More on educational games : the example of mission1point5

Using mobile gaming technology, Mission 1.5 educates people about climate solutions and asks them to vote on the actions that they want to see happen.

https://www.mission1point5.org/about

This new climate change related online activity is an interesting idea, combining a series of what are basically multiple choice questions (that give the user options for what their government should do to meet the 1.5 degree challenge) with calls to action for individual and national-level behaviour change.

Responses from your selected country will be aggregated and submitted to your government as your “vote”…

What will we do with the results?

Your vote, and those from your country, will be compiled and presented to your government to encourage bolder climate action. Votes will also be counted in a global tally. So stay tuned for the results!

https://www.mission1point5.org/about

Presumably this vote piece is only prearranged with the 12 countries (plus the EU) that are listed. In addition the game mechanics themselves are a little odd given your choice for each point is really between two items as one is clearly a ‘red herring’. The onscreen results from the ‘quiz’ record 10, 700 or 1000 points depending on your answer to a question and combine into a total score for tackling the 1.5 challenge across multiple areas such as “farms and foods”, “transport”, etc.

Example question from the “Farms & Food” topic.
A section’s “vote” (which acts like a summary/debrief of the ‘correct’ answers for each section).
Overall scoring in keeping temperature change down.

Does it educate?

The first quote included above specifically states the resource “educates people”. Obviously I could write a lot here about what educating someone actually means versus learning something, etc. What I will try to focus on is if someone is likely to learn anything from the activity. The answer, of course, will be “it depends”.

If we take the cattle example, in the above screenshot, there is a lot of pre-requisite knowledge required – for example a reading level to comprehend “livestock” and “plant-based diet”, albeit with mobile-style friendly graphics as visual clues. Beyond reading ability, there is no real information on the different option and what they mean – thus the light touch to any kind of knowledge content could be confusing and if you really wanted/needed to learn something from this you would likely have to do some research away from the resource. This is not helped by the text being image based and, therefore, you can not simply select text and ask your browser to search the web for more information.

Therefore, I am tempted to say this resource might be quite useful for a school to run through in a group, i.e. with a teacher/facilitator in place to use it to foster discussion, rather than as a learning resource per se.

How could it be improved?

10, 700 and 1000 don’t obviously relate to the 1.5 degree temperature and it is not very clear from the onscreen graphics how many ‘points’ are needed as a minimum for your choices to meet your country’s requirements. Indeed there is a contradiction between not wanting to add to temperature but also needing a high score. It would be better if the scoring was somehow reversed – e.g. starting with your high carbon total and then cutting it with a % target to reach 1.5 from a high score.

There is also a risk here from oversimplifying as, presumably, the carbon impact of some choices would be more in some countries than others (this complexity might be built in but I doubt it).

The “none of the above” option on the vote really does not work either as a form of learning summary nor as a mockup of the democratic action. Particularly if the intention of the resource is for actual democratic input…

Reliable information on public opinion on climate action

This is given, in a related YouTube video’s description, as a reason for the website’s vote element:

Mission 1.5 YouTube introduction

However, it is clearly a limited activity with just three (well two) options to consider per question and then the user being very heavily prompted to select the ‘best’ option for each section’s three questions as the vote. I must admit I voted a few “none of the above” responses in a Brewster’s Millions style mood.

Summary

Overall this feels like one of those examples of where someone wants to try to achieve educational outcomes but they have limited content, a desire to reduce instruction (but to the point of irrelevance) and really only manage to leverage the gaming expertise involved (which seems considerable from the “about” page) to graphics/UI and little else. It also highlights the incredible difficulty in building content for a global audience with no personalisation or clear target audience.

“Totally unrealistic”? Reflecting on categorising learning topics within games

This post was triggered by the below Twitter thread. Nuance is of course often lost in Twitter character limits, but, was my immediate response on reading @DTWillingham’s article fair or was I being too emotional (given my work in learning and time spent in the world of video games)?

Trigger thread

Firstly, lets all agree games are hugely powerful for learning. Indeed, I often blame Sid Meier for my choice of History for undergraduate studies (although, of course, a number of good teachers and other factors were at play).

Second, I would recommend you look at the original article. The idea is a really interesting one. The numbered points below are mostly where I disagreed with the article on first read through, with some reflections included below each point. Many of these have little to do with the (knowledge and skills) learning specifically but are important in terms of the framing of the learning environment and motivation (if we consider based on KISME). “Design for motivation” arguably being a skill in itself, as articulated in this new learning designer competency framework.

  1. “if my kids are representative”
    1. I appreciate this is a newspaper opinion piece but anecdotal starting points are not great. I also appreciate most of my views are very anecdotal based on my own experiences 🙂
  2. “I gave in to increased gaming time but gravely told my children they should choose educational games”
    1. This is a hugely “first world problem” problem statement. When I was in the age bracket being discussed (8 to 18) I got one game for my birthday and one for Christmas. If gaming is a concern for a parent then I would rather see an article encouraging them to be active in choices, either choose the games or be active with the children in the selection.
  3. “it’s usually impossible to know what, if anything, kids will learn from a video game based on a simple description of it
    1. I really like the opening of this part but not the bit I have italicised. Yes, a description will not likely cover this but a gaming experience is intensely personal. There are so many levels of competence to gaming skill, many games are non linear and players will pay differing levels of attention. Therefore, just like in an education environment, it is incredibly difficult to say what people “will learn” – only what we are encouraging and supporting them to learn. This also counters some game design – for example deliberately open design in the latest Zelda game.
  4. “The Entertainment Software Rating Board rates games for objectionable content like sex and violence. That’s helpful, but it should be as easy for parents to guide their kids toward enriching games as it is to shield them from unacceptable ones.”
    1. Surprisingly, given the author, this massively over simplifies learning. The ESRB, the BBFC, etc. are dealing with a very small taxonomy – for example, I just looked at GTA V on ESRB (presuming it would be the game with the most ‘warnings’) and it is only rated on 7 items – albeit that their are levels to this model (“intense”, “strong”, etc which is probably how we get to the 30 categories the article mentions). If we were to map “topics” as mentioned earlier, what would be the appropriate taxonomy? Cataloguers and librarians the world over would be quick to tell you this is difficult, video games themselves were an example used in my Librarianship MA as an example of how difficult it is to fit things into Dewey Decimal Classification – under games, technology, etc.?
  5. “boring”, education-first, games
    1. I previously considered if podcasts were the rebirth of “edutainment”. I don’t think we would say that as a concept is entirely bad. Indeed most people will remember their more “fun” teachers over some of the others. However, I would agree that “chocolate-covered broccoli” learning design isn’t very helpful in general, similarly to forced gamification in workplace learning. At the most recent school I worked at, most made for education “games” tended to frustrate the kids as they are the first to see when learning is being ‘forced’ into a game environment. Similarly potentially educational games, like Minecraft, were misused by what can probably be best described as ‘di**king about’. However, the experience of course varied enormously between the games and the children in terms of preference and practice. That said, some serious games undoubtedly do work and the science has been worked on for a long time, even if just thanks to the age old learning paradigm of simulation and practice of activities in safe(r) environments.
  6. “To make them fun, game creators either make the content less academic (and claim education will still benefit) or remove the tests (and claim kids will still learn). But the effect of either change on learning is unpredictable.”
    1. “learning is unpredictable” – I think this is the nub of the matter. It is unpredictable and difficult which is really why I was saying it is unrealistic to try and rate learning in such media. Indeed the article references the evidence that some games designed to help with memory do not work (which is in part why I said the vast majority of game driven learning is really accidental).
  7. “playing Tetris, do improve spatial thinking skills, an ability linked to success in math and science”
    1. But the designers probably did not anticipate this and the evidence becomes clear over time. It would be very difficult to classify such outcomes at the point of publication.
  8. “not quiz players on it”
    1. This is of course a very education way to talk about learning (going back in part to the original reason this site was called what it is). It probably doesn’t help to reinforce parental expectations of testing everything. It does double back to say learning is “because you thought about it, not because you were quizzed” but I would say it is weak on the fact that repetition to counter the forgetting curve is key here. For example, I learned Caribbean geography from Pirates! (like the other article mention in the thread but with Black Flag rather than Pirates!) as I played for many hours over a long period of time, however, I also had that knowledge reinforced through following football/soccer, looking at maps, watching the Olympics, etc. We know who “Prince Harry is married to” due to constant exposure to that content, I know very little about less exposed celebrities/royals.
  9. “They have to think about it, and that’s guaranteed only if the information is crucial to playing. Even then, “will they think about it?” isn’t always obvious.”
    1. I wouldn’t say it is guaranteed even in that case, repetition, interest, existing level of knowledge, etc. would all impact this. Also you do not necessarily think about spatial thinking skills. That is more incidental when benefiting from the Tetris example, etc.
  10. Roller Coaster Tycoon
    1. As the article suggests, the gamer would need an interest to pick on the more scientific elements rather than playing for fun/crashes. It would also depend a lot on existing knowledge, this would be impacted by age, literacy levels, etc.
    2. This could revert to something like sticking a recommended reading level on a game, for example, I loved Shadowrun but got bored with Shadowrun Returns as there was far too much reading text. A text rating would help parents and gamers of all ages. The text could also be potentially exported from code and analysed away from the game. This might help people determine if the game is too complex, for example if they are going to have sit through a huge tutorial reading activity. That said, in another context I would happily play more ‘interactive book’ type experiences.
  11. “Someone who understands cognition needs to evaluate gameplay. The video gaming industry could arrange for that.”
    1. This is the really difficult bit from a practical perspective. You may understand cognition but could you get through the game? Your analysis is unlikely to map to the possible variations in relation to the experience. Would you be better analysing pro players (for example on Twitch or YouTube)? I doubt “Game makers submit a detailed description of a new game, which is then evaluated by three professional raters”, as for the ESRB, would be anywhere near sufficient for the complexity of knowledge, skills and behaviours a game may change.
    2. There would also be potential cost implications – gaming is notoriously a low price inflation industry (even though the tech involved and size of games has transformed) with small and big designers regularly disappearing into bankruptcy.
  12. “they owe parents that much.”
    1. A nice way to wrap up the article. However, if we take that a parent would have to be at least 16 years old I would say the industry does not really owe you anything unless you have chipped in by playing games yourself within those years. As with film ratings and Parental Advisory it would also only be of use for the small number of parents who care.

The ease at which this information would appear to parents/purchasers is also perhaps giving more credit than due to some of the systems involved. The PlayStation store, for example, does not even offer a ‘wish list’ or ‘save for later’ type of option. The Steam Store allows various tagging but again we would come back to how difficult a taxonomy would be. The article and Twitter thread both mentioned Assassins Creed, if we take Valhalla you could argue you would learn a rough idea of:

  • English and Norwegian geography
  • some (stereotyped) Anglo Saxon and Norse cultural aspects
  • elements of medieval religious practice
  • different weapon types
  • and probably some other knowledge pieces.

However, as with learning from films and other media perhaps the most interesting point is away from such obvious content. Instead Valhalla’s approach to same-sex relationships could be a transformational learning experience, for example, if a sexist homophobe played the game then maybe, just maybe, they might have some of their beliefs and resulting behaviours changed. That said, did Ubisoft consultant with relevant bodies to ensure their representation was appropriate? This could be a challenge cast at many sources of information of course, for example if the The Crown should come with a health/education warning.

As I tweeted, I would love to work in gaming at some point, indeed one of those ‘sliding doors’ moments in my younger years was turning down a job at Codemasters. However, on reflection, I still don’t think the article’s suggestion is the best way to go. Indeed education consultants working for the developers would seem preferable to external rating and verification. DTWillingham is, of course, a luminary in this area (hell the LA Times publishes his articles!) but whilst I love the idea of this job existing I still feel it would be incredibly difficult to bring to fruition in a way that is of value to parents or anyone else.

List of premium tools available for Covid impacted education institutions

FINAL UPDATE MARCH 19th 2020: obviously this is a pretty mammoth task now that more US and UK organisations have got involved (and the increase in HEIs closing). Overall, I would recommend looking at what you are due to cover from a learning perspective and working out best approaches from there. Obviously tools should come after topics/tasks/outcomes. Here’s hoping that the digital learning world gets some credit out of this and continues to evolve.

I could not find a definitive listing of these so below is my attempt. The primary source is an uber list being compiled by a Facebook group here but obviously not everyone wants to be on Facebook nor are Facebook groups very easy to find or moderate.

Yes, I know this would be better as a shared Google Doc, Google Sheet or Wiki but I was trying to avoid false advertising from opening up the editing to those pushing products.

Note these are where there there seem to be clear attempts at offering longer free trials than normal or specific, short term, free upgrades/accounts. This goes over and above ‘always free’ tools such as ft.com (via their schools programme) and YouTube (free to all). I will try to add to this over time:

  1. Kahoot – quizzing, games, etc.
  2. Century tech – one of the emergent AI assessment platforms that could break down the time spent on marking for teachers
  3. Google Hangouts/Google Education – largely irrelevant for Microsoft shops but I guess they are hoping to convert some work from homers
  4. Discovery Education – free access (for US schools) to the Discovery resource libraries
  5. Quizlet seems to have a 30 day trial for teachers, I think this is longer than normal (although the URL says it is the Black Friday deal) – quizzes and flashcards but the teacher version offers tracking of student progress and other tools
  6. Britannica School free during Covid closures – the long standing Britannica brand now in the form of eLearning resources around encyclopedia content
  7. Nearpod are offering additional support (webinars and staff development) as well as access changes (to get a trial you have to fill in what seems like a rather excessively long form)
  8. Twinkl Resources are apparently free if you contact them to upgrade existing accounts
  9. Minecraft EDU – extended access during Covid
  10. InThinking Distance Learning – resources for various subjects
  11. Gizmos simulations – 60 day free trials
  12. Bookcreator – upgrade to collaboration level use of the iPad tool
  13. BrainPOP – free access to their animated movies, assessment resources and creative tools
  14. Buncee – not familiar with this tool: seems to be a learning management system with some synchronous learning components
  15. Classwork Zoom – GoogleClassroom plugin (for student progress tracking)
  16. Education Perfect – lots of resources for K-12 subjects, currently available for free till May 1st. Powerful looking assessment engine, including proctored assessments.
  17. Elementari – “write and code interactive stories” (I might have to have a play with this one!
  18. Kami – “Kami is the leading PDF & document annotation app for schools”
  19. Lalilo – Phonics platform for early years
  20. Mangahigh – slightly confusingly (given the name) a maths platform with lots of resource based learning
  21. Mystery Doug – K-5 science video platform free till June 1st
  22. Parlaydiscussion and chat tool, free till April 30th
  23. PearDeck – formative assessment including MCQ, etc.
  24. Sutori – social science content, history examples on home page
  25. Tynker – coding platform with free trial, current 30% off beyond
  26. WeVideo – online video editor
  27. Zoom – amendments to the always free version (some geographies only?)
  28. Pearson qualification schools have access to (60 day trial) resources here

Have I missed something? Send me a tweet.

Note this excludes eBook platforms as they often tweak their “free” models between educator, parent and other uses – such as Epic!, Story Time from Space and Storyline Online.

Not technically the kind of list I was trying to create but an interesting one has also been setup over on this page: https://covid19edresources.glideapp.io/

Another big list over here on Wakelet: https://wakelet.com/wake/ebca9f61-b708-4674-b1f8-f684df739cf9

Another big list here: https://kidsactivitiesblog.com/135609/list-of-education-companies-offering-free-subscriptions/

MIT’s K-12 resources

Some resources here

IBO contingency guide

Master tools list from the Facebook group here (more of what I thought I had originally missed):

http://www.amazingeducationalresources.com/?fbclid=IwAR2u-X7HG4PEuf6SuGBtGovUY0eGYQk0w3q9Fxr7MaXcjoMsd9OID9BJenc

Why I tweeted this week about eLearning tools

This week I reach out on Twitter and LinkedIn for help finding a free authoring tool. 

This was spurred on by a bit of research and the realization that most tools on lists such as:

are either no longer available, very limited when offering a ‘free’/lite version (often just PowerPoint conversion which has been superseded by Office itself) or, well, just a bit rubbish. 

So I decided to reach out on Twitter and LinkedIn to see if any free tools are out there.  Even if not free, I was hoping that they may be free for K-12/school use, in the way Tableau, The Financial Times and many other organizations make their tools/content available to hook people in at school/university level.

Tools used in the past still available?

Now, I was aware of Xerte and LAMS but wanted to avoid a desktop install tool, the same going for things like Microsoft LCDS which I’d also played around with in the past (although LCDS probably does not exist any more?). 

I reregistered for h5p.org but that is a public only platform when using the free version. 

I was also steering clear of anything built mobile app first – instead I needed something browser-based for PC/Mac. 

I had also previously used tools like iSpring and Easy Generator, however, the Easy Generator free version is longer available. 

So why am I looking at this anyway? 

Well, to be honest, content creation for consumption.  In many ways going against my own preferred practice, such as that stated in this tweet:

https://twitter.com/iangardnergb/status/1169550514410917888

Indeed I commented elsewhere on LinkedIn this week (in a conversation about SCORM based eLearning) that surely SCORM was first and foremost about interoperability, then tracking and learners actually learning way down the list.  In other words, SCORM (like many learning management systems) were designed for the learning managers not the learners.

Authoring combined with hosting

There are some free authoring platforms out there still but, from what I could tell, they are like https://eliademy.com/ and linked to the hosting of the finished product on the same platform – effectively handing your IP over for the reward of having an online experience. 

A sign SCORM is finally going?

There are also a lot of shades of grey as we move away from SCORM being the defacto standard towards tools with an AR, eBook or other focus. 

One interesting platform seems to be https://derbyware.com/ where you can publish quizzes, these can be embedded on your own site and password protected if you were to want to use them in your own sessions.  You could potentially combine this with Office365 elements to build an LMS without an LMS – unless you want to host trackable SCORM files of course!

Live ‘eLearning’

This differs to some of the live presentation software which, perhaps spooked by MS Teams and other things, do offer fairly comprehensive free options (such as Hypersay) or free licenses for education (such as Zeetings).

Just as an aside to finish, at least GoMo, Articulate, eLAT and others do provide free trials.

What every Learning and Development professional needs to know about the International Baccalaureate (IB)

Having just recently started to work on IB programmes I have been really impressed, from a learning design perspective, with the intentions of the IB Middle Years (UK equivalent up-to GCSE) and Diploma (UK 6th form/A-Levels) qualifications.

A lot of what I have found interesting I’m going to share here – particularly for a Learning and Development (L&D) audience – as the growth of the IB has not really been recognised in my experience of the L&D profession. This might be as the IB has been historically ‘niche’ and for wealthy children in certain hubs of international business. However, there has been considerable growth in IB Schools since the year 2000 (see these slides for example). As these programmes grow in popularity (which is likely to continue with increasing globalisation) there will be potential implications in how we (companies and particularly L&D teams) encourage people to develop in the workplace…

Some Background:

IB mission statement

The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.

To this end the organization works with schools, governments and international organizations to develop challenging programmes of international education and rigorous assessment.

These programmes encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.

The IB Learner Profile

The IB includes a ‘learner profile’, akin to the kind of attribute/value set most L&D teams will be reinforcing at organisational levels. The profile aims to develop learners who are:

  • Inquirers
  • Knowledgeable
  • Thinkers
  • Communicators
  • Principled
  • Open-minded
  • Caring
  • Risk-takers
  • Balanced
  • Reflective

Approaches to teaching and learning (ATL)

Perhaps more directly related to learning (and development) are the ATL. These are quite complex and have become increasingly important of late (see this blog for more). In many ways the ATL and learner profile encourage the kind of reflection and self-directed, lifelong, learning that L&D teams have long pushed for. The challenge for IB teachers with the ATL can seem similar to concerns L&D has faced, as Dianne McKenzie puts it on that blog post:

Why is…[embedding the ATL] such a hard thing? Is it because it has never been a priority? Is it because content has been king, with good pedagogy and skills coming in as the poor cousin?

http://librarygrits.blogspot.com/2015/05/repackaging-skills.html

As well as my previous experience in workplace learning these issues also ring a lot of bells for those who work in higher education. Indeed skills over content was a focus of an undergraduate module I supported and presented on a while back – yet Higher Education continues to be criticised as not fit for purpose by employers and other groups.

Similarly the Ways of Knowing and wider Theory of Knowledge attempts to install what feels like a detailed consideration of learning in students (and their educators):

language
sense perception
emotion
reason
imagination
faith
intuition
memory

Ways of Knowing

At what stage to develop all of this?

Personally, I suspect I’m not alone in getting to some of this level of self-understanding (around attributes like those in the learner profile) later than the IB age range at university and beyond. Indeed a recent alumni newsletter from one of my universities summed this up nicely:

My time at university taught me that your rewards are directly proportional to the effort you put in during your studies…
have a commitment to lifelong learning – never stop reading and actively keep up-to-date with your industry, following any changes and innovations.

Richard Robinson … Managing Director of holiday villa specialist, Sun-hat Villas & Resorts

The suggestion from the IB would seem to be that successful programmes would bring this through to school levels.

Therefore as well as L&D teams, university instructional design would do well to treat IB undergrads differently. The extensive Extended Essay research project of the diploma, for example, teaches many of the skills that libraries and universities spend time on in the first year of study.

So what might IB graduates expect of L&D teams?

If IB graduates are truly reflective, they should soon realise that ‘learning is work and work is learning’. So how might the IB graduates of the future understand the role of L&D if they are (even more than people in the past) used to managing their own learning?

Well, the IB’s definition of the school library is not far removed from L&D’s desire to shift to multi-modal facilitation of performance improvement:

The IB definition of a library is designed to focus on maximising its effectiveness: “Libraries” are combinations of people, places, collections and services that aid and extend learning and teaching.

Ideal libraries: A guide for schools (International Baccalaureate)

Indeed the role of the IB library is to support many areas that L&D professionals talk about for the workplace:

1. Curating

2. Caretaking

3. Catalyzing

4. Connecting

5. Co-creating

6. Challenging

7. +1 Catering

Six practices that energize learning and inquiry, and one that tends not to (from ‘Ideal libraries’).

All of the above will sound similar to the role L&D performs in many organisations, or at least try to carve out for themselves. Indeed the +1 to avoid (Catering) relates to just doing what the organisation wishes – or the classic, much maligned, L&D ‘order taker’.

The IB programmes also encourage inquiry within students in a number of ways that L&D pros often discuss as things they try to facilitate (with mixed success) in adults:

Social and emotional learning: relating to the growth and personal development of learners, and by extension the school community.

Service learning: relating to the knowledge and wisdom gained through serving the community.

Experiential learning: relating to what is learned through experience, experimentation, and reflection upon both (specific to the Diploma Programme [DP]).

Play: relating to the use of different forms of play and games, and reflection on the process and outcomes of them (specific to the Primary Years Programme [PYP]).

Ideal libraries (again).

With regards to the above, the IB’s Ideal Libraries report considers the resource centre as a form of conduit for learning, relating to the above forms of learning in addition to the dreaded (in some L&D circles) c-word – no, not that one…this:

Curriculum: relating directly to the content teachers are responsible to facilitate, and for students to learn. Research is a form of inquiry, and commonly associated with the curriculum.

Ideal libraries (again).

Therefore, an IB graduate might actually be more demanding of L&D than a ‘traditional’ school/university graduate as they are used to personalised support and facilitation of their own development from others (primarily teachers and ‘librarians’) whilst exposed directly to learning theory and concepts in ways others may not have been.