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Education Via Video Game
October 9th 2003, 16:40 CEST by Phayyde

Are video games a valid medium for education?  The US Department of Defense thinks so.  What about applications in teaching classics to high schoolers?  Would video games help communicate the source material or would they distract?

Can popular mediums convey the big messages?

You know how there are these moments and levels from various games that remain etched in your memory?  For a cheap example, we can all remember the intro hall in Quake, right?  If you recall it, you can almost visualize the level.  

Question: If someone made a game of, say, Homer's Oddysey, would the plot reach more students than reading/lecture alone?   I wonder if the stories would remain in the students memory or would the game instead distract the students from the core material?  Would students retain the important things about the subject?  Or would they retain trivial details about the implementation?

Schoolhouse Rock was the same sort of experiment using rock music instead of video games.  Was it successful?  Did anyone actually learn anything from Schoolhouse Rock?  Or was it just an empty feelgood gesture produced by an ailing TV industry to break the  perception that the boob tube rots childrens minds?  The video game industry suffers from the same bad perception.  Would it be useful to try to change this?
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#1 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 16:46:18
Didn't I bring this up already?

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#2 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 16:48:41
Your topic was about game violence.  Remember?  Or if you did address the viability of video game education, what was your conclusion?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#3 by mgns
2003-10-09 16:53:14
"We learned more from a three minute record than we ever did in school."

Can popular mediums convey the big messages?

Sure they can, that's more or less a given.
What's really missing today is source critique, people take for granted that something happens for altruistic reasons, or because they can't be helped - but not many actually take the time to sit down and wonder "Why is this happening, who is benefiting from it, and why are they presenting the situation the way they do."

Games probably could be used as simulation tools, as means to understand a given system and establish methods of action within the systems parameters, as well as predicting the results of your actions.
I'm thinking in lines with a Diplomacy/sim nation/sim economy mish-mash here, but I'm sure there are tons of stuff you could use the computer game media for. The problem is that unless the developers of the software makes damn well sure to cover up all the angles, you'll break not your suspension of disbelief, but the advantage of the media. And then we might as well do simulations with pens, papers and round-tables. Which is not that bad either.

Turn out the light, bolt the door.
I ain't going out there no more.
#4 by lwf
2003-10-09 16:53:18
Stop trying to take credit for everything yotsuya.

the rain hits the ground and the trees they dry it up
#5 by ProStyle
2003-10-09 16:58:37
http://prostyle.deviantart.com
But he is a teacher. If this whole game thing catches on, he might be on the streets tomarrow!

I'm like a quote out of context...
#6 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 17:03:11
Interesting, mgns.

What makes this particularly relevant is the recent trend of some high schools requiring all students to carry laptops in class.  

It seems like there is a market opening up for academic multiplayer game/sim/lesson systems.  This should never replace the lecture, but ideally, being able to "experience" the futility of managing a productive fiefdom during the Hun invasion would be a pretty nice supplement.  Especially if the teacher was given enhanced powers, as NWN's DM thing.  Even kids out sick could "attend".

If you look, you'll see Dell, HP, IBM, MS all investing serious money in outfitting certain high schools with wireless lans and laptops.  It's a force in the world.  There could be some money here for the right project.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#7 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 17:03:30
I take credit for coining the phrase "Little Wood Farmer"

Well, as I mentioned before, I use the Quake II mod "Catch the Chicken" to build teamwork when my student read "Ender's Game", since it is centered around games. They can be used as educational tools. It's when teachers use them as incentives, or when they say "Go ahead and do what you want on the computer" that they become useless to instructional objectives.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#8 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 17:04:36
Ugh. I need to go back to Eengleesh Teechur Skool.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#9 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 17:05:10
Right, so there's good play and bad play.  Is it always easy to detect the difference?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#10 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 17:15:22
Phayyde-

It's like anything, really. If a teacher shows a film just to show it and doesn't do anything with it, it's a wasted assignment. If you tie instructional objectives to a film, video game, essay, whatever, it's much more valid as a classroom tool.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#11 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 17:28:54
So we take for granted that we are not just playing a game in class.  We are teaching a lesson using the game as a tool.  Most(?) students would  take the lesson and engage in good play.  They would dutifully activate the scripts that reveal the content of the lesson.  And hopefully learn the core material, instead of just playing a game.  

But those are the good students.  Regardless of our intent, some students would engage in bad play.  They would start griefing.  Which could ruin the lesson and waste everyone's time.

My question is: can a teacher easily detect good play vs bad play and protect the lesson process?  Maybe the better question would be: Is this too much for a teacher to manage?  Teaching the lesson while maintaining a server?   Where should the teacher/admin line be drawn, ideally?  Does it need to be any different than the traditional classroom?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#12 by Bailey
2003-10-09 17:33:49
Simple Solution: yot's the only one with a railgun.

Anywhere but here, with anyone but you.
#13 by Ashiran
2003-10-09 17:39:09
Can popular mediums convey the big messages?

No because they wouldn't be popular then.

AND DON'T ADD A SMILEY AFTER EVERY GODDAMN THING YOU SAY!
#14 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 18:08:05
Phayyde-

Excellent point you bring up. It's easier for me to monitor and keep them on task because I am a gamer first, then a teacher during that unit.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#15 by Trolly McTroll
2003-10-09 18:18:56
I'd love to be a public school teacher, but I don't know how to fire a handgun

"..and Trolly McTroll is the best name EVER. I laugh every time I see it."  - ZEP
" If i ever have a daughter, I'm going to name her Trolly. - The_Joker
"Great, we are being trolled by Paul Schaffer. - LPMiller
#16 by Leslie Nassar
2003-10-09 18:51:54
http://departmentofinternets.com
Is it 1994 again already?  Does that mean I have to go back to Hong Kong and work on edutainment titles?  Shit...

"There are design firms out there that could come up with things we've never thought of," Jobs continued, "things that would make you shit in your pants."
#17 by Leslie Nassar
2003-10-09 18:52:27
http://departmentofinternets.com
closing tags is for chumps.  so is using the preview button.  also, dancing.

"There are design firms out there that could come up with things we've never thought of," Jobs continued, "things that would make you shit in your pants."
#18 by Warren Marshall
2003-10-09 18:55:19
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
Also, having a point.

Respawn Games
Open your mind, let the beatings begin.
#19 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 18:59:18
I hate the non-word 'edutainment'.  I think multiplayer simulation describes it better.  Coop Iliad hosted by a chatty server admin with an itchy ban finger.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#20 by Shadarr
2003-10-09 19:03:18
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
I think the only way to make it work is to use existing games and have the teacher set up scenarios in them.  Custom writing a game to be educational means instead of the teacher picking the best available game, they get stuck with whatever the dev comes up with, so there's a 90% chance you'll end up with crap that doesn't teach anything and crashes all the time.
#21 by mgns
2003-10-09 19:14:56
shadarr,

If it's any developer worth their salt, they'll make damn sure to keep teachers and stroky-beards in the loop at all times. Supposedly, the dev wouldn't want the game to bomb, right?

Turn out the light, bolt the door.
I ain't going out there no more.
#22 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 19:27:51
Yep.  I agree.  Generating functional content for all those lesson scenarios would be a large task.  And the stroky beards responsible for the lesson plan should have control over each lesson as well, so integrated tools would have to be provided.   And they'd have to be geared towards non-technical users.

Buncha fuckin work.  Lookit all that work!

Maybe some lessons are better suited for this kind of environment.  Maybe it would decrease the amt of effort needed if we just focus on the most simulatable scenarios.  Like you wouldn't simulate 'Waiting for Godot'.  But you might simulate certain classic economic conditions.  Like the French Revolution.  Let the students monkey with the price of bread and see the results at street level.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#23 by Warren Marshall
2003-10-09 19:28:15
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
#21 mgns
shadarr,

If it's any developer worth their salt, they'll make damn sure to keep teachers and stroky-beards in the loop at all times. Supposedly, the dev wouldn't want the game to bomb, right?

And the users would know exactly what they want and wouldn't change specs on a daily basis, so it would work great!

Respawn Games
Open your mind, let the beatings begin.
#24 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 19:30:49
No it's like mod tools, except it's like the mythical mod tools that haven't existed yet.  The ones that are easy and powerful.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#25 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 19:32:26
forgot to add - easy and powerful for a non-technoical strokybeard.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#26 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 19:33:56
Warren-

I'd like to work as an educational consultant for Respawn Games' edutainment division.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#27 by Warren Marshall
2003-10-09 19:41:17
http://www.wantonhubris.com/
#26 yotsuya
Warren-

I'd like to work as an educational consultant for Respawn Games' edutainment division.

Excellent.  That division is starting up an MMORPG project, so you're just in time.

Respawn Games
Open your mind, let the beatings begin.
#28 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 19:44:07
Excellent. I think we need to have a built-in spell checker and l33t translator in the typing window.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#29 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 19:47:27
We also need a "Post Only Once" button

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#30 by G-Man
2003-10-09 19:48:36
This was discussed before on Qt3 and I still maintain that you can't really convey any really meaningful knowledge with a game. You can teach skills, but not knowledge. I've been through it first hand at the elementary school level with Oregon's Trail, Carmen Sandiego, Gertrude's Puzzles, an adventure game about immigrant children moving to America, etc, and on the college level playing Age of Empires for a history class. It just doesn't work. Sociologists use a lot of games especially multiplayer ones, and there they might be worthwhile because in that situation they are actually doing observational experiments instead of trying to teach "facts" or "ideas" via a game.

The best these fact oriented games can do is leave a player with a feeling of what being in that situation would be like (limited of course by technology and the designer's whims/mistakes) and maybe a hazy recollection of some of the facts or ideas that were presented. Games likes Gabriel Knight 3 do a very good job of this. You learn a lot about the Christ's descendants/DaVinci Code conspiracy theory stuff. Same thing with Vietcong, you learn a bit of the cultural history, geography and political history of Vietnam. But overall it isn't very useful because it is not time effective learning. It takes twenty hours to learn the equivalent of one hour of reading.

The really good games don't focus on facts. The only examples I can think of are Carmen Sandiego, Rocky's Boots, LOGO (the drawing Turtle program) which are admittedly older, but I am sure there are modern analogs. These games aren't designed to teach you specific facts exposed by the game (e.g. the stupid nation facts you need to look up in Carmen Sandiego - country's major export is rice etc), instead the game is designed to teach you how to do research effectively (e.g. how to use an index, table of contents, determine what is relevant and what isn't etc.).

Note: Computer simulations (like interactive flash animations) are not games per se, but are in my opinion the MOST effective teaching aid. Especially for subjects like physics, chemistry, astronomy, math, etc. And this is where the most improvements can be made. I remember imagining (before the tech was there for this stuff to be possible) how great such aids could be.
#31 by Shadarr
2003-10-09 19:49:38
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
mgns,

The school districts are broke, so there won't be a lot of money for development, which means you're not going to be able to hire one of the good developers.  They probably wouldn't want to work on something that doesn't have wide appeal anyway, much like Speilberg doesn't do corporate training videos.

One thing I think could work well would be games that simulate a historical event.  Let them see all the reasons various battles were mostly determined before the armies even took the field, by playing as both sides.  Let them see what it's like to get slaughtered on a beach in WWII.  And if for some reason you're teaching Chinese history, let them play Romance of the Three Kingdoms for a while.  In fact, you might not need to do anything aside from a wrap-up lecture on what really happened.  I know I'm still hazy on that.
#32 by mgns
2003-10-09 19:57:28
Sure, I get that part.

Only, I see it more like a publisher funded venture, something that is commercially viable without being dumbed down. Say a diplomacyesque game with economics as well as war and negotiations. And include an option for a GM to change the settings as he/she sees fit, perhaps the Germans never broke the non-agression pact with Russia - or Chrustjev and Kennedy didn't work out the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Hell, I'd probably buy such a game myself, and there's no reason it couldn't be used as a tool in education.

Yot,
What is it exactly that you teach?

Turn out the light, bolt the door.
I ain't going out there no more.
#33 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 20:02:16
English and Reading. I use videogames in the classroom with my reading students, in conjunction with Ender's Game.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#34 by Bailey
2003-10-09 20:10:22
Dude, who are you going to give more credit? A lawyer or a teacher?

Anywhere but here, with anyone but you.
#35 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 20:12:27
I agree with G-Man but choose to remain in denial.  I think all the recent investment in high-school wireless lans and laptops is creating this new market.  Question is: how viable is the new market?  How much money is really there?

The product would need to be sold as a classroom supplement, sort of like a school buying a set of encyclopedia for the library.  Bundle the server with a machine to increase the cost and cut down on tech suppt.  

It would need to come with a wide range of lesson scenarios, ready to run, but also highly configgable by the lesson planner.  Buncha damned work.  This thing would cost plenty.  

I think it's just may not be time for something like this yet.  Even though the infrastructure is appearing in classrooms all over the US.  Maybe something scaled down could get funded by the big corporations behind this.   I bet they are looking for more ways to justify pushing their WLAN/laptop strategy forward.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#36 by mgns
2003-10-09 20:15:32
Oh, btw - #32 was for #31.

Yot,

Ah, ok.

Turn out the light, bolt the door.
I ain't going out there no more.
#37 by Shadarr
2003-10-09 20:16:00
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
mgns,

That actually sounds like a cool game, but I'm not sure how much value it would have as a teaching tool.  Where does "divergent history" fit in with a highschool curriculum?  The sorts of things you would learn playing that game aren't generally taught in school.  I could see where a multiplayer game of Civ might be a great tool for teaching about ethics and the causes of war.  The problem with any multiplayer game would be what to do with the kids who get wiped out early.

Capitalism 2 has big possibilities for an economics class, although it may be a little too complex for the amount of time they would be able to spend with it.
#38 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 20:16:16
I actually agree with G-Man. I use games to teach skills, not knowledge. Books are for knowledge. Teaching skills should be a lot more interactive.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#39 by Shadarr
2003-10-09 20:20:45
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
One problem with all of this, from using games to just wiring up schools with internet connections, is the teachers.  Most teachers are not as tech and game savvy as Yotsuya.  Most, in fact, are staunchly in the Joe Compaq ranks.  Would those teachers be able to use the technology in a useful and meaningful way, or will they just end up frustrating themselves and their students?
#40 by Gunp01nt
2003-10-09 20:21:58
supersimon33@hotmail.com
Agreed, most of the teachers I've had, had major problems with turning on a VCR.

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#41 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 20:26:31
#38

It's funny, the campus technology coordinator comes to ME when she has problems.

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#42 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 20:30:10
So, for linear subjects like literature and factual history, vid games are inappropriately complex.  It's overkill.  Linear subjects involve reading linear books, a well known, low cost technology.  Or the other low cost old reliable tech -  the lecture.

Video games excel at interactivity.  They can represent many divergent paths and domains of solutions and outcomes.  Are there any subjects like this in high school?  Where is the good fit here?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#43 by mgns
2003-10-09 20:32:19
Social studies, international relations, psychology, biology, physics, political studies, economics...

Turn out the light, bolt the door.
I ain't going out there no more.
#44 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 20:39:16
Also, just providing a sandbox isn't quite enough.  Individual clients in the game sort of wander around inside the ruleset using Brownian motion, little drunken paths that may just as easily cling to a boundary as they would explore all the possibilities.  But the video game can only instruct when it is actively explored, so the teacher has to take an active role in goading the wall huggers to explore.  Wow.  This isn't much different than the traditional classroom.  Also, teachers and video game designers share this task in their respective worlds...

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#45 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 20:42:38
#43  mgns:
I'm not smart or creative enough to know how to best represent most of those in a multiplayer coop sim.  How does a Psych sim play?

Beat to fit, paint to match.
#46 by Shadarr
2003-10-09 20:50:23
shadarr@yahoo.com http://digital-luddite.com
Yotsuya,

Doesn't surprise me at all; schools don't exactly have the money for top-knotch sysadmins.  I'm actually surprised you even have a technology coordinator, rather than you just ending up doing the job to help out your fellow teachers.
#47 by yotsuya
2003-10-09 20:56:45
Well, I usually do? Remember when I found all those self-shot softcore porn shots on my co-teacher's laptop? I was removing a virus from her machine. I like to help others out, and when they ask, "How'd you do that?", I tell them, "Magic."

"YES!!  You see people, THAT'S why he's the Vice-President of A/V Services here at Respawn Games.  Yotsuya ALWAYS unleashes the fucking fury!" - Warren Marshall
#48 by Charles
2003-10-09 21:08:12
www.bluh.org
tl;dr

How many it had cost in the amassing, what blood and sorrow, what good ships scuttled on the deep, what brave men walking the plank blindfold, what shot of cannon, what shame and lies and cruelty, perhaps no man alive could tell.
#49 by Bailey
2003-10-09 21:11:00
I remember you mentioning them, but I seem to have lost the link to where you uploaded them online. Mind posting it, uh, again?

Anywhere but here, with anyone but you.
#50 by Phayyde
2003-10-09 21:27:41
Why you shouldn't help people with their technical problems:

I met with a elderly prospective client once who asked me, after my biz schpiel, to help him with his email.  I wanted his signature, so I agreed.  He was having trouble opening a certain graphic attachment.  The email said "Bob, looky!  You need to see this right now."  I shoulda just walked away claiming ignorance.  Never again will I do this!

I selected the right viewer and this big greasy anal piss pic fills the screen.  The room got suddenly cold and awkward.  The man stuttered, pretended ignorance.  I didn't know nor care.  I politely got the hell out of there inside of like one minute.  Seemed more like five minutes.  Chuckled all the way to the car.  

Got nothing against porn, but god DAMN. You just don't want to see that shit. Men don't share porn.  It ain't natural. I stopped pursuing that contract. Wierdo.

Beat to fit, paint to match.
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