Monday, February 04, 2008

The Peripatos could not have looked like that

The Design and use of simulation computer games in education Ed Shelton & Wiley
Chapter 6 "The Peripatos could not have looked like that"
Moeller, Cootey & McAllister
http://www.sensepublishers.com/catalog/files/9789087901554.pdf

Several game modding environments are mentioned as appropriate for building educational games, Half Life 2, Unreal Tournament & Neverwinter Nights.

Aristotle's Assassins was an educational game built with Neverwinter Nights at the Learning Games Initiative at Utah State University and the University of Arizona. It was designed to teach politics philosophy and music of ancient Greece. The design team consisted of a faculty member, a graduate student and two undergraduates.

They discovered that the team was learning a lot in developing this game. This unexpected learning is examined in the theoretical framework of Toward implementing distributed scaffolding: Helping students learn science from design Sadhana Puntambekar , Janet L. Kolodner and also Activity Theory

They conclude "The student design of games and simulations is a highly educational process, and the steps they take out during the design process can be helpfully interpreted using activity theory as an analytical framework".

They refer to similar findings, Learning Through Game Modding MAGY SEIF EL-NASR and BRIAN K SMITH

Learning Through Game Modding
MAGY SEIF EL-NASR and BRIAN K SMITH

They argue for the value of game making:
"During the design process, skills such as analysis, synthesis, evaluation, and revision, must be used, providing opportunities for learning content and metacognitive skills such as planning and monitoring. Students can receive ongoing feedback from peers and experts while constructing working artifacts".

They mention studies using other programming environments, Conway (Alice), Ingalls (Squeak), Repenning (Agentsheets), Resnick (?), Smith (Kidsim). References could have been made to Game Maker, Click and Play, Stagecast etc but were not.

The three modding tools they look at are Warcraft 3, Webdriver and Unreal 2.5 Engine.

"Working with Web Driver...(for) a better understanding of 3D geometry, and vector mathematics... Unreal Tournament ... (for) architecture design, texturing and sound design, lighting design and landscaping ... 3D geometry"

See student projects of Penn State College of Information Sciences and Technology you can see the design documents and then view the completed games. You can see a movie of Dungeon Girl which "included over 6020 lines of code, 5 characters, 24 weapon models, 5 original music files, and 80 sound effects and dialogue files" Watch the video, it is an example how with a relevant and authentic challenge and the right tools, students can achieve excellence.

"Through these two classes, we gained better insight on the use of game modding as a tool to promote learning. We believe that there are several skills and concepts that students learn by engaging in game design/modification, including the following:

• Software Development and Design
o team work
o building critiques and reflections on other’s work
o project scheduling
o project management
o iterations and refinement
o prototyping
• Programming Concepts
o threading and event-based programming
o Object-oriented programming
o Component-based development
o Software patterns
• Artistic Concepts
o Lighting
o Architecture design
o Character design
• Game Concepts
o Game design
o Game mechanics
o Balancing game aesthetics and game play"

They conclude "evidence ... encourages the use of game modding in classes to promote learning of several subjects and concepts. .. We believe that using game modding motivated students to learn and allowed them to apply and visualize the utility and application of the concepts".

My Conclusion
The findings of both studies (Moeller et al & El-Nasr et al) should not come as a surprise Compare EL-NASR and SMITH's list with a similar list . Read about Harel's research and a project inspired by it.

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