Jan 23, 2015

#fetc Anatomy of a Learning Game: Design, Development, Distribution

#fetc Anatomy of a Learning Game: Design, Development, Distribution

Why I chose this:
I am hoping to learn more about the dev and distro side of gaming. If we can get students to create games, not just play them, then we can turn them into entrepreneurs.

What we covered:
Hosted by Classroom, Inc.

National survey of 500 teachers who use gaming. Over half of teachers are using games for ELA and also for executive functioning skills (organization, etc)

Game-based workplace simulations for middle school and high school students.

Product dev team, partnership team, research team

Sample game: Editor-in-Chief at local paper following a hurricane (or other natural disaster).

Each 'experience' takes 20-30 minutes. Each student must complete to-do list. Point-click adventure game. All reading, no spoken words. Can take notes. Glossary use. Embedded assessments around standards.

Scores are kept on the backend, but students do have see those scores.

Build games on ethical scenarios, etc. LearningGamesNetwork. Content model, Task model, Evidence model. Works with educators across US. Games incorporate assessment pieces to gauge where the students are in terms of content knowledge and comprehension. Teachers need the data to help them understand where students are and how well/poorly the games themselves are impacting student learning.

Should be learning designers, assessment designers, game designers all part of the development team. Look at ways to map the data without killing the fun. Map out the scenarios, then map out tasks. How do we put those into the game mechanics? How do we assess that within the game? How do you keep it covert in student's eyes?

Fablevision Studios - education media developer. Games need to have education at its core. Design, dev, test, repeat. What is the problem you are trying to solve? Who is the audience? Ages? Likes/dislikes? How do you want them to think differently? What behavior are you trying to change?

Start with core mechanics and work your way out.

Best case scenario is when you can build on first success to create additional games.

  • Story and personal meaning = engagement = motivation = success
  • Design with a purpose, multiple points of entry
  • Technology that serves end user, client, and content (what devices? How new/old?)
  • Like-minded partners
Mission - what are you trying to do? Get on the same page. 
Had to deliver content and be fun - needed CMS, dashboard, etc, but be fun. 
Role-playing in the game - 1st person
Storytelling vital, even if not explicitly delivered within the game
Player put in position of authority - they are the decision-maker, personally invested in doing the work
Learning by doing
Core mechanics must make sense within the game. Don't add crafting if the game has nothing to do with crafting.
All tasks related to core objectives and assessment.
After the Storm built in HTML5 
Had to handle vast amount of content. Created a CMS the client could update themselves. Teacher dashboard that measure progress, etc.
Art and design important to game - what is the look? For After the Storm, very realistic-looking to keep students immersed in this environment.
Mood changes during game - dark at first, then light as game gets closer to end.
Reusable templates to save money and time. Reusable backgrounds, items, etc.

Challenges: Content, vetted, updated, checking - especially with decision tree scenarios. Making sure is not overwhelmed. Balance between education and fun.

Originally planned for 6 games, but realized needed a smaller game for time, materials, etc. 

Make sure you leave nothing hanging - closure, makes sense.

Agile - work in small changes and add to those. Takes time. 

Build partnership where you comfortable to discuss any/all aspects. Long-term relationships are key and amazing. Honest dialog. Real world feedback. Design decisions based on evidence.

*I asked: Are there parts of the game students did not touch? What did you do with those? Not specifically, but they had set it up to play out of order, but NO ONE played it out of order. Need that user feedback and testing. Devs WANT the teachers to provide feedback, input, etc.

BrainPop partnerships. GameUp is part of BrainPop, do not need subscription for GameUp. Most games are flash-based, but moving to HTML5. Browser-based games only - no firewall issues, etc for teachers. Encourage developers to get with them as early in the process as possible. In-house process to vet new games and give feedback to the developer.

Started in Summer 2013. Worked in two schools in Brooklyn. Twice a week, six weeks - got lots of feedback from 6th graders - what they liked/didn't, saw things they played with unexpected (finding a lost dog that was just decoration at first, but kids wanted to find the dog!). Used CMS to change/update the text within the game.

Lessons: Reading levels often below grade level. Need to build in more support for struggling readers. Want shorter, more modular pieces. Teachers want stand-alone pieces. Looking for literacy across content areas.

Next: same storyline, but now head of a community service organization. Tying into CCSS and other standards.

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