Tag Archives: game

Value of Humor And Play – Max Levin

Need I say more about how important it is to bring humor and play into Education?

“If play were not pleasurable,
kíttens would never chase each other’s tails, and so would lack
practice in the motor skills needed for survival. If there were no
pleasure in the appreciation of the absurd, if there were no fun
in playing with ideas, putting them together in various combinations and seeing what makes sense or nonsense—in brief, if there were not such a thing as humor—children would lack
practice in the art of thinking, the most complex and most
powerful survival tool of all.” – Max Levin

Free Full Online Courses by Stanford University – Spring 2012

Several universities world-wide have made their courseware available in different formats over the years. A very popular format is that of podcasts on iTunesU or video lectures on Youtube. See, for instance, this broad list of “free courseware” offerings by major universities. Yale, for example, has made several past lectures available on their Open Yale website. The Open University lets students try course materials for free on their OpenLearn resources page, which. Often, these courses are nothing but pre-recorded videos and audio elements (not full interactive courses) made public by the universities as a form of community outreach (which is already great, don’t get me wrong).

However, Stanford University is blazing trails for open online courseware. Anyone (as long as they understand the recommended prerequisites)can sign up to take some of their courses online, free of charge in the Spring semester of 2012. The courses will consist of live lectures (which can also be see later in an archive), quizzes, and forums in which online students can ask questions.

The current Spring 2012 semester offerings include courses on an eclectic variety subjects ranging from Computer Science to Game Theory, from Anatomy to Linguistics:

Computer Science 101
by Nick Parlante


Software Engineering for Software as a Service (SAAS)
by Armando Fox and David Patterson


Game Theory
by Matthew O. Jackson and Yoav Shoham


Natural Language processing
by Dan Jurafsky and Christopher Manning


Probabilistic Graphical Models
by Daphne Koller


Human-Computer interfaces
by Scott Klemmer


Machine Learning
by Andrew Ng


Technology Entrepreneurship
by Chuck Eesley


The Lean Launchpad
by Steve Blank


by Professor Dan Boneh


Information Theory
by Tsachy (Itschak) Weissman


by Dr. Sakti Sirivastava


Design and Analysis of Algorithms I
by Tim Roughgarden


Making Green Buildings
by Professor Martin Fischer






List adapted from The Rohan Aurora blog.

Evernote Peek – iPad Smart Cover Flashcard App

In a creative move which combines hardware and software, the developers at Evernote created an ingenious iPad app: Evernote Peek.
What’s it good for? Anything traditional flashcards are good for: memorizing facts, studying for tests, having fun in a trivia game.

Gamifying Learning

If you google “gamify“, “gamification” or “gamifying”, you will find several entries with this relatively new trend on the Web (the term is normally related to Web design and marketing).

I just wrote a short chapter on the “Learning Perspectives: 2010“, Gamifying Learning with Social Gaming Mechanics. This is a topic that intrigues me as an instructional designer.

A quick definition of gamification is to bring game mechanics to services that aren’t exactly games in order to increase user/costumer engagement, adoption and loyalty to a brand. According to Stephanie Schwab, gamification can be described as:

  • Make it fun and exciting to be part of a community
  • Reward audiences for participation
  • Encourage pass-along and recommendations
  • Build loyalty and sales through repeat visits and purchases

This new trend has been gaining momentum in the social Web, and publishers can now get access to resources and plugins that help them gamify their websites. Two examples of such services are:

  • Badgeville – This service offers widgets and APIs to integrate on a website that enable rewards, badges and reputation based on pre-determined user actions (e.g. commenting on posts on your blog, uploading user-generated content, etc.).
  • Nitro by BunchBall – This sophisticated gamification system offers an array of features, including the ability to create challenges, adopt leveling, offer badges and virtual goods, implement a leaderboard, and more. All based on user participation on your website which can be fully monitored via an administration and analytics tool offered by the company.
  • BigDoor Quick Gamification Plugin for WordPress – blog visitors can check in to your blog, post comments and perform other user actions to gain virtual rewards and points. Badgeville also offers analytics tools as well as integration with other social media services such as Facebook and Twitter.

Nigel Whiteoak has several blog posts about the topic of gamification here.

Stephanie Schwab has curated several resources about gamification here.

Here is Amy Jo Kim’s “Putting Fun in Functional – Applying Game Mechanics into Functional Software”

Beware, however, that just adding badges and points does NOT imply you are turning whatever your experience you create into a game. As clearly stated by the game design studio Hide&Seek, a game goes being rewards, it has a set of goals and makes achieving them “interestingly hard” for the player, badges and points are just a way to show them keep track of what they’ve achieved.

I also recommend Ian Bogost’s post “Gamification is Bullshit” which brings attention to the dangers in this “gamification movement” as it tends to disregard other important elements of game mechanics and tends to focus on extrinsic motivators and rewards alone.

How can we apply game mechanics to Education? Do you have examples to share?

ARGs in Learning – Learning in ARGs

In response to Koreen Olbrish’s post about learning that takes place in ARGs:

Here is a good place to find out what ARGs are being played currently. One of the best examples of ARGs I think was the one that warmed players up for the release of The Dark Knight. Just explore the puzzles there, incredible. If I am not mistaken, that ARG was developed by 42Entertainment (the same agency that created the Nine Inch Nails one. Also check out ARGnet for current ARGs.

ARGs are a very interesting resource for instruction, since you can mix the content with the storyline. Deliver puzzles that reveal messages that involve content, for instance…

They can be fairly cheap to do since all technologies needed for the game are right here, for free with Web 2.0:

  • Facebook, Ning, for discussions;
  • blogs for characters’ updates and direct contact with players,
  • wikis for players to interact and exchange clues, etc.
  • Youtube for video feeds and trailers.

Even the planning can be done collaboratively (e.g. flowcharting the gameplay via Gliffy with other designers, if geographically disperse)…

Also, VW can be used in the plot or even as the main meet up hub… These are just examples of social media resources that can be utilized in making a cheap and entertaining ARG.

ARGs are very engaging since they mix reality (clues and puzzles with characters that feel real, and player-player interaction)…

A problem on educational ARGs: ARGs tend to rely on having a VERY broad potential audience, say the whole world, and a portion of that population will enter the rabbit hole… well, how can you get 30 players (say you’re creating an ARG for a group of people at a conference) to “buy” the first clue and engage in the game? Maybe 2 of the 70 will actually find the first clue and engage… well, you can manipulate them, sending other clues, clarification, direct messages from game characters until they buy in.. but, the players must have a certain interest to stay in game… and not everyone is a “gamer”…

Just a few thoughts…

I love ARGs and think they have potential… we just need a few more publications with success stories, failures, things to avoid, etc. in EDUCATIONAL situations…, I think…

Take a look at the concept of mARGs (mini ARGs), shorter, with a specific, small audience. People at LAMP have been doing a great job on that .

More references on ARGs:
Alternate reality games, “Experience IT” track, at the ELI 2006 conference

Using Alternate Reality Games to Teach Data Security (a case study)

Alternate Reality Games SIG

Video Games and ARGs: What Can They Learn from Each Other?

Alternate Reality at the Smithsonian

Grokit, Social Learning Game

Grockit is definitely mixing traditional social networking with the power of Massively Multiplayer Online gaming (MMO). 

Learners study for tests such as GMAT in a live, competitive and collaborative environment as they earn and give points for good performance that are collected as they move to different levels of “expertise” in the community.

Players can invite friends and play synchronously. They can discuss questions and answers as they play live in a chat window as they eliminate wrong answers. They can also see why right answers are right and why the wrong answers were wrong. 

The website was covered on TechCrunch50 this week.

Adobe Max – Conference and a Hidden Game

Much like the good ol’ “easter eggs” that you find in software like Word Processing, games, etc. Now Adobe has hidden a game on their Adobe Max Conference website. It seems to be just a little “mysterious” incentive for those who explore the website, maybe some marketing move to make visitors want to share it with their friends… well, whatever the intent, I havve o confess I have already shared it with some people… :)

Do Games for Learning Really Work?

There are many articles we could link to here that tackle this question that can hardly be answered by the lack of research in the field that really “proves” something.

Dr. Blunt just assembled the results from three recent studies that try to express the effectiveness of game-based learning or serious games.

You can download the word processor version here. Or view the HTML version clicking here.

He finishes his article presenting several ideas for future serious games research topics:

  1. Several studies of other participants using other games.
  2. Studies of COTS games that could easily be adapted to teaching.
  3. Studies into why there is a positive relationship between learning and video games.
  4. Studies into the costs of using COTS video games versus custom content video games.
  5. Studies into the presentation of different learning styles in learning video games.
  6. Studies into the parental acceptance of game-based learning.
  7. Studies of business models (learning industry v gaming industry) to fully integrate game-based learning and pc-based simulations into e-learning companies.
  8. Studies on what impact using game-based learning will have on academic programs focusing on Instructional Systems Design (ISD) majors such as how curriculum will have to change.
  9. Studies to explore the relationship between attrition and video game-based learning.

Social Games Even on Consoles – Learning Opportunities?

I’ve realized that I add questions as titles to my posts very often. Maybe because I am not sure exactly what I am saying is like what everyone else is saying, perhaps because I want this blog to be more of a dialog. A social interaction…

This is what has occurred to me lately: game developers want their gaming experiences to be social ones. More and more you see game website like MiniClip, one of my favorites, creating social networks around their already fun products. 

What does adding social networking features around games offer? Well, first of all, it is my belief and some of my findings that the Net Generation (yes I have been reading a lot about this subject lately) … well, the Net Generation is a generation that enjoys social interaction, doing things in groups. So, adding features that let them network with friends and play with people they know allows them to “share the joy” of playing the game, challenging their friends. Yahoo, for instance, has been offering online multiplayer games for a long time on their games pages (I love the pool game, by the way). The difference here is that many developers are improving the networking capabilities, allowing the players to, for example, have customized avatars, email friends, challenge friends to certain games, share those games on Facebook, embed them on blogs, etc., all from the main website once they log in.

Something intriguing is that  having “amazing” graphics doesn’t really matter that much because players enjoy the games and the social interaction. It is an era in which people value more the social the the actual “lone wolf” immersion of the first generations Playstation games.

The interesting thing is that this idea of social gaming is spreading to game consoles too. The Nintendo Wii is a great example of that. Players can add their friends’ Wiis to their and actual email addresses to their address books and message them from the Wii console itself (no need for a CD or anything, this is built into the Console itself). Users can share their Wii numbers and Miis (Wii avatars) with people they know and play games together. They can also share their Wii information with people they don’t know through an unnofficial website called ShareMiis (this exemplifies how much people want to connect with one another). Players can also play “guessing” the most popular answers to polls on the “Everyone Votes” channel (players can also submit their own ideas for questions to be asked on a regional or world level).

Why am I going on and on about social games? Because this trend has to tell us something about learning also. Knowing how people want to interact should also tell us a lot about how people want to learn. In the end, learning is a game (with scores, motivation, outcomes, rules, and all those items Marc Prensky always mentions as defining a game), the difference is how fun and motivating we want to make that game. 

People want to socialize, they want to interact. That is how learning should be. We (educators, instructional designers) have a lot to learn from the gaming industry… a lot to learn.


from TechCrunch:

“Social games are not just multiplayer games. In social games, existing social relationships add context and motivation to the gameplay. Social games are more fun to play with people you know than with anonymous strangers. Examples of social games include Friends for Sale*, where you had better buy your girlfriend back from that guy who has been hitting on her at the gym,(fluff) Friends, where if your BFF feeds your pet, you are compelled to reciprocate, and Power Challenge, where you can’t let your team’s loss to your fraternity brother’s team go unavenged.

Even single player games can become social when the right infrastructure for community and social interaction are built around them, including high score leaderboards, achievement badges, challenges and simple message boards, as KongregateAddicting GamesMiniClip andMindJolt are demonstrating.”

Update: Come2Play released for white label casual gaming networks.

%d bloggers like this: