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Volume 1 No. 2 - Fall/Winter 2005

simZine
simZine

A N E W S L E T T E R

A B O U T

G A M E S

A N D

S I M U L A T I O N S

F O R

E D U C A T O R S

Upcoming Conferences: page 2

Looking forward to seeing you there

Are Preservice Students Gamers?:

simSurvey 2005

page 3

Meet Me at the MUVEES: page 5

An Interview with Chris Dede

Gamers as Construction Zones: page 8

An Interview with Dr. Idit Harel

Webcast features simSchool: page 11

Innovate Webcast

Piolet Testing: page 12

Register: page 13

simSchool Newsletter: Bill Halverson,

David Gibson, Melanie Zibit & Mark Favazza

Halverson, David Gibson, Melanie Zibit & Mark Favazza play the simSchool sliding puzzle online simSchool a

play the simSchool sliding puzzle online

& Mark Favazza play the simSchool sliding puzzle online simSchool a powerful online learning experience that

simSchool

a powerful online learning experience

that builds confidence in the classroom.

www.simschool.org

Good morning class!

From the editor

This fall, simSchool is being piloted and improved to make it ready for public release. in Spring 2006. So stay tuned!

This issue shares what twenty teacher education faculty across the country told us when they piloted simSchool in September. We are listening to their insights and advice, making changes in simSchool and then re-piloting with their preservice students in November. simSchool thanks ISTE for their contribution to our pilot efforts. As a simSchool partner, ISTE is helping build working relationships within their vast network of technology-using educators.

As in every issue, simZine serves as a window into research related to games and simulations in education. Inside this issue are interviews with two reknown researchers and developers - Dr. Chris Dede from Harvard’s Graduate School of Education and Idit Harel the founder of MaMaMedia. Read what intrigues them about games and simulations for learning, what they see as the benefits for education, and their unique efforts developing educational games and simula- tions. Both interviews are the first installment of a two-part series with each expert, so watch for the next issue to complete these informative interviews.

Also check out the survey results on preservice students’ attitudes toward games and simula- tions in the classroom! SimSchool is preparing an article about this preliminary research into the question “Are today’s teachers gamers? and How do gamer teachers think?” Watch for news about two upcoming books - one with research articles and the other stories from the field about educational games and simulations development edited by David Gibson, Clark Aldrich and Mark Prensky.

One indicator of increased awareness and use of games and simulations in education is the growing number of conferences that serve as forums for researchers, developers and users to share and further their efforts. See page two for conferences where simSchool will be. See you there!

Please feel free to be in touch with us with feedback, ideas for future issues, and to tell us of your own work developing and using games and simulations in education. We’d love to publish you!

- Take care, Bill

simSchool in Upcoming Conferences Looking forward to seeing you there. One indicator of increased awareness

simSchool in Upcoming Conferences

Looking forward to seeing you there.

One indicator of increased awareness and use of games and simulations in education is the growing number of conferences that serve as forums for researchers, developers and users to share and further their efforts.

This fall’s gaming conferences included topics ranging from health care, business, experiential learning, social change.

simSchool will be at the Serious Games Summit in late October.

http://www.seriousgamessummit.com/home.html

in late October. http://www.seriousgamessummit.com/home.html simSchool will also be at SITE this year, the Society for

simSchool will also be at SITE this year, the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education (March 20-24, 2006) http://www.aace. org/conf/site/default.html

20-24, 2006) http://www.aace. org/conf/site/default.html 2 simSchool © 2005 ational Educational Computing Conf (July

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org/conf/site/default.html 2 simSchool © 2005 ational Educational Computing Conf (July 5-7, 2006) are

ational Educational Computing Conf (July 5-7, 2006) are hosting session tracks dedicated to educational games and simulations. Each also has a special interest group – SITE’s “Educational Games and Simulations” and NECC’s “Innovative Learning Technolo- gies.”

http://center.uoregon.edu/ISTE/

NECC2006/

simSchool is planning to attend these conferences as well as the Florida Educational Technology Conference, (March 21 -24, 2006). http://www.fetc.org/

Conference, (March 21 -24, 2006). http://www.fetc.org/ If you are planning to be at any of these

If you are planning to be at any of these three educational technology conferences please look for us. See you there!

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www.simSchool.org

Are Preservice Students Gamers? by David Gibson, Melanie Zibit, and Eric Reidel There is growing

Are Preservice Students Gamers?

by David Gibson, Melanie Zibit, and Eric Reidel

There is growing use of games and simulations among young people.

According to thePew Internet and American Life Project (Jones,

2003), 70 percent of college students play computer, video, or online games at least once, and 65 percent reported being regular or occa- sional game players. This growing population expects their teachers

to offer learning opportunities in exciting and engaging formats where

they have some control and responsibility over their own learning. (Prensky, 2001; Bonk, 2005).

We at simSchool were recently interested in obtaining information about today’s preservice students’ use and attitudes regarding

Gamer teachers know that fun and learn- ing go together very well to create a state of relaxed motivation that enhances a student’s ability to take in new informa- tion and expend effort.

educational games and

experience and inclination to use games and simulations when they enter the classroom and their receptivity to learning through games such as simSchool. During the spring of 2005, we received 245 responses from students in six schools of higher education, ranging from large public universities to small private colleges. What follows are highlights of our results.

We wanted to gauge their

Experience with games before, during and after college The gamer generation of teachers has played more games than their older counterparts. SimSchool respondents under 34 years of age reported 2.21 games while those over 34 years reported a mean of 0.90 games (t=4.04, p .01).

A

small percentage of respondents (19.8%) did not report any games

at

all. Beck and Wade (2004) report nearly the same percentage

(19.2%) as a characteristic of the gamer generation. So it seems that preservice teachers, like the majority of the work force today (if you are a teacher, that means your peers!) have experienced and appreciate the connection between fun and learning through computer games.

The gamer teachers were asked about the game they played the

most out of the ones listed. Strategy gamesare the most frequently reported although this proportion is based mainly on one game

– Oregon Trail – which accounts for 44 out of 54 mentions.

Respondents reported playing this game a median of three hours and a mean of 3.9 hours per week. This number of hours approxi- mately equals the hours spent on homework by many college aged students (Buell, 2000; Young, 2002). Preservice teachers reported playing fewer games after college, with a mean of 1.09 and median of 1.00 games. But while playing drops off for everyone, younger gamer teachers are twice as likely to continue playing, and for significant periods of time. There is a surprisingly strong pattern of association between the number of games played before college and the number played during or after college (Spearman Rho cor- relation = .60). But the nature of games changes. Gamer teachers changed from strategy games to less mindful use of time. Solitaire, for example, led the pack of mostly sports and card games men- tioned.

Can games or simulations be an important learning tool?

71% of the preservice students were positive, 9% negative, and 20% were mixed. Percentages below are based on those that made comments ( total = 226) out of the total number taking the survey (total = 245).

The most often cited reasons for using games and simulations in the classroom were:

“motivation/fun” (79 responses - 35%);

Games will often motivate students more than other methods of teaching. It is hands on, and if they are making the decisions they will be more likely to remember it and take it serious.

Gamer teachers know that fun and learning go together very well to create a state of relaxed motivation that enhances a student’s ability to take in new information and expend effort.

“Engaging and learn content” (67 responses - 30%)

It [a game or simulation] gets the student involved. It presents ideas in a different format which opens their eyes and gets them excited

Gamer teachers also know that learning is enhanced with multiple approaches; games and simulations provide many routes to content.

and “learning technology” (58 responses -26%)

I think they’re important because students need all the exposure they can get with computers. It is a necessity in today’s world to be able to use software, so using software as a learning tool can be very beneficial.

simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

software as a learning tool can be very beneficial. simSchool is funded by the Department of

3

Among the most obvious benefits of playing with computers is practice with computers, but there

Among the most obvious benefits of playing with computers is practice with computers, but there is much more to be gained. Future teachers need structured opportunities to study and reflect on the more powerful possibilities of teaching with games and simulations.

In comparison the comments related to “developing higher order/ critical thinking” (5 responses - 2.2%) and “authentic learning” (10 responses - 4.42%) were few.

Computer games are important b/c students have to use prior knowl- edge to play the game. Help with strategic and problem solving skills

Those surveyed did not seem to understand the deeper value of playing computer games – a subject that needs to be taught as part of the pre- service curriculum if the benefits of using computer games and simula- tions are to be realized in teaching. Among the more powerful effects of computer games are: representational competence, mental mapping, multidimensional visual-spatial skills, skills of inductive discovery such as observation, trail and error, and hypothesis testing(Greenfield, 1984). Overarching these important new skills perhaps, is the notion that today’s learners have a new mix of cognitive skills (Prensky, 2002) that teachers need to understand.

Negative comments

It was surprising that rather than concerns about games being violent or entertaining, the most frequently cited reasons for not using games were the following: “detached from the real world/people” (respons- es 17 -7.5%)

So many people use computer games and simulations to replace real experience with projects or others.

This response runs counter to Beck and Wade’s (2004) finding that gamers are “more skilled than nongamers at using a wide range of tactics to involve other people in making decisions” (p. 122).Contrary to the “conventional wisdom” that gamers are loners, most players spend time with family members engaged in social games.

“detracts from teacher/student relationships and quality teaching/ learning” (12 responses - 5.31%)

I think computers are important for learning but should not prevent quality teaching, listening, and learning time between student and teacher.

Time is of the essence. Teachers have to weigh the value of providing the benefits of game and simulation experience with the opportunity cost of not doing other things. What is it worth to have students rapidly analyzing new situations, solving problems independently, developing teamwork skills, developing a taste for being immersed in data, using cutting edge analysis tools, performing rapid task switching, and build- ing expectations that practice matters, and success is attainable with the tools at hand? It is a mistake to think that playing games is wasting time. Games provide real, valuable experience and do not by them- selves detract from building relationships with others (Beck & Wade, 2004; Prensky, 2001).

and “lack of skill building/reading/writing/use of knowledge” (13 response -5.75%)

Many software programs are created with good intentions but not all software sticks to learning objectives and

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performance statistics, many times the graphics, characters, & advanced visual technology take precedence over teaching and reinforcing the desired skills.

This legitimate concern recognizes the “dancing banana” effect (Pren- sky, 2001) of some of the poorer “educational” games, which puts a few animations around the same old boring material, trying to dress up bad teaching. Good and serious games for teaching and learning are a subset of all computer games, so we need teachers who know the difference and know how to select and use the right ones!

Summary

The growth in games and simulations is not an isolated phenomenon but parallels advances in information and communications technolo- gies and both have had an impact on learning. (Bonk,2005 ) For the majority of the perservice students sampled by simSchool, games and simulations are perceived as motivational and engaging but still peripheral to the real core of learning. Yet, today’s K-12 students who are active participants in the information age want to engage in relevant meaningful tasks rather than just complete worksheets and accumulate knowledge. In this sample preservice students’ under- standing of the potential for games to develop complex reasoning, decision making, and critical thinking is still a ways off. Further study is needed on how to communicate the benefits of using games and simulations in education and how to help today’s preservice students infuse them into teaching and learning.

Look for more simSchool survey results in a forthcoming book edited by David Gibson, Marc Prensky and Clark Aldrich at upcoming educa- tional technology conferences such as FETC, SITE 2005, and NECC.

References

Beck, J., & Wade, M. (2004). Got game: How the gamer generation is reshaping business forever. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Bonk, C.J., Dennen, V.P., (2005) “Massive Multiplayer Online Gam- ing: A Research Framework for Military Training and Education” of- fice of the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Technical Report 2005-1. (accessed 9/7/05)

http://www.adlnet.org/downloads/189.cfm

Buell, J. (2000). The politics of homework. The Humanist, 60(6),

39-40.

Greenfield, P. (1984). Mind and media: The effects of television, video games and computers. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Jones,S., (2003) “Let the games begin: Gaming technology and entertainment among college students,” Pew Internet Life Proj- ect, Washington, D.C., (accessed 9/7/05) http://www.pewinternet.

org/PPF/r/93/report_display.asp

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital game-based learning. New York: Mc- Graw-Hill.

Prensky, M. (2002). What kids learn that’s positive from playing video games.

Young, J. (2002, Dec 6). Homework? What Homework? Students seem to be spending less time studying than they used to. The Chronicle of Higher Education.

www.simSchool.org

Meet Me at the MUVEES An Interview with Chris Dede by David Gibson and Melanie

Meet Me at the MUVEES

An Interview with Chris Dede by David Gibson and Melanie Zibit

Timothy E. Wirth Professor in Learning Technologies the Harvard Graduate School of Education

Technologies the Harvard Graduate School of Education simSchool: When did you first become aware of the

simSchool: When did you first become aware of the potential of games/simulations for learning and what was it that piqued your interest?

Chris: Growing up before informa- tion technology entered the market, I was very interested in different types of board games and card games. For example, a company called Avalon Hill produced board games that were various kinds of battle simulations.

The range of games in which I was interested gave me a feel for the relevant advantages and disadvantages of various design approaches, the affective and social dimension of games, and the different nature of multi-player games.

I had the game called Gettysburg and enjoyed playing not just with other people, but also competing with myself. I found that I was varying the rules to see how that changed the outcome. This was intriguing intellectually because Gettysburg was based on a reasonably complex model of Civil War combat.

On the other hand, it was cumbersome to do the calculations un- derlying that model and to maneuver pieces around the board so the game required a high amount of overhead to play. The game board was pretty elaborate, set up in a hexagonal grid so that each piece could move in six different directions. Both sides’ army units varied in type and strength, and a timetable showed where units appeared and when. So calculation tables might show one side had a unit of a particular type up on a hill and the other side was attacking at a 30-degree angle with a unit of a different type down in the valley. The player was forced to calculate the losses and gains for both sides and then move the pieces accordingly. The model was flawed because units were limited in not having fractional strengths; they could only be thrown back or completely eliminated without gradually losing potency. One can understand why board game designers would do this given the limitations of

the medium, but it was frustrating. The complex and wonderful forms of graphical representation now available in digital games were also missing, so players had to use lots of imagination to visualize the battle from the simple physical artifacts of board and pieces.

I was also involved with a variety of card games, including poker and bridge. What intrigued me was how these games were capable of sharpening generic reasoning skills. Along these lines, I came across the game Queries and Theories, which was explicitly educational and used physical counters to teach logic and reason- ing. Again, beyond the fun of playing the game I found its design interesting. Q&T was a game in which the player had to infer the rules that underlay a sequence of colored counters. The most interesting form of play was with two people: One person would set the rules, and the other person would attempt to infer them by forming sequences of counters that were accepted or rejected as conforming. The fewer the sequences required for correct infer- ence, the better the score.

In the mid 70s, I was ripe for the inroads that Information technol- ogy began to make with games and simulations. I was delighted to see that Information technology offered opportunities for dealing with the logistical and intellectual overhead required to keep track of a complex underlying model.

simSchool: So your early experience with games opened up your thinking to what would come next.

Chris: Yes. The range of games in which I was interested gave me a feel for the relevant advantages and disadvantages of various design approaches, the affective and social dimension of games, and the different nature of multi-player games. For exam- ple, Poker and bridge have a strong affective dimension in contrast to Queries and Theories, which was a formal reasoning game that you could play alone or with another person. Getting a sense of the dimensions of design, and the strengths and limitations of various combinations of those dimensions, is good background for creating one’s own games and simulations.

simSchool: What do you see as the distinction between games and simulations? What are the critical differences?

Chris: To me, a “game” has a scoring system with winners and losers, but a game doesn’t need to model anything in the real world. It can be completely based on fantasy without any correlate in reality. A “simulation,” in contrast, would not have winners and losers, but would represent something in the real world or a scien- tific abstraction such as mathematical logic. Of course the distinc- tion between games and simulations is a continuum rather than a dichotomy, so we can find lots of designs that are in between the two pure extremes of games and simulations.

simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

the two pure extremes of games and simulations. simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's

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simSchool: On the simulation side, you can still have goals and purposes that are somewhat

simSchool: On the simulation side, you can still have goals and purposes that are somewhat like games - the role that the user plays to reach a goal, to find something out or to experiment.

Chris: That is exactly right. One of the things game designers know, but simulation designers sometimes forget is that simula- tions are created with a purpose in mind. Both explicitly and tacitly that purpose is conveyed to the participant. Even a relatively open- ended simulation has controls to shape what happens; instruc- tions; limits created by the underlying rules, and implicit analogies to real world phenomena, all of which convey a sense of purpose.

simSchool: How would you define virtual reality (VR)?

Chris: My definition of “virtual reality” is more precise than com- mon parlance. To me, VR means full physical immersion. The participant is wearing a head-mounted display or is inside a CAVE

(Computer Assisted Virtual Environment) in which four surfaces of the room are graphically active - three walls and either the floor or the ceiling -- or in some other way the senses are immersed inside of the environment. For example, if I am looking at a two and half dimensional simulation on a computer monitor, and I turn my head away from the monitor, the illusion of sensory immersion

is

destroyed because I am not looking at the monitor anymore. But

if

I am sensorially immersed with a VR head mounted display or

CAVE and I turn my head, the illusion is not destroyed because the world changes in response.

Games spawn active engagement, e.g., doing something, seeing immediate results, making revisions and if that doesn’t work, trying something new.

“Virtual environments” as described earlier are a much looser construct. In the early days, people thought of text based MUDs (Multiple User Dimension) as virtual environments, but -- when people use that term now -- they generally mean graphical

representations of a digital context. Technically, a purely two-di- mensional representation within just the frame of the monitor is

a virtual environment. But what designers like myself mean by a

virtual environment is a two and a half dimensional representation that allows participants to move their avatars so as to change point

of view.

simSchool: In Virtual environments are there elements of simu- lations and games?

Chris: Simulations, games and virtual environments can fuse

in very interesting ways. Andy van Dam (http://www.cs.brown.

edu/people/avd/) at Brown in his CAVE has a virtual painting

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program; participants can create three-dimensional virtual art by moving a paintbrush through space, selecting from palettes of colors and paintbrush characteristics. In contrast, the virtual reality “worlds” I and my colleagues built with National Science Foundation sponsorship, Newton’s World and Maxwell’s World, were game-like simulations modeling the causal relationships that underlie real-world phenomena. More information about our Proj- ect ScienceSpace, including a streaming video of our VR worlds, is available at http://www.gse.harvard.edu/~dedech/. Our simulations were meant to help learners understand abstract “laws” of physics, as opposed to an open ended, aesthetic painting simulation for personal expression.

My current design-based research involves a Multi-user Virtual Environment Experiential Simulator (MUVEES - http://muve.gse. harvard.edu/muvees2003/). My colleagues and I have designed River City, a simulation on a number of different levels. River City simultaneously models histori- cal, physical, and social phenomena. Readers may wish to visit our MUVEEs project webpage to learn more about our research and to vicariously experi- ence being in River City.

and to vicariously experi- ence being in River City. simSchool: Mark Prensky and Clark Aldrich and

simSchool: Mark Prensky and Clark Aldrich and others keep using the phrase “video game” as a genre title of all these complex highly immersive worlds, some of which use game devices. What is your thought about what is happening in bridging the kind of work that you and I do and the entertainment world?

Chris: In any rapidly evolving field, terminology gets confused. I always bristle when people call River City a “video game,” since it was deliberately designed to go well beyond videogames. A nu- anced common terminology with many distinctions among types of games and simulations is better than a simplistic terminology with only few descriptors to label a wide spectrum of designs.

Bridging the design strategies that underlie learning experiences and entertainment games is difficult. A year and a half ago, Will Wright (the developer of the Sims) spoke at a conference held at Stanford University on education and entertainment. His games based on “sims” (simulated agents) are widely considered educa- tionally oriented video games. Wright, talking about his develop- ment process, basically said – We built something on instinct. We put it into focus groups to see what people like and don’t like, threw out the stuff they didn’t like, and put in more of the stuff they liked. Then we had another focus group. The latest version of the Sims went through 12 stages of this, and in the end we had

www.simSchool.org

something that is a market bestseller. But our instinct wasn’t very good, and we had

something that is a market bestseller. But our instinct wasn’t very good, and we had to go through 12 iterations. What we ended with wasn’t anything like what we started with.

To me, what was missing in this description was an attempt to simulate anything real. Will did not say that his group begins with a model of how a city runs, or how human relationships work, or how ecological systems function and then attempt to make that model entertaining. Instead he said, We just kept tweaking the entertain- ment part until we got that to the maximum level.

We need to publicize exemplary illus- trations that help us get from the old vocabulary to new vocabulary.

From a game perspective, that makes sense., and Will is not sell- ing his products by saying this is how you learn to be a city planner or this is how you learn about human relationships. But it was a disillusioning talk from an educational perspective. There is an enormous gulf between design based researchers who start with an important educational problem, apply principles from learning theory, are faithful to the underlying model of reality, and work to make the result highly engaging -- and people who are design- ing fantasies for entertainment purposes without any underlying model, societal problem, or learning theory. For the entertainment game creators, the most important design principle is the 10 min- ute question (at this moment in the game, how do I keep people playing for 10 more minutes?”) rather than what participants are learning.

simSchool: A theme I am hearing that has come up in other con- texts, particularly the serious games group, is that serious games are anything made not with entertainment as its primary focus.

So if we say that video games by the fact that they use the word “games” puts entertainment and sales as it’s number one focus, then a demarcation line could be the purpose for which teams come into this field. This speaks to your point that we need to have a nuanced language. Today’s language about games makes a barrier to the public’s understanding. Most people think that games are too violent and not worth anything, creating a barrier for serious games. This leads to our next question –

simSchool: What do we need to do to help people understand the value of games for education so that they can be mined for educational purposes?

Chris: We as designers struggle with the same challenges that all relatively new fields face. Even though games for learning are not new, our media now are so much more powerful that the genre has completely altered. Unfortunately, attempting to capture this dif- ference by using the term “game” conjures up in the minds of the

public, funders, and educators an unfortunate image, because entertainment oriented videogames are so prevalent. The public hears “game” and thinks of products such as the Grand Theft Auto series. Even if Grand Theft Auto games were redesigned to teach how to steal a car, educational designers are not describing this type of product. However, when most people hear the term “simulation,” they think of a relatively uninteresting experience involving tweaking controls to watch a phenomenon change. So descriptors based on prior media or on entertainment products don’t work well.

New terms like “Multi-User Virtual Environment” suffer from a dif- ferent problem; when you try to use it, somebody invariably asks, “What the heck is that?” How we bootstrap a new vocabulary to have widespread meaning is not easy; this takes some kind of universal, widely visible example to which everyone can refer.

Even though games for learning are not new, our media now are so much more powerful that the genre has com- pletely altered.

For example, because SimCity was so popular, we could refer to SimCity, and people would get a sense of a virtual environment populated by agents. We need to publicize exemplary illustrations that help us get from the old vocabulary to new vocabulary.

to

be contiuned in the next edition of simZine

simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

❧ to be contiuned in the next edition of simZine simSchool is funded by the Department

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Games as Construction Zones An interview with Dr. Idit Harel by Melanie Zibit 8 Dr.

Games as Construction Zones

An interview with Dr. Idit Harel by Melanie Zibit

8

Dr. Idit Harel Caperton spoke to simSchool from China, where she is engaged this fall in developing a project- based software-engineering program for graduate students at East China Normal University in Shanghai. http://www.ecnu.edu.

cn/english/index.htm

in Shanghai. http://www.ecnu.edu. cn/english/index.htm simSchool: When did you first become aware of the learning

simSchool: When

did you first become aware of the learning potential of games and simulations and what was it that piqued your interest?

IHC: Many child psychologists, the media, parents and other experts are interested in the idea of children’s play and games. We know that children naturally learn as they play. And while most play is good, there is some that more strongly engages the child in the most powerful form of learning I know:

constructionist learning. My work has been involved in looking at how children learn and discover and how knowledge develops in children and in adults. I include adults because what is true about learning for children is also true for adults.

For the past 25 years, I have been studying and implementing theories of child development and epistemology and how chil- dren develop concepts and cognitive capacities. It was meeting Seymour Papert that first pulled me into seriously researching how children learn using computers. Papert understood very early on, already back in the late 60’s and 70’s, that technology could provide children with new ways to think and learn. In the 80’s, he pioneered the term “Constructionism,” for his learning theory which basically claims that children learn best when they are in active roles of designers and constructors. Inspired by Jean Piaget, he believes that children “learn best by making and inventing things.” Papert went beyond Piaget to include the idea that learning takes root when children use computational tools to share what they have made and also share the process of how they made it. I was strongly inspired by Papert who puts a high value on social learn- ing processes and having children activate their own minds and also make or construct things to shape their learning. This is why he termed his theory constructionism not constructiVism.

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simSchool: Papert is also known as the creator of Logo. What is the value of Logo in this context of our discussion?

IHC: Papert also lead the team that created a programming language called Logo. He saw Logo as “playful learning” tool and as a computational environment that embodied his progressive, playful and fun constructionist educational philosophy. In the early days, Logo was like an intelligent toy – a programmable robotic turtle for exploring geometry and mathematical concepts in a

radically new way; it stood on the floor and kids or adults directed

it to move around by typing commands at the computer to which

it was connected. The playful, robotic turtle later migrated into the virtual world –and found a much more comfortable, scaleable, sustainable, and flexible position on the computer screen – where

it has been used to date by millions of young learners to program

computer graphics, draw shapes, designs, and pictures, create animated stories, construct representations of physical phenom- ena, build simulations, compose music, and used for kids to make their own interactive games. There’s lots of information about it

on the Logo Foundation website (http://www.LogoFoundation.org) that Michael Tempel runs, and on the Papert website (http://www. Papert.org) that we built together back in the 90’s.

For the past 25 years, I have been studying and implementing theories of child development and epistemology and how children develop concepts and cognitive capacities.

simSchool: Logo was an early innovation that opened up new ways for children to explore, construct and learn using computers. Can you tell us more about your early years working with Papert and other pioneers?

IHC: So this is how I got sucked into it

at the Harvard Graduate School of Education back in 1982 and 1983 and 1984, when there were a number of academic pioneers who started to explore this new domain, professors like David Per- kins and Judah Schwartz. Our Ed-tech research in the ‘80’s, espe- cially with disadvantaged kids, already told us that the real power of technology is in the development of learners’ active engagement in learning. Like many of my colleagues in this new and emerging field, I read the groundbreaking book Mindstorms, and decided to

go study with Papert at the AI Lab at MIT. Papert was by far the most interesting thinker in this interdisciplinary field back then, and

I believe that he still is the leader of them all. I was then accepted to join the new experimental MIT Media Lab when it was founded in 1985, as a pioneer PhD student in Papert’s new program. (It is

I was a Masters student

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our 20th Anniversary Reunion celebration this month! Oh, time flies too fast). It was an

our 20th Anniversary Reunion celebration this month! Oh, time flies too fast). It was an amazing and unusual team of researchers. But that is a whole other interview! We did research grounded in epis- temological, educational, social, clinical, and cognitive theories; focusing on leading international psychologists and educators and philosophers like Piaget (Swiss), Dewey (American), Montessori (Italian), Bruner (American), Vygotsky (Russian), Paulo Freire (Brazilian) and Papert (South African).

With the computer and the Internet, it’s now possible to let kids free in a big virtual world where they can choreograph their ideas, animate and create things, and do things that are really rich in concepts.

No matter where they came from -- geographically and theoretical-

ly -- they all held that children learn better by hands-on activities,

by making things, by doing things, within a culture that allows them to drive their learning experiences. When we construct an object in our mind, or develop an idea into a story, a simulation, a movie, or

a physical object, it becomes our own personal knowledge. This is

the way scientists, mathematicians, and artists work. Great teach-

ers and leading educators learn this way too.

simSchool: Can you say more about how computer games relate to your work with Papert?

IHC: Another reason why I got excited about this new emerg-

ing area, is that in computer games kids learn by taking charge

of the process and by contracting their own learning. More than

just fun, certain games can illustrate a powerful idea and connect with formal and informal knowledge. Games can be more intuitive

and more sensory. I remember Papert working with children and Lego gears. He would tell them “pretend you are a gear in the car ”

system

even the circle or the square when they worked with the original Logo Robot Turtle. As they moved around, kids got into the kines- thetic motion of the Lego gears or the Logo Turtle. They made the angles with their bodies. They became the gear and felt the force or friction against another gear. I did a lot of thinking and research work with Papert in this area, looking at the psychology, the mathematics, the imagination and originality of these kids’ ideas as a result. When you project yourself into the object or place, the abstract becomes concrete. Children can project themselves into being a fraction and comparing one to another or becoming a gear to understand how things move. Games have the same power to carry powerful physics and math into kids’ minds. If you manipulate or construct the object, even when you play with something, you can learn about it in a deeper way.

He also asked kids to think like they are the robot or

simSchool: Can you talk about how this kinesthetic experience of kids imagining themselves inside an object relates to your inter- est in games and simulations?

IHC: I have one other personal memory to answer your big first question. When children imagine being inside the object, their experience is kinesthetic. I used to be a dancer and gymnast - the movements, using my body parts and my muscles activated my kinesthetic intelligence. I would “be” in the experience and get to “know” the physics of gravity, inertia, or the mechanics of a chal- lenging stunt or of complex dance steps. From personal experi- ence I know that an activity that is kinesthetic engages both sides of the brain. So, the first time I programmed in Logo in 1983, it felt to my body and to my brain like choreographing a dance, or invent- ing a new series of movements in gymnastics. In other words, it was connecting with quite a familiar kinesthetic feeling, and it was easy to fall in love with that!

Basically, I am interested in child development, how the mind works, and how we can personally make things out of nothing, especially new media. Working at the Media Lab at MIT in the 80’s and early 90’s, took me away from Print and TV media to compu- tational environments and more playful interactive media. I fell in love with computers. With the computer and the Internet, it’s now possible to let kids free in a big virtual world where they can cho- reograph their ideas, animate and create things, and do things that are really rich in concepts. This kind of thinking made sense and fueled much of my later work -- constructing with digital objects, playing with digital media on the computer in order to develop creativity and imagination as well as entrepreneurial skills.

Not all simulations and games are good. But let’s turn this question on its head and look at games and simulations as learning environments.

simSchool: What is it about simulations and games that make them compelling learning environments?

IHC: Not all simulations and games are good. But let’s turn this question on its head and look at games and simulations as learn- ing environments. It takes a lot of learning to master any video game or simulation. Kids ARE learning from playing games. They get deeply involved with computer games and show an exceptional degree of sophistication in their ways of thinking and talking about playing the games. The fact is that games are compelling environ- ments and learning is happening! This should call our attention to games. We cannot be “Cyber-Ostriches” as Papert calls those who ignore these incredible phenomena. We cannot say “this is wrong and I don’t care!”

Kids spend long hours in school, yet, many schools are out of step with kids’ culture. Most are structured environments where kids have little control over what and how they learn. Schools should be fun, compelling, and places where kids fall in love with learning as they do through playing games. This leads to the question of what is it that makes games and simulations learning environments? They give us the ability to become something as a way of building

simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

ability to become something as a way of building simSchool is funded by the Department of

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knowledge about it. For example you can imagine playing a game where the player becomes

knowledge about it. For example you can imagine playing a game where the player becomes the particle or the fraction in that space so that the player literally learns how things move and transform. This can be a powerful way to learn mathematical and physical ideas.

The other side of the experience is to have kids create their own simulations and games. Children’s enthusi- asm for playing games easily gives rise to an enthu- siasm for making them, and this in turn leads to more sophisticated thinking about all aspects of games. Yas- min Kafai who was my student at MIT, now a profes- sor at UCLA, found that in building a game kids think about the challenges, the decisions, the psychologies, along with articulating their thinking and understanding

about particular subjects and about the game’s users. This is constructionist learning a la Papert: The learner

is engaged in the construction of something external or

at least shareable [such as a game]. This leads us to

a model using a cycle of internalization of what is out-

side, then externalization of what is inside and so on.

simSchool: You are the founder of the engaging website for young people called MaMaMedia. Can you tell us how this site embodies constructionist learning?

IHC: MaMaMedia.com (http://www.mamamedia.com) is a playful and creative environment on the Internet. We articulated what constructionist learning is all about in simpler and more commer- cial terms. We emphasized over and again that the most impor- tant skills for the new millennium are “the three Xs:” eXploring, eXpressing and eXchanging ideas by using the new digital media.

The first X, eXploring, takes advantage of kids’ natu- ral passion for learning and discovery. When a child discovers for herself rather than being told is when learning resonates. Games and simulations are an ideal learning environment for discovery.

For the past 25 years, I have been studying and implementing theories of child development and epistemology and how children develop concepts and cognitive capacities.

The second, eXpressing, is learning how to use a vast palette of tools to become designers, builders and architects of our own ideas. Kids use digital media to become versatile and effective communicators of ideas. The third X, eXchanging, is the sharing of ideas with others. It is my belief that real learning only occurs

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in a social context, in an environment where you can exchange ideas, ask questions and work with peers and experts. Moreover, through eXchanging, kids become active participants in their learning, not passive absorbers of information.

Like many of my colleagues in this new and emerging field, I read the ground- breaking book Mindstorms, and decided to go study with Papert at the AI Lab at MIT. Papert was by far the most inter- esting thinker in this interdisciplinary field back then, and I believe that he still is the leader of them all.

The MaMaMedia website is not just about informa- tion and search. It is about giving children media and fun tools, activities and games, so they can create their own media and share it with other play- ers. It is a large application with many activities that interconnect and interrelate inside it.

to

be contiuned in the next edition of simZine

www.simSchool.org

simSchool: The Game of Teaching - INNOVATE Webcast simSchool: The Game of Teaching was one

simSchool: The Game of Teaching - INNOVATE Webcast

simSchool: The Game of Teaching was one of several articles fea- tured in a special July/August issue of INNOVATE that highlighted the role of video game technology in current and future educational settings. [“simSchool: The Game of Teaching.” - http://www.in-

novateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=173]

INNOVATE, a peer-reviewed online periodical published by the Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University, focuses on the creative use of informa- tion technology to enhance educational processes in academic, commercial, and governmental settings. True to it’s mission, the journal creatively uses webcasting to provide a venue for readers to interact with published authors.

During a webcast on September 14, 2005, simSchool Co-PI David Gibson and Melanie Zibit, Manager of Online Support Services spoke with audience members about simSchool, answered ques- tions and shared creative ideas about how simSchool might be used in teacher preparation.

I am interested in this kind of tool to help the “right” people for the jobs feel prepared and less overwhelmed by issues that they had no clue to expect.

To give you a flavor of the exchanges, one participant mentioned that her institution had an “upside down” teacher preparation program, where preservice students “get their feet wet” first in the classroom.

The participant thought that using simSchool in this type of situa- tion would be of great benefit.

With simSchool as with other games, players can immerse them- selves in the simulation environment, experiment and decide on actions that may or may not lead to success. Thus the game would provide a safe environment for preservice students to take risks, practice, and make mistakes before working with real children.

Another participant raised the point, America’s Army Development Team claims one of the strengths of their game is that it weeds out future “drop out” recruits and saves the Army the cost of train- ing the wrong people, and asked would this be a relevant use of simSchool?

To this question, another participant responded, “I am interested in

this kind of tool to help the “right” people for the jobs feel prepared and less overwhelmed by issues that they had no clue to expect.” The questioner clarified,“ It looks like simSchool will be a good tool to help prepare future teachers with vir- tual experience

to help prepare future teachers with vir- tual experience it might also mean a lot of

it might also mean

a lot of pre-service teachers changing majors.”

To listen

to the

INNOVATE

Webcast:

http://breeze.

ulivean-

dlearn.com/

p15269013/

simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

http://breeze. ulivean- dlearn.com/ p15269013/ simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program 11

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NEWS UPDATE - simSchool Pilot Scores High with Testers by David Gibson and Melanie Zibit

NEWS UPDATE - simSchool Pilot Scores High with Testers

by David Gibson and Melanie Zibit

From September 26 to 29, twenty faculty and instructional technol- ogy coordinators from 11 higher education institutions in 6 states took an hour to explore simSchool and discuss their experiences. Pilot testers remarked, “I liked seeing the simStudents and seeing them react; the conversation categories are a nice teaching tool for my bilingual education preservice students; and the reports can help preservice students think about how students respond and what could be done differently.”

how students respond and what could be done differently.” Most people started with the “single student”

Most people started with the “single student” mode, selecting either a student above, below or on grade level. Then after read- ing the simStudent’s profile, they selected tasks they thought best suited their particular student and tried a few conversational exchanges.

Project researchers and evaluators received valuable feedback that is already being incorporated into a revised version of simSchool due out in November 2005. The feedback fell into three main categories: conversational elements, immediacy of information from the SimStudents, and features that will enhance a novice’s playing experience.

One new feature called for by the testers will allow a player to establish the climate in the classroom or rapport with a student using new conversational exchanges.

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One new feature called for by the testers will allow a player to establish the climate in the classroom or rapport with a student using new conversational exchanges. The conversational exchanges can raise a student’s readiness for learning independent of the effect of

a learning task.

For example upon entering the simClassroom for the first time, a player might want to say “Good morning class.” Or a player can tell Mandy Smith who is sitting at her desk blowing bubbles to “Please pay attention.

With these modifications, simStudents can grow or decline along the

dimensions of persistence, emotional stability, intellectual openness, extroversion, agreeableness through a conversational exchange, irrespective of whether there is a task present that might be lowering or raising academic performance. This brings simSchool closer to

a model of the classroom where successful teaching depends on

tapping into not only a student’s learning preferences and expected performance levels but also their personal characteristics.

In the enhanced version, simStudents will react immediately to each

move that a player makes with a brief statement such as “This is hard” or “ I get it” to let the player know whether they are on the right track. Additionally, a player will be able to click on an individual simStudent and immediately see current academic and emotional status.

Reports, too, will get a make over based on pilot testers sugges- tions that we provide separate reports for academic and emotional growth, information on how long each student was on task and disruptive, how much simStudents learned. Several people also sug- gested that simSchool create a novice or tutorial mode that a player uses to learn the rules of the game, the constraints of the environ- ment, and the moves that lead to a winning state.

Next on simSchool’s agenda is to have these same faculty use simSchool with their preservice students in mid-November. After re- vising simSchool based on feedback from these November testers, we will release simSchool for public use in the spring with an an- nouncement at the SITE 2006 Conference in Orlando Florida.

www.simSchool.org

www.simSchool.org simSchool • Improves your understanding of student learning styles and personal characteristics. •

www.simSchool.org

www.simSchool.org simSchool • Improves your understanding of student learning styles and personal characteristics. •

simSchool

• Improves your understanding of student learning styles and personal characteristics.

• Helps you develop intuition, strategies and skills that will make you a better teacher!!

• Allows you to practice teaching and class- room management skills in a risk-free envi- ronment.

• Boosts your confidence in teaching.

To register as a Friendz of simSchool click on

To register as a Friendz of simSchool click on All “Friendz” receive free newsletters, information on

All “Friendz” receive free newsletters, information on simulations and games for educators and FREE use of the simSchool simulation when it is released!!

Email: info@simschool.org

simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

when it is released!! Email: info@simschool.org simSchool is funded by the Department of Education's PT3 Program

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