Games in Education

FWD News: Education Benefits from Game Design in More Ways Than One

Global Kids LogoThe Hidden Agenda Project is seeking submissions from college and graduate students for applications that can teach high school subjects through social interaction.

This year, Hidden Agenda is partnering with Zygna, leading developer of social games and main sponsor and advisor for the annual competition, since the project will focus on developing social games using Facebook. Zygna is notably the maker of FarmVille, a popular game available on the social networking platform. Read More...

“As the leader in social gaming, Zynga is the perfect partner for this year’s Hidden Agenda project,” saidLauren Davis, Director of Hidden Agenda. “As it works every year, we have absolutely no idea what the brilliant students who enter our contest will come up with. With Zynga as an advisor and consultant on the project, we know we’ll see some revolutionary applications.”

Contestants will be judged mainly on the entertainment value of their game, but also on its educational value. High school students will weigh in on their favourite entries while a group of expert advisors – including serious game consultants Marc Prensky and Ben Sawyer and the creator of the Ultima series,  Richard Garriott – will offer feedback.

The developers of the winning submission will be awarded a $25,000 prize. The competition is an initiative of the Liemandt Foundation, a non-profit group devoted to furthering education through technology.

Hands-On Learning

Innovating on the teaching powers of video games, a growing number of educators are turning to game design to help students improve their overall literacy. By gaining technical and design skills, students are able to transfer these creative and problem solving abilities to other aspects of learning.

Global Kids and its Playing 4 Keeps program shows educators about the basics of game development and the positive role it can play in student learning. Armed with game design tools and knowledge, teachers can then pass on these game development skills to their students and lead them to create socially educational games as part of classroom activities.

“We wanted people to take away a framework of how to think about games and learning,” said Rafi Santo, senior program associate of Global Kids’ online leadership program. “And that there isn’t a singular way to approach it.”

Developed with the help of Gamelab—an independent game company acquired by Arkadium in September 2009—the curriculum helps educators engage students in the design, development and dissemination of games that have the potential to educate their peers locally and around the world. In December 2009, Global Kids expanded the program by training educators in branches of the New York Public Library and technology centers in Boston-area housing projects.

“In game design you’re making 'if’ and 'then’ statements by putting commands together,” said Kelly Czarnecki, technology education librarian of ImaginOn —an educational facility jointly shared by the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County and the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, North Carolina. “I definitely see literacy skills inherent in those programs,” she added.

“Gaming literacy is just a matter of breaking down the problem into little pieces,” said New York library media specialist Christy Crawford. “And you can apply that to everything from math to art.”

Over the last three years, student projects have included the creation of games like Ayiti - The Cost of Life and Hurricane Katrina: Tempest in Crescent City focusing on social issues like poverty and disaster relief.

“In addition to the rich content ranging from media consolidation to drug trafficking, students gained invaluable experience from the challenge of team learning,” said Jeanette Boone of the Four Corners Community Center, Boston.

“The thoughtful design and the dynamic teaching and training methods of Global Kids staff set a high bar for future teen courses. The program showed how I can help kids to think wider and broader and gave me a way to rethink how to keep kids engaged, while being innovative and creative,” Boone added.