As part of the Off-Book series exploring cutting edge art and internet culture, PBS has released a fascinating video examining the Creativity of Indie Video Games. The video makes some interesting observations about the changing culture of gaming, which organisers of the Freeplay festival argue is “the dominant art-form of the 21st century”.
Indie games are seeing a surge in popularity and are seen by many as a reaction to overblown, overhyped or overly violent big budget games (often referred to as Triple A titles). In contrast to Triple A games, Indie games place emphasis on visual styling, innovative game mechanics and storytelling. Games like Passage, Papa & Yo or Journey explore complex themes and aim to create an emotional response in the player, while games like Bastion place an emphasis on the importance of story.
While the use of gaming in education is a developing field, these Indie titles certainly present some exciting prospects for exploration in the classroom in terms of storytelling, art and game development. The other benefit is that many of these titles are relatively inexpensive and run on mobile devices or low specification computers, so have a look at this video and then jump in and try some of these fantastic indie games. The full list of games featured in the documentary is available in the video description on YouTube.
If you need help to find appropriate games and to embed them into the curriculum, you cannot go past Kelly Tenkely‘s excellent blog ilearntechnology.
Kelly is a passionate and dedicated elementary (primary) teacher who has developed the most amazing collection of games and written about their educational applications. Check out her blog. You won’t be disappointed.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
This article was recently published in The Age’s Green Guide. Anyone remotely interested in gaming (or who have children who are) and are/or will be in Melbourne some time should consider visiting the exhibition mentioned. It is permanent and free.
October 8, 2009
Part of the Screen Worlds exhibition.
From Pong to PlayStations, this exhibition covers the console evolution. By Jason Hill.
After a year-long renovation, the “new” Australian Centre for the Moving Image has opened its doors to the public with a free exhibition that prominently features video games.
The new permanent Screen Worlds exhibition charts the history of screen-based entertainment, from cinema’s early beginnings to the rise of television, games, the internet, new media and the digital age.
ACMI has been exploring games culture since 2002 and enjoyed great success last year with the Game On exhibition, which attracted more than 150,000 visitors.
The head of exhibitions, Conrad Bodman, says games are “really embedded in what we do at ACMI. It is accepted that it is part of the creative practice that we’re looking at.”
He believes institutions such as ACMI can help legitimise games as an art form and a cultural force. “I kind of feel that games have already got a certain legitimacy at ACMI having done shows like Game On, which have underpinned the enthusiasm that games have cultural value,” Bodman says.
In the “Emergence” section of the new exhibition, visitors can get hands-on with the first ever console, the Magnavox Odyssey, as well as classic games such as Space Invaders, Tempest, Super Mario Bros 3, Tomb Raider and the pioneering Melbourne-made fighting game, The Way of the Exploding Fist.
The new Games Lab situated within the Screen Worlds exhibition also includes 14 computers and a selection of playable games for solo or multiplayer action, including Quake, Tetris, Lemmings, Sensible Soccer, Pro Evolution Soccer, Civilization, Spore, Project Gotham Racing, LittleBigPlanet, Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario Kart. Bodman says choosing the featured games was a significant challenge.
“That’s been quite tough because we’ve had to be very selective,” he says. “Part of it is about the development of the genre, looking at past and present, and part of that is a technology story about how the technology has improved.
“We felt that it was important to add historical dimensions so people can understand where games have come from and also specifically look within the Games Lab at the game genre and how they have developed over a period of time.”
Games are presented on their original hardware wherever possible, despite the technical challenges of keeping 30-year-old machines running every day.
ACMI has also assembled a “significant collection” of Australian games, Bodman says. “Although that material is not going to be available to everyone who comes in, if you are a researcher and you are doing some specific work and looking at Australian games, you can borrow that material and view it within our research area that is part of the Mediatheque. There aren’t many repositories around for Australian games [and] it can be really difficult to find games in their original format. It’s important that ACMI represents that area.”
Another highlight is the Pong v Tennis game commissioned for the exhibition. One player uses a retro-style paddle and the other a modern wireless controller in a single game that Bodman hopes can showcase the “historical trajectory” of gaming.
Attendees should also look for the spotlight on Australia’s Krome Studios, one of the world’s largest independent video game developers.
In term 2, 2009, these technologies include gaming consoles such as Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 are being trialled in approximately twenty schools. Being a DEECD project, there are strict guidelines and record keeping so all research can be validated. This is a major step for the government’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in acknowledging the educational potential of gaming and backing up ideas with action research. The DEECD will be formulating department policy in regards to gaming once the research has been completed. Schools were emailed in March 2009 to indicate their interest in the project and apply to become part of the trial. The DEECD were offering grants of A$4000 per school to cover the costs of replacement teachers, consoles and software.
Fortunately, I was one of the teachers selected to participate in the trial.
Students in the trial are in either year 8 or year 9.
* My gaming research question is:
Is it possible that games such as My Word Coach on Nintendo DS can improve literacy skills?
What is the curriculum focus of your teaching for this action research?
(Identify VELS domains and levels or VCE/VCAL/VET subject areas)
PERSONAL LEARNING LEVEL 5
• develop an understanding of their strengths and potential
• develop skills of goal setting and time and resource management
• increasingly manage their own learning and growth by monitoring their
learning, and setting and reflecting on their learning goals
• recognise and enact learning principles within and beyond the school
• prepare for lifelong learning.
DESIGN, CREATIVITY AND TECHNOLOGY
• understanding that design, creativity and technology leads to innovation
develop new thinking and learning skills that produce creative and
• develop more productive ways of working and solving problems individually
• express themselves in contemporary and socially relevant ways
• communicate locally and globally to solve problems and to share
• understand the implications of the use of ICT and their social and ethical
responsibilities as users of ICT.
It is also expected that the project will address the National Literacy Standards.
Which PoLT principles will you use to support your pedagogical practices? (please list only those relevant to your research question)
1.4 ensures each student experiences success through structured support, the valuing of effort, and recognition of their work.
2.1 encourages and supports students to take responsibility for their learning
2.2 uses strategies that build skills of productive collaboration.
3.1 uses strategies that are flexible and responsive to the values, needs and interests of individual students
3.2 uses a range of strategies that support the different ways of thinking and learning
3.3 builds on students’ prior experiences, knowledge and skills
3.4 capitalises on students’ experience of a technology rich world.
4.1 plans sequences to promote sustained learning that builds over time and emphasises connections between ideas
4.5 uses strategies to develop investigating and problem solving skills
4.6 uses strategies to foster imagination and creativity.
5.1 designs assessment practices that reflect the full range of learning program objectives
5.2 ensures that students receive frequent constructive feedback that supports further learning
5.3 makes assessment criteria explicit
5.4 uses assessment practices that encourage reflection and self assessment
5.5 uses evidence from assessment to inform planning and teaching.
6.1 supports students to engage with contemporary knowledge and practice
6.3 uses technologies in ways that reflect professional and community practices.
5. How will you evaluate and document your action research?
The students selected to participate that are in the Literacy program will be given the TORC test before the program begins. The group will be given the TORC test again at the end of the program to ascertain results.
Students will also be asked about their engagement and attitudes to literacy now that gaming is used as a learning tool.
Documentation could take the form of a report or blog posts. Debriefing sessions could be held in Elluminate.
A ‘Decoding’ Literacy group was selected to participate in the trial. Out of the five students in the group, four are in year 8, one in year 9. TORC test results at the end of 2008 place these students at either grade 2 or grade 3 level for literacy.
Before the trial began, students were surveyed about their attitude and understanding of gaming.
60% played video games at home while 40% did not. (The 40% who did not said they didn’t enjoy/not interested in playing video games.)
80% of students owned a console.
80% of these owned a Nintendo DS
60% owned a Playstation 3
20% owned an XBoX
All students agreed that they did sometimes play video games; 20% played daily, 40% played a few times a week while the remaining 40% played a few times a year.
Students playing video games said they felt:
Full of fun (40%)
while students said they did not feel ‘stressed’ or ‘unahppy’ while playing video games.
5. Students mostly agreed that they played video games with others.
40% played with siblings
40% played with parents
40% played with friends
20% played online with friends
20% played alone
Students said did not play online with stranger
6. All students thought that video games could be used in schools for both learning and fun. However when quizzed on this, students could not think what they could actually learn, apart from how to use the game.
7. 80% of students thought they would like to use video games at school to learn and 20% (1 student) did not.
This trial was extremely worthwhile. Although each and every student did not increase their TORC test result, there were other gains to be had. The students felt that they learned a lot of new words during the term.
Both Anne Clark (teacher aide), the students and I agreed that the students formed quite a powerful bond with each other during the term that hadn’t been there before. This increased their connectedness to school. They said that they felt closer to each other and they believed it was because of the trial. They felt quite special to have been chosen to participate in the trial. I noticed an improvement in their relationship with me as their teacher librarian. Each student was particularly pleasant and polite and would go out of their way to speak to me in the library or in the quadrangle.
Each student mentioned that the trial was fun and that they enjoyed learning in a different way. Attendance and punctuality improved as well.
Anne Clark noted that students were very engaged and proud of their success when their ‘Expression Potential’ went up a range. Students were very happy during the lessons and were sad at the end of the term to know that they would be going back to the ‘regular’ Literacy classes.
One student ran to the class every day, so excited about using the DS as a learning tool!
At the end of the trial, students were surveyed again, this time about what their favourite part of the trial, gaming and how they felt about school.
80% of students thought their favourite part of the trial was ‘fun’. 80% said ‘exciting’, 40% said ‘different’, 100% thought is was ‘learning in a different way’, 60% ‘felt privileged’ as no other group had use of the DS and 40% said love of video games.
100% of students said they learned new words, 80% said they learned more words, 60% said they learned how to spell and 60% said they learned interesting words.
All students said they made more of an effort to come to school during the trial.
All students said they made more of an effort to be on time to school/Literacy class during the trial.
75% of students said they feel more connected to school now.
All students said that they feel more connected to their Literacy group now.
This response from students is very encouraging in relation to their connectedness to school and each other.
I believe that the four things I set out to investigate have been proven to be effective:
Overall students’ Literacy achievement increased.
Students all agreed that they were more engaged in their Literacy tasks during the trial.
Overall students’ attendance was better and students said they made more of an effort to come to school during the trial.
Students’ punctuality improved as the term progressed.
You can see on the results page how students improved academic achievement, punctuality and attendance. Students also said that they were much more engaged than in regular Literacy classes.
This was an interesting project that really engaged the students when learning.