Futurelab article on Child Education PLUS

There’s a new article by Futurelab on the Child Education PLUS website, discussing the use of computer games in the classroom. (This is unashamed self-promotion, as I’ve just started my new role at Scholastic as editor of Child Education PLUS.)

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Futurelab podcast – technology in primary education

I’m a little late with this one, but the current Futurelab podcast is really worth a listen. Sue Cranmer speaks to John Potter of the London Knowledge Lab, University of London, about technology in primary classrooms. John speaks compellingly about the need to recognise learning needs and then to produce appropriate technology, rather than simply trying to convince teachers that they have a need for any available new technology. He argues for low-tech usage of high-tech products, such as an interactive whiteboard used as a table surface allowing simple manipulation of objects for Nursery and Early Years pupils.

Click here to download the podcast.

Audio-only action game simulates blindness

Over at Eurogamer there’s a report on Danish developer PortaPlay’s action-adventure that simulates blindness using audio and no graphics.

It’s set in a semi-factual WWII era where the player is an allied spy dropped behind enemy lines to gather intelligence on a secret German doomsday weapon. The player is blinded during the intro and the rest of the game takes place in complete darkness.

As well as simulating blindness for non-blind players, PortaPlay creative thinker Hans von Knut hopes that the realistic audio environments delivered through in-ear headphones will allow blind players to play the game successfully.

The game has combat, stealth, dialogue and puzzles, and will also feature multiplayer so blind people can play against each other in the same way non-visually-impaired gamers do.

The game is being funded by the film institute Danish Screen, but a release date has not yet been announced.

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Gamers to race against sporting pros

_46636944_car_dan_226The BBC reports that Real Time Race is developing a system allowing television viewers to race against real F1 drivers. Racetracks would be mapped before the race using 360 degree cameras similar to those used by the Google Street View team, although this system would allow users to view the race from areas not actually visited by the camera-car itself. This data would then be controllable by the user – the accompanying video shows a user with an Xbox 360 gamepad – with a first-person racecar HUD overlaid onto the screen.

Real Time Race suggest that users would be able to race actual real-life competitors as the competition takes place. From the BBC’s report it appears that this would involve racing against accurate models of real-life competitor cars rather than actual video footage, however. While the aim is presumably to allow users to view the race from a novel perspective, the possible competitive element is intriguing – would the system be framed in gaming terms or simply as an enhanced viewing experience?

Real Time Race hope that their system will be available to the public in 2010 and expect it to be eventually integrated into other sports such as skiing, cycling and sailing.

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Will Wright and E O Wilson on educational games

Take a look over at NPR for a summary of an open mic session between game designer Will Wright (with credits including SimCity, The Sims and Spore) and biologist E. O. Wilson.

Wright asked Wilson if he saw a role for games in education:

“I’ll go to an even more radical position,” Wilson said. “I think games are the future in education. We’re going through a rapid transition now. We’re about to leave print and textbooks behind.”

Wilson imagines students taking visits through the virtual world to different ecosystems. “That could be a rain forest,” he said, “a tundra — or a Jurassic forest.”

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Quest to Learn: NYC’s game-based school

New York City’s Quest to Learn, created in collaboration with New Visions for Public Schools, is a proposed 6-12th grade school based on game-inspired teaching.

Mission critical at Quest to Learn is a translation of the underlying form of games into a powerful pedagogical model for its 6-12th graders. Games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others. As is the case with many of the games played by young people today, Quest is designed to enable students to “take on” the identities and behaviors of explorers, mathematicians, historians, writers, and evolutionary biologists as they work through a dynamic, challenge-based curriculum with content-rich questing to learn at its core.

Rather than playing commercially-available videogames, the school aims to utilise ‘game-like learning experiences’ via partnerships with third-party development studios.

Via Flux.

Nintendo DS Classroom unveiled for Japan

2132382504_viewToday Nintendo and Sharp System Products unveiled DS Classroom, allowing DS consoles to be linked to a central computer and used with specialised educational software.

Known as “Nintendo DS Kyoushitsu” in its native Japanese, the new system pairs up the DS with a PC. Teachers make use of software on the PC to interact via Wi-Fi with students through their individual DS, DS Lite or DSi units that have been equipped with a Nintendo DS Classroom cartridge. The system allows a single PC to interact with up to 50 DS units. Everything is handled locally, so no internet connection is required.

Examples of classroom uses are multiple choice tests and quizzes requiring free response questions to be answered using the DS stylus, with student responses reflected in real time on the teacher’s PC.

The system will be available in Japan from February 2010.