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Learning By Playing

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the good-for-computers-bad-for-surgery dept.

Education 49

theodp writes "This week's NY Times Magazine — a special issue on education and technology — is tailor-made for the Slashdot crowd. For the cover story, Sarah Corbett explores the games-and-education movement, which she notes is alive and well at Quest to Learn, a NYC middle-school that aims to make school nothing less than 'a big, delicious video game.' Elsewhere in the issue, Paul Boutin writes about Microsoft's efforts to inspire The 8-Year-Old Programmer with its Kodu Project, and Nicholas Carlson reports on Columbia University's efforts to mix journalism and hard-core computer science with its unique dual-degree master's in journalism and CS. There's also an accompanying timeline that nicely illustrates how learning machines have progressed from the Horn-Book to the iPad."

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49 comments

Hidden Math in MMOs (4, Insightful)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33619908)

Educational games tend to be pretty pathetic, but if you do any crafting in MMOs you'll find that some basic math skills are a big help. I'm sure that if you put higher forms of math, navigation, economics and social politics into an MMO, its players would quickly pick up on these concepts. As they are now, I don't think it's a very efficient way to learn. If you also added some tools and some tutorials for those things into the game, you might be able to make the learning process more efficient. Hell, they put protein folding into a game and made it fun, so I'm sure it could be done.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33619984)

Educational games tend to be pretty pathetic

I happen to work for an educational video game company, www.bigbrainz.com and we feel that most companies rush out products to cover a ton of subjects. This approach isn't necessarily bad, but we've tried to focus on one thing, the times tables, and we do it well. The graphics in Timez Attack are amazing compared to other educational games and children really seem to love it. We also notice that when a child does well in one subject, in our case math, they tend to do better in other subjects. We hope to continue on to other subjects but we are really focusing on quality. We hope that other companies join us in our pursuit in high quality education video games and not simply games that are really flash cards on computer.

High Quality Versus Graphics (3, Interesting)

Alaren (682568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620086)

If you don't mind commenting on this, what do the people at your company think of StarFall [starfall.com] ?

We started our daughter on StarFall when she was 4 years old. She would sit and play it with her 2-year-old brother, who surprised us one day by reading all of the flashcards we'd prepared for her--by sounding out the words. In terms of graphics, StarFall is about as simple as they come.

Every child is different--my other son, now 3, does not yet read, though he does enjoy StarFall. But while your product looks interesting enough, watching the YouTube video made me immediately think--"This is basically a simplified 3D platformer-type game with math quizzes instead of block puzzles." And while I think children should have a variety of learning tools available to them, I'm not sure what I see there is a product any different than the cute but largely ineffective educational games of my youth: a game that is good but not great, by the standards of its day, with an educational component bolted on.

Over the years, StarFall has gotten a lot more mainstream--I first heard about it from my sister, who homeschools her five children, but lately everyone seems aware of it. The comment from my son's teacher this year was, "Hard to believe this site is free."

My thought was yes, very hard to believe, because I've yet to find an educational game I'd pay money for. While the one I'd pay money for without a second thought has extremely low production values but demonstrates an almost intuitively perfect grasp of childhood pedagogy. I don't want to harsh on your work or anything, it looks like a well-constructed project. But what I see in the video does not look like a game that integrates learning; it looks like a series of bribes between homework sessions.

Re:High Quality Versus Graphics (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33620288)

But what I see in the video does not look like a game that integrates learning; it looks like a series of bribes between homework sessions.

That's interesting that you say that. That is the exact thing we are trying to avoid. :) I remember when I first heard about this company and I looked at the website and the videos and I thought some of the same things you have said. Then I started to play the game and more importantly I watched children play the game and then I saw the value in the game. Many of the youtube videos on the site are there to give a quick overview of the game and show the different levels. If you go to the teacher page and look up the setup video you will see how the game tries to be more than a bribe. We try to integrate playing and learning into the same thing. So, please try the free version, which has all the education of the upgraded version just not as many environments, and if you have any suggestions please send us an email. We love all the suggestions we can get. Also, I haven't seen StarFall so I will have to take a look at that. Thanks for the suggestion.

Re:High Quality Versus Graphics (1)

Alaren (682568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620536)

Fair enough--I wonder, if you felt the same as I did about the video, perhaps it is time to change the video?

Anyway, I will look into the free version as you suggest. My daughter is in third grade now and will be working on multiplication soon, so the timing is good.

Do look into StarFall--obviously it's a little different than what you are doing as it's reading instead of math, but I think anyone in education-entertainment software should be familiar with the site.

Thanks for taking the time to respond! Best of luck with your product.

Re:High Quality Versus Graphics (2, Interesting)

severoon (536737) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620740)

The problem with injecting math, social politics, etc, into games like MMOs is that the problems to be solved are "constructed"—that is, the lesson to be learned has to be presented as a specific obstacle to be overcome. The criteria to get the reward behind that obstacle has to be defined; essentially, there's right and wrong answers and the reward is not generally connected to the problem in an organic way.

I'll use a simple example for illustrative purposes...remember Math Blaster? If you've ever played it, you get a math problem across the top of the screen and different answers to it fall down. You sit at the bottom in a little Space Invaders-like spaceship blasting away. Shoot the right answer, get points.

Why does this game suck? Because the problem-solving element of solving the math problems is not connected to game play; in fact, game play exists only as an artifice to get you to solve the math problems. One doesn't advance in the game because the result of the equation was useful (other than adding to your score, of course).

Contrast this with an organically presented problem, where your character is standing in a train station, confronted with having to make a decision about how to get somewhere in the game world by a certain time. The player has to run around and get the info from the train schedules, maybe it makes sense to wait for the bullet train that skips stops, maybe it makes sense to wait for a cab to come even if it costs a little extra money. In this way, game play is actually advanced by working out the problem.

Of course, this kind of game play has drawbacks. You can't usually present a binary right/wrong answer—problems that arise organically usually have solutions that present in degrees. One consequence of this is that most of the time you can't force every player to deal with the problem at all, some will find a way to avoid it entirely. The other issue is that it's hard to differentiate between solving a problem based on understanding and solving a problem by finding the answer. You could, for example, find a way for a complex calculus problem to arise naturally in your game, but you have to make sure the player's success is based on deep understanding of the solution, not the player's ability to pull up Wolfram|Alpha and get an answer.

Re:High Quality Versus Graphics (1)

MikeFM (12491) | more than 3 years ago | (#33624396)

I've been disappointed with the availability and quality of toddler friendly games available for PC/Mac and the game consoles I have. I did find a downloadable Wii game called PooYoos (or something like that) recently that at least my daughter enjoyed but it wasn't highly educational. I haven't tried a lot of web based stuff but to me it makes sense it might be better because I've noticed iOS apps from small developers are better than any of these PC or console games for toddlers.

I have been pleased with iOS apps for toddlers though as many are very affordable ($1 - $5), they look good, they are educational, and most important my daughter enjoys playing them and can do so without my help. (Not that I don't interact but she can do it and isn't just watching me.) She has picked up a lot of information through these games such as object recognition, spelling, and so on that seems advanced for a two year old. All without drilling which could take the fun out of learning. Also she has gotten very apt at technology itself.

We watch a lot of Dora, Kai-Lan, Signing Time, etc too which I think is good for her too. I like the exposure to different languages she gets and the other topics they cover ranging from shapes and numbers to how to handle emotions is a good place for us to start our interaction on the topics.

Of course we do a lot with blocks, toy trains, dolls, books, coloring, etc too. All the basics of childhood. Before actually having kids I'd read a lot about how bad it was to let children watch tv or play video games and at first I was avoiding them but as I gained experience I decided that these studies were misrepresented or wrong because I can clearly see the opposite result. I think leaving your kids in front of the tv all day is a bad idea but giving them good educational resources of all types and using them with your child will produce good results. As always it's about being involved and balancing it all.

Re:High Quality Versus Graphics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33625674)

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Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1)

Singularitarian2048 (1068276) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621314)

Timez Attack looks amazing!

I just downloaded the free version but I can't seem to play it because I'm not a student/didn't have a password. =(

Am I doing something wrong? If I could try it out I'd probably recommend it for my cousins.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 3 years ago | (#33625438)

"We also notice that when a child does well in one subject, in our case math, they tend to do better in other subjects."

No, shit, really? Students that do well in school tend to do well in school. Did you ever stop to think that they do well in math because they do well in school, and not that they do well in everything else because your software magically made them learn everything else really well?

The problem I have with "educational" video games is that ideally they're just a wrapper for the core subject. The video game can do one of two things:
A) Stress the core subject and put flashy animations and graphics around it. This just wastes time. You're trying to trick a student into learning, which you can't do. You're trying to trick someone into sitting down and memorizing multiplication tables. The student says "this game is just multiplication tables, it's boring".
B) Not stress the core subject and concentrate on the game aspect. This results in no learning.

"We hope that other companies join us in our pursuit in high quality education video games and not simply games that are really flash cards on computer."
Alright, I looked at YOUR website and watched YOUR advertisment. It looked like exactly that. The character walks around, finds some obstacle with a multiplication question on it (monster, wall, etc.), enters the answer, obstacle is defeated, repeat ad nauseum.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620028)

I'm sure that if you put higher forms of math, navigation, economics and social politics into an MMO, its players would quickly pick up on these concepts.

I used to play Vega Strike (and probably will again) and my most hoped-for feature in the far future is a functional economy. The number of cargo ships needs to be related to the amount of goods needed, and the price of goods needs to be based on the supply and demand... Because otherwise it's just a pretty backdrop and the complexity is all illusory. Why even bother to have a trading system in a persistent game if there's no consequences to any actions? Just because it's important to the storyline?

I don't play subscription MMORPGs because I never seem to have the right combination of time, money, and a good internet connection, but if I did I would play Eve just for this reason (and that I am an unabashed sci-fi junkie.) A functional economy is just a fundamental feature of a consistent world. I'm not going to play any game in which trading is a major component unless you can sink a trade ship and raise the price of a commodity. It just feels pointless. I don't know why making the numbers go up in anything but my bank account ever makes me feel like I've achieved something (what was my gamerscore again? besides paltry) but actions have to have at least long- if not far-reaching consequences for me to care about taking them.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620126)

My gripe with the educational games is that they were always first and foremost geared to be educational. They weren't really games, they were just doing math or typing exercises on the computer.

A variety of sim games (Railroad Tycoon being my favorite) strike a very good balance of mostly game but there also being plenty to accidentally learn along the way. Railroad Tycoon will teach you a LOT of geography, for example, along with some basic economic concepts.

Eve is pretty much just an economics spreadsheet pretending to be a game. It doesn't provide you a lot of the tools to actually do your own analysis, though, so you'll need to keep your own spreadsheets outside of the game.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1, Interesting)

huckamania (533052) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620394)

My 5 year old has played just about every educational game you can think of. The best ones have a significant game portion that requires passing the educational parts. However, we aren't expecting the games to teach her anything, that's our job. If the games motivate her to learn, that's great. Her 2 favorite games have very little learning content, but even mastering those games requires focus, thought and patience.

She started school last month and if she does not behave well (green or blue mark), she loses access to the computer. If she misbehaves (red, orange, yellow), she loses all, 1/2 or a 1/4 of her toys. She now knows what a quarter of her toys looks like.

The most amazing thing to me is how much she knows about computers. I almost have her turning in QA style bug reports for her computer. "Well the screen froze, but if I push the windows button I can get out of the game, but when I go back it is still frozen." That was a conversation this morning.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620242)

An MMO where you have to learn (or discover by themselves) the rules of politics, economics, math and probably several other things aren't very efficient, specially in time, aren't something for the classroom... but maybe are something for outside it, and maybe discuss/improve around those topics on the game in class. The good part is that is an activity driven by the students, that are them that want to do the effort if they get it. In the other hand, could end being addictive and affect negatively other activities.

Re:Hidden Math in MMOs (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620500)

The biggest difference here is that you can "craft" by following directions, just like you can cook a meal in real life by following directions. It takes a will to explore and an interest in the subject for someone to go above and beyond to try to figure out the premise of the recipe and expand on it with math.

Wrong assumption, IMHO (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620710)

You seem to assume that most people will actually do that math. In practice most will get some build off a site and run with that. Or get some tool which calculates it for them, rather than just help.

Or for crafting, people actually do stuff like pick some crafting guide from a site and mindlessly follow instructions like "gather 100 bars of X, 60 bars of Y and a stack of Z. Craft product A 20 times, then 25 times product B, go to the trainer and learn recipe C, craft that 15 times." At the end of the day most will just be a few thousand gold short because they just bought those quantities instead, and still have no idea why, say, they skipped products D and E in the middle which needed more bars. The maths involved won't even get a nod, much less some thinking.

Heck, I still see people who don't even learn the basic geography of the place because they were chasing the little cube marker of QuestHelper and never even noticed major landmarks.

Basically, in the immortal words of Dorothy Parker, "You can lead a horticulture, but you can't make her think." ;)

Re:Wrong assumption, IMHO (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621422)

You seem to assume that most people will actually do that math. In practice most will get some build off a site and run with that. Or get some tool which calculates it for them, rather than just help.

Of course, they do. But the ones who do look into it and learn the ropes have an advantage in game. That's how education sneaks into these games.

Re:Wrong assumption, IMHO (1)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 3 years ago | (#33622800)

The hard core crafters in various games might. Most games have recipes that require you to assemble the various ingredients. The higher end recipes require some set of things that you can assemble from other ingredients. So if you want to make 20 high end swords, you need the list of all the lower end ingredients you need to make and how many of each you'll need.

I suspect that the crafters in Eve online, at least the hard core ones, have spreadsheets and calculate to the isk how much they can spend and still make a profit at current market rates.

If I had kids, though, I'd be much happier with them playing Railroad Tycoon. They're much more likely to get something out of that.

They do it anyway, actually (1)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 3 years ago | (#33623474)

They do it anyway, actually. The point of those lists for example in WoW isn't to make the right number of components for a given number of final products, as most products don't really have any intermediate steps. The point is simply to grind your skill from 1 to whatever value, in the minimum time and with minimum expense.

QTL (3, Interesting)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33619968)

Why would you complicate things like that? And wouldn't the children without much ability to put themselves in another's shoes and ability to abstract be quite disadvantaged by a method of teaching like that? It's just the kind of "muddy" mixed-up way of teaching which I loathed in school - like mathbooks wich used such heavy layers of methaphor and allegory (to teach the kids to "use their skills in real life?") that getting a fix on the underlying system was 5x the normal work. This was fortunately absent from the physics books. When I got my college algebra textbook it was a godsend.

Kudu is insulting to 8-year-olds (4, Insightful)

crgrace (220738) | more than 3 years ago | (#33619976)

I'm not so sure about Kudu and the ilk. The problem I have with it is that it isn't programming. The description of Kudu from the article (making a motorcycle racing game) sounds an awful lot like Racing Destruction Set or that Hypercard adventure game authoring tool I had for Macintosh that lead to some truly dreadful games. Also, I find the idea that you need some gimmicky, technicolor GUI for an 8-year-old to explore programming is a tad insulting to the 8-year-olds. I started learning Commodore-64 Basic when I was 6, and actually wrote a mildly sophisticated database program for my Little League Baseball team when I was 8 or 9. From the comments I've seen on Slashdot, my experience is certainly not unique. I think if I had started with Kudu I would have gotten bored and moved on. I'm an engineer now, largely I think from my childhood goofing about with computers.

I can't remember the name, but I saw a great book written by a Dad and his son about Python. I think that is a much better exploration into computers than Kudu.

Re:Kudu is insulting to 8-year-olds (1)

Djatha (848102) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620574)

I do agree with you that children are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for. I do think that programming is seen as difficult my most adults in the education business (teachers, parents and publishers alike) because they themselves did not have had any experience with it as a child and are not interested in it as an adult. (I see similar responses to math, science, and technology) Can children learn to program in a verbose procedural programming language? Yes, definitely; however we have to guard for over optimism in this regard. Hacking a program together by trial and error is not the same as learning to program. Some children will really grasp concepts as variable, syntax rules and maybe subroutines but most -- even those children that are able to create working programs -- will have a superfluous understanding. Making the step from creating a simple fun program of sorts to cognitively being able to write a program for some problem will be difficult. There is even research suggesting that a (large) portion of students is unable to learn to program (as in understanding its concepts and applying them to different (new) situations). Summarizing: there will be children like you and me were that are able to program on some level from an early age on. At the same time learning to program might be too difficult for many. Add to that the problem of motivation and programming in a 'real' programming language becomes hard. Writing programs that output text is easy but quite boring. Given their access to graphical superb computer programs children will want to create similar good looking programs. Creating graphical programs is difficult unless you have a special environment (turtle logo, alice, sketch, kudu, ...) that simplifies access to graphical objects. There definitely is need for more research on programming for (young) children and learning to program in general. I would like to see our children be educated to be minimally able to use, understand and adapt computer systems and programming of some sort should be part of that.

Re:Kudu is insulting to 8-year-olds (1)

Schadrach (1042952) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620868)

It reminds me more of something like The Incredible Machine with more interactive parts, presented as a programming educational tool.

There was another game that was much more similar to "real" programming called COLOBOTS, which I spent a bored weekend tinkering with once. My big complaint was the limited amount of code storage the little bastards had -- after some early futzing around I'd actually laid out a plan for a (hopefully) decent generic AI for the bots, that would allow them to self identify, coordinate, and more or less play the game themselves. That was when I learned there *was* a limit, and that the language didn't allow the creation of libraries. =p

Re:Kudu is insulting to 8-year-olds (1)

ShakaUVM (157947) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620902)

>>Hypercard adventure game authoring tool I had for Macintosh that lead to some truly dreadful games.

As a kid, I never found it very hard just to program in hypercard. Why did they need to add an additional layer of abstraction on top of it? It was never hard to use.

I've been playing around with Google App Inventor. It seems like a suitable tool to teach kids the fundamentals of modern programming (get/set methods, callbacks, etc.) with a pretty easy UI on top of it. I just don't think it's powerful enough to make real apps. Can you do checkers in it? I'm not sure.

Was it this one? (1)

cwgmpls (853876) | more than 3 years ago | (#33623908)

Was the book called Hello World [amazon.com] ?

Amusing Ourselves to Death? (4, Interesting)

Alaren (682568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33619978)

As an advocate for the medium, I'm pleased to see video games getting mainstream press in ways beyond sensationalist violence tie-ins. I have two children who learned to read at young ages using a combination of LeapFrog videos and StarFall [starfall.com] . I have a 5-year-old son whose spatial awareness and reasoning skills have been honed through Flash-based puzzle games, which in turn inspired him to try posting on related message boards, to tell the authors of certain levels how much he enjoyed their contribution, which is a learning experience in itself. (That's right, folks, sometimes the guy posting on the boards really is a kindergartener!)

And yet... the words "the medium is the message" sound an awful lot like "caveat emptor" in this context. Neil Postman's observations about television in the 1980s have proven increasingly true in the age of 24-hour news. And while the internet has some potential as a print medium, and places like /. seem to encourage at least some depth in conversation, I would argue that most of the news is online is even *more* trivialized that the stuff on TV.

When it comes to pedagogy, the value of video games is (at least!) that they are interactive and therefore more effective teaching tools. And the quote from... I think it was Arthur C Clarke? "Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be," is apt. But I was recently pointed to Isaac Asimov's short story Profession [abelard.org] and I wonder if that's not the direction we're heading--toward such effective education in the narrowly-defined, test-oriented sense that the ability to teach oneself, through work, through discovery, is lost.

Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine (1)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620114)

shouldn't be teaching. Let's check the actual quote:

http://www.quotesdaddy.com/quote/290532/david-thornburg/any-teacher-that-can-be-replaced-by-a-computer-deserves [quotesdaddy.com]

"Any teacher that can be replaced by a computer, deserves to be." - David Thornburg

Teachers who are as soulless as a computer shouldn't be teaching. Anyone who thinks a computer can do a teacher's job has never been a teacher.

Re:Any teacher that can be replaced by a machine (1)

Alaren (682568) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620642)

Teachers who are as soulless as a computer shouldn't be teaching. Anyone who thinks a computer can do a teacher's job has never been a teacher.

Or perhaps anyone who thinks a computer can do a teacher's job has had too many poor teachers? Or too many teachers who believed just that?

I think part of the problem we face with public education in the United States is that many of our good teachers are used to shield our many bad ones. We'd all like to believe that our policemen are noble, our firefighters brave, our teachers self-sacrificing... but these positions of public trust are also jobs filled by human beings, some lazy, some misled, some simply burned out or disillusioned.

I have a sister teaching high school math in Arizona and a brother-in-law teaching middle school science in Idaho. They are very good at what they do, and I don't think there is a computer in existence that could do their jobs. But unfortunately, there are an awful lot of teachers who can't or won't do their job, either. This is further compounded by the number of parents who actively prevent teachers from doing their jobs and the interference of certain government agencies, mostly federal, imposing various counterproductive requirements on those jobs.

I suspect computerized learning will increase in popularity as society continues to push for consistency-of-results in educational outcomes. Every good teacher knows that facts are only half the battle. Unfortunately, they're the half that can be quantified and standardized and tested, and so they're the only half policy makers can account for.

Taking Things Apart (4, Interesting)

KalvinB (205500) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620000)

I have a three year old daughter and she was playing with an old educational toy when I realized that you could take it apart, see how it works and put it back together again. It wasn't designed for that but there were plenty of parts in it. You can't do that with most modern toys. They're just discrete pieces of silicon. Very little of interest or use is contained in them.

The problem with this type of "research" is that it's finding excuses to give kids sugar rather than discipline them so they eat real food.

Success is no longer defined by the amount of learning that is happening but by the lack of discipline problems that occur while the learning is occurring. Sugar shuts the kids up so that's success.

Schools need to stop encouraging the attitude that education begins and ends with a bell. If schools focused on reading, writing and math then students could find and learn about their own personalized interests outside of class.

Re:Taking Things Apart (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33693556)

I like this analogy with food. You can give them junk and they'll still grow. World of difference is in quality!

Stupid politics are stupid (2, Insightful)

airfoobar (1853132) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620318)

Why must one side frame games as "The work of the devil, corrupting our youth!!!1" and the other as "The university of life, teaching useful skills!!!1"? Can't we all just be reasonable people and say "Games are games, they are only supposed to be fun. If some people are able to learn from them, that's good for them (I know I have done, but not everyone can, so don't abolish schools just yet). If some people are homicidal maniacs, it's because they are homicidal maniacs, it's not because of the games they play."? We don't need to pass games off as good or evil.

Re:Stupid politics are stupid (1)

Keill (920526) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621708)

Actually - games being 'fun' is a completely subjective application of something that has no place in their definition...

Games are no more about fun than puzzles, art or competitions. The only reason people think that is the case, is because they confuse play as a verb, (which describes what we do in a game), with play as a noun.

Games, art, puzzles and competitions have no relationship with the words work or play when used as a noun. Such words need to be subjectively applied, and therefore can be applied, to almost any aspect or type of human behaviour.

And therein lies the root cause of this problem, (which I'm currently working on a paper about): the English language has another type of word that is not, nor has ever been, recognised for what it is - a type of NOUN which ultimately represents an application of some aspect/combination/type of BEHAVIOUR, which, because it's abstracted as a 'thing', it's what people currently think such words represent.

Unfortunately, the English language as it's currently recognised to exist, is not best equipped, (or taught/learned), to actually deal with this problem in a consistent, objective manner, as it must. Thankfully, however, the language has a solution, but it involves solving another problem first...

watch animals (1)

blue_teeth (83171) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620518)

Sheesh guys!! Don't we already know that young of animals learn by playing? Look at kittens, cheetah's cubs or children of most animals when they play.

No, I have not read TFS or TFA.

Re:watch animals (1)

Securityemo (1407943) | more than 3 years ago | (#33623590)

Well, I'd say that's more like "learn by practicing in a playful manner."

Re:watch animals (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33626222)

Well, I'd say that's more like "learn by practicing in a playful manner."

Yes, that is what playing is. Well, at least how nature and tradition defines it. Most 'modern' people think if it's "play" then it's not relevant. Almost all games are simply limited-situation examples of real-life issues.

For example, football* is about war, from the point of view of a unit commander or soldier. Chess is also about war, but from the point of view of a General or Emperor.

*(Americans play Football, which is a variant of a form of English football called 'Rugby', not to be confused with the other major variant of football which was traditionally called 'Soccer' by the British but is now generally referred to as just 'football'.)

Why not have educational content folded into games (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620526)

Can anyone tell me a reason why real educational content is not already seamlessly folded into games? Kids can't pass a test but they know the names of all 150 Pokemon, or the good items in WoW and how to use them effectively together, or the location of every last secret location in GTA4. Why not name the Pokemon #1=Hydrogen, #2=Helium, #26 Iron, and so on? We'd have an entire generation who memorized every element and their atomic numbers, without even trying. Just think of how much we all learned about ancient societies and leaders just by playing Civilization? How many people learned what a phalanx or trireme was? How many of you knew, before playing the game, who Rameses II was? Heck, how many of you even knew Frederick the Great?

I've always thought this should be done as a standard tactic. But no, we have yet another nonsensical story for kids to learn about a magic turtle and his journeys where he met dozens of made-up people and their fake experiences. How about telling a piece of history, with cartoon characters substituted for the historical figures? Kids will realize one day that Fooky the Bear was actually Cromwell, or Woodrow Wilson, or whomever, and Fooky's story was actually the French Revolution or the Enlightenment. Mark my words, one of these days someone is going to "discover" this concept and get the Nobel Peace Prize.

Re:Why not have educational content folded into ga (1)

healyp (1260440) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620978)

Agree! In fact thinking back on my own experience I knew who Adolf Hitler and the Nazis were waaaay before they ever briefly, briefly covered World War II in my formal education...All thanks to Wolfenstein baby.

Because history sucks. (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621194)

The kids know all the names and attributes of game characters because they spend the equivalent of WEEKS in school learning them.

Schools just cannot devote the next 2 months for JUST memorizing the periodic table of the elements.

And the kids learn the stories on TV and the movies because the stories are all simplified and standardized. History isn't that clean. Humans do not follow the same pattern as our society's myths do.

Which is the great part about learning REAL history. You see the people as more than 1 dimensional entities. In the movies, this guy is bad because he is the bad guy. This guy is good because he fights the bad guy and feeds baby puppies.

Re:Why not have educational content folded into ga (1)

selven (1556643) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621232)

I say throw some advanced math into games. For example, imagine that you're playing a game and you enter a room. Suddenly, you realize that the room is filled with toxic gas, and you suddenly take 50 damage. One second later, 52 damage. One second after that, 54 damage. You have 10000 health. You need to figure out how long you have to get out of the room. So you think "ok, the DPS (hey look, that's a derivative!) is 50 + 2t. I want the total damage to be less than 10000. So you take the antiderivative (50t + t^2), set the result to 10000 (t^2 + 50t - 10000 = 0) and solve the quadratic equation! t = (-50 + sqrt(2500 + 40000)) divided by 2, the root is about 210, so t = 160 / 2 or 80. I have 80 seconds to live!".

Ok, now I actually want to play a game like this.

For languages (2, Interesting)

ubersoldat2k7 (1557119) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620632)

I might not be the only one, but I grew up playing games in English and I believe most of my learning experience in this language was based on the challenges those games brought on me. I mean, I was 10 or so when I finished Crystalis and Zelda on the NES and I remember finding myself thinking/playing in English when my school friends were learning "my name is...". I think there are fields (like idioms) which can greatly benefit from games, like history, geography. But in the case of mathematics, which requires a great deal of practice not so much.

Re:For languages (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621052)

Mentioning mathematics, I was having a conversation about that with a parent who was considering homeschooling her child a while back. She was trying to figure out how the 'Unschooled' kids learned math without a formal class. So, I started pondering how my kid learned math. At 6 he is doing areas and volumes, adds and subtracts fractions, and is just moving into multiplication of fractions, as well as some simple algebra.

Going through the math subjects he learned, I noticed that the process pretty much was 1) Explain a concept 2) Show him how it worked 3) Show him a real world example 4) Walk him through it with him doing the work, and me telling him the next step 5) Have him try it on his own. We would throw in the occasional challenge game where he would challenge me to a 'puzzle', then I would challenge him. If he wasn't interested, my wife and I would challenge each other in the same room as him, completely 'ignoring him'.

What came out of this reflection was that math up to and including high school is pretty much only a few days worth of information. All the rest is just practice.

All that being said, you might be amazed at how much math goes into a lot of games. Whether that is calculating the amount of damage based on armor class, strength, magical multipliers, and a host of other factors, or if it is calculation how many of your crew will starve to death on the way to the next port based on food stores, feed rate, ship speed, and odds of delay based on encounters on the way.

The trick is getting kids to recognize the math they do so that they can reapply it later. I pretty regularly point out to my son that various math techniques are 'secret codes' to winning games he is playing.

Re:For languages (1)

Fallingcow (213461) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621984)

I think there are fields (like idioms) which can greatly benefit from games, like history, geography

I have probably learned at least as much history from video games as I did in primary and secondary school, and I've definitely learned more geography.

Geography? Shadow President taught me the location of just about every country. It also included the CIA fact files for all of them, giving huge amounts of info about their economies, demographics, etc.

History? Medieval: Total War taught me at least as much about medieval Europe as I learned in school (in the US, anyway; we neglect European history pretty badly here in the US, or at least in the Midwest, to give us time to spend a few weeks on settlers and a few more on Native Americans every year in elementary school and a bit more in high school *eyeroll*)

Thanks to the Europa Barbarorum realism mod for Rome: Total War I know the ancient names for many cities in Europe in the tongue of the people who lived in them. Hell, for some of them I know those names better than the modern one--I know there's a major city on Italy's "heel" that was named Taras in Greek and Tarantum in Latin, but I can never remember its modern name, for instance.

That mod also taught me WAAAAAY more about the mid-to-late Hellenic/early Roman period of European history than I learned in K-12. More than college did, too, for that matter, but then I wasn't a history major. It teaches you about Epirus and his campaigns, the collapse and re-ordering of Alexander's empire, the Punic Wars, and all kinds of other things that we barely covered in school, if at all.

Robert E. Lee: Civil War General and its (much better) semi-sequel Civil War Generals taught me a rough timeline for the major battles of the Civil War, the major movements of troops, and the general disposition and positioning of forces on both sides. I probably know about as much about that as a fairly good college course on Civil War battles would teach, and all I had to do was play a game. Took longer than taking the class, but it was fun as hell.

Disappointed in the attitude.... (2, Insightful)

the_scoots (1595597) | more than 3 years ago | (#33620944)

toward the medium of games as an educational tool. I'm in the field, and many people who are taken seriously talk about games used properly as a tool by educators and caregivers. This is a relatively new medium that needs to be researched and experimented with so we can establish how it is most effective for different subjects and in different situations.

Here are some of the challenges in this field as I see it:

- Most educational games are made in silos. Games made by publishers are mostly reused engines or game designs with an educational goal slapped on (many edu games for young kids on Nintendo DS are like this). Games made by researchers and educators are generally some sort of mix of whatever subject they're interested in and whatever game that is big at the time. The truly effective and fun educational games are often made when good game designers, researchers and educators collaborate from the beginning of a project.

- Due to the fact that people are working in silos, researchers working the edu game field are often working to figure out game design issues that the non-edu game field covered long ago.

- My work is in the preschool - grade school edu game field and I work with top publishers and content owners. Most of the people I work with, especially decision makers and content people, do not and have not ever played games. I think this will even out over time as younger people who are more likely to play games come into the field, but it will take decades.

- Games are just a tool. We need the pedagogy established to help teachers understand how to use the medium. Until we have this available to all educators, game use will be all over the place.

- We need an established body of good examples in different subject areas and for different ages for future game makers to refer to when making edu games. This will take decades to create in my opinion.

To reiterate my main point, games are just a tool like books, video, hands on activities, etc. They are only as good as the educator or caregiver who is working with the student makes them.

Education or Entertainment: Transfer to Science? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33620968)

Some healthy skepticism is in order. Too often games or game design is just used as a form of entertainment to spice up seemingly dull topics such as math and science. It does not have to be this way. We find that when providing students with the right support they can do amazing things. For instance, we have all these middle school students build sophisticated games including AI base on diffusion equations. That is certainly not sugar. Moreover, we can now begin to measure transfer of game design skills to making science simulations. Pretty exciting stuff. You can see some girls using AgentSheets to build BP oil spill simulations. They started by making 1980 style arcade games. http://www.news8austin.com/content/headlines/272429/congressman-visits-girlstart-summer-camp [news8austin.com]

Game plan (1)

Wowsers (1151731) | more than 3 years ago | (#33621624)

What does a 7 year old playing BZFlag learn then? (Apart from loosing badly and crying about it).

Engineers as Journalists? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#33622028)

Apparently there is an admission of problems in the journalism profession, but how about this solution?

From the article on computers and journalism:

But what’s in it for the engineers, who might have more lucrative things to do than save journalism? Grueskin argues that “one of the things engineers want to do is find practical, intractable problems society is facing and help come up with ways to solve those problems.” The unhealthy state of journalism, he says, is definitely one of those intractable problems.

It's not O(N!), is it?

duhhh (1)

BlackBloq (702158) | more than 3 years ago | (#33622246)

The whole point of play is to learn. Take a cat, make a fluff ball run away from it like run, hide and stuff then it has a blast. Get that same dustball and make it come at the cat (like a dog might like) and the cat isn't down to play. Why? it's in training.

Text based games... (1)

qzjul (944600) | more than 3 years ago | (#33622404)

I learned most of my early programming skills and honed my math skills in playing a text based persistent browser-based game, Earth: 2025 (which has since closed and been cloned at Earth: Empires [earthempires.com] ); most of the most fancy excel stuff I learned a decade ago was for calculating attacks and whatnot. I think text based games are a good way to learn as they have to have some good, engaging, content, and can't rely on faced-paced graphics or such things; it tends the genre towards using your brain more.

Why does it have to be electronic? (2, Interesting)

edremy (36408) | more than 3 years ago | (#33623356)

I made a major change in my class this fall, introducing both a long and short game from the Reacting to the Past [barnard.edu] project. These are elaborate role playing games, where the students take on the roles of various historic characters to play out scenarios ranging from the creation of the US Constitution to the trial of Galileo.

No technology involved at all, but students are forced to learn the material in unusual ways- rather than lecture and ask them to regurgitate on a test, I've got students who will have to defend intellectual positions against attacks from other students. (And they will attack- they get bonus points for meeting their objectives, and the games are designed with winners and losers)

The short game (around the decision to de-planetize Pluto) worked pretty well and they're set to start Tuesday on the long form game about the decision to award Darwin a medal from the Royal Society. Crossing my fingers on this one- there's some stuff that's tough to understand, and I've got 16 first-years teaching it all to each other (with a little coaching outside the class :^)

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