, andintroduced by the Director Juan Carlos Pineiro Escoriaza.  
  • Saturday Oct 31 – a presentation about game development from the organisers of Freeplay
  • Saturday Oct 31 – SYN and FReeZa present their 1Up Youth Gaming Tournament.
  • Sunday Nov 1 – a forum ‘I’m a gamer and proud of it!‘ featuring James Dominguez from Screenplay, and Anna Dunne from Australian Gamer and Channel 31 show Level 3.

Certainly seems like lots of relevant and interesting sessions! Thanks Hamish for passing on the information.