World Digital Library: downloadable resources for teachers

World Digital LlibraryThe recently-launched World Digital Library is a huge collection of free primary material aiming to promote international and intercultural understanding. The site is operated by UNESCO and the United States Library of Congress, and as well as going some way to expanding non-English and non-western content on the Internet, it will also provide a great bank of resources for teachers.

Resources are browsed in an impressive Flash viewer, and can also be downloaded in .tiff format.

One Laptop Per Child – India places order for 250,000 units

While India’s education minister previously dismissed the One Laptop Per Child scheme as ‘pedagogically suspect’, it appears that India’s government has placed an order for 250,000 units.

The Guardian reports that 1500 schools should begin receiving computers in June, but remains sceptical about OLPC’s ability to fulfil such a large order.

IBM computer challenges human to game of Jeopardy

IBM follows up Deep Blue’s 1997 chess triumph against Garry Kasparov with a computer programmed to play US trivia gameshow, Jeopardy. IBM hopes that multiple Jeopardy winner Ken Jennings will challenge the computer, which will draw upon its indexed trivia information – although the computer will not be connected to the internet during the competition.

IBM intends for the public challenge to demonstrate efficient search methods to be utilised in future search engines.

See this BBC report for more details.

Demon’s Souls: a model for online educational games?

Demon's SoulsYou may not have heard of the PS3-exclusive game Demon’s Souls yet, as it’s currently available only in Asia. The game is a hardcore dungeon crawler RPG, and while generally well-received (rapturously so on some gaming forums), the online component has attracted particular attention. It appears to be a peculiar mix of single- and multi-player elements; when adventuring alone you may find other players moving in and out of your game. These players may be rivals aiming to steal your souls (the game’s currency), or may arrive within your game to signpost a safe path through the dungeon’s traps. Bloodstains indicate areas where players have perished, and players can also leave messages littered around the dungeons to warn of impending perils.

While the game has little content of direct interest to educators, the online multi-player approach is a potential model for educational content. The principle of navigating a 3D space filled with obstacles (which could be tests, questions, puzzles of any nature) has been attempted before in educational games – but the added ability to leave advisory messages, hints and tips for other players in a persistent online space could be rich with possibilities for learning and for improving communication skills.

See Eurogamer’s review of Demon’s Souls, which is currently available only on import from Asia.

Transforming Schools for the Future

Transforming Schools for the Future is a collection of papers published by Futurelab, forming a commentary of the UK government’s Building Schools for the Future and Primary Capital Programme (investment programmes in secondary and primary school buildings).

In his foreword, Lord David Puttnam argues for a forward-thinking approach to designing not just school buildings but also new systems:

“It is no use building old schools and systems, only made from new materials. It will be a missed opportunity if we only use these programmes to address current needs and immediate solutions for our institutions and the educational stock.”

A key reference is Baroness Susan Greenfield’s quote from her book Tomorrow’s People:

“As education becomes an ongoing experience, and therefore less differentiated from everyday life, and as that experience is increasingly screen derived, perhaps not just the notion of ‘learning’ but even the traditional concepts of ‘school’ and ‘university’ will start to become meaningless.”

Professor Rosemary Luckin of London Knowledge Lab suggests that the BSF design process needs to:

“- identify the school as just one of the resources that learners will interact with, and to investigate how the school can be a key resource in fostering relationships with other resources in a learners’ ecology, such as people and other learning locations
– explore how the school can be designed in a manner that enables it to continue to evolve
– encourage people to see the school as a dynamic entity ensuring that there are mechanisms in place through which stakeholders can participate in decisions about its continuing future development
– identify the roles that need to be fulfilled by people and technologies within and beyond the school building in order to support the school as a key resource in a learners’ evolving ecology of learning resources.”

You can download a pdf copy of the full report here.

Nintendo DSi ideal for the classroom

Nintendo DSiRichard Terrell at Critical Gaming Network gives his argument for the Nintendo DSi as an ideal interactive learning tool for the classroom. His commentary on the DSi’s added camera functionality is an interesting read for educators considering upgrading their DS or DS Lite models.

On a related note, perhaps the introduction of the DSi may later result in a price drop for regular DS models, allowing more schools to introduce them into classrooms.

e-adventure

e-daventure ChocolateThe e-UCM research group at the Complutense University of Madrid have done some detailed work on using point-and-click adventure games to teach specific learning outcomes. Click here to read the paper supporting reasons for choosing the point-and-click genre, and here for tech demos of some sample games, such as this cookery adventure game:

This adventure describes the experiences of a young cook, Paniel, who is enrolled on a cooking course about advanced uses of chocolate in cooking. The final goal is to learn more about the world of chocolate from a practical side. The student has to know what is behind the ingredients and the history of this product to make fancy and tasty sauces that can match with a selection of meals and meet the expectations of demanding customers.