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.

Every Day the Same Dream by Paolo Pedercini

Every Day the Same Dream is a beautiful independent game from Paolo Pedercini as an entry to the Experimental Gameplay Project. Illustrating the tedium of routine office work, the game allows few interactions – for example exchanging brief words with your indifferent wife, a homeless man, the elevator operator. You can only ‘win’ the game by searching out the few ways to break the routine of everyday working life. It’s bleak and often tedious – and it’s one of the most consistent and affecting games I’ve played in a long time.

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Scribblenauts as classroom literacy aid

There’s an interview on Kotaku today with Scribblenauts creator Jeremiah Slaczka. The Nintendo DS title was released in September 2009 and, although controls and interface were often criticized, critics applauded the open-ended gameplay. Puzzles within the game can be solved by typing nouns on the onscreen keyboard – if the object is stored in the game’s 22,800-word database it will appear and may be used to solve the puzzle. As an example, pre-release hype centred around one player’s ability to solve a puzzle involving robot zombies by conjuring up a time machine, traveling back in time to collect a dinosaur and then riding atop the dinosaur to attack the zombies.

The Kotaku article relates Slaczka’s views about the application of the game as an educational tool:

One mother emailed the developer to tell how she bought the game for her son who was having difficulty in school learning to read and write. The woman gave the child a game along with a cheat sheet of ten words for him to try out in the game.

“He learned how to spell those words,” he said, “and now she said he’s up to two full pages of words that he can spell and understand which I thought was a really awesome story. “

While Slaczka acknowledges that the game can be used to enhance spelling and vocabulary, he’s hesitant to stress this potential:

“It has inherent educational potential, but it was never designed with an educational slant in mind,” he said. “It was a positive byproduct more than anything else. “

In appears that Slaczka is partly wary of labeling the game as an educational title because it may hurt sales, such is the stigma surrounding ‘edutainment’. However, Scribblenauts can certainly be added to the list of games (particularly Nintendo DS games) that can be used within the classroom to engage pupils in education.

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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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Handheld species identification with WildKey

Wild

WildKnowlege produce a range of software tools allowing learners to create and share images, forms and databases on mobile devices such as PC, iPhone and Nintendo DS. The suite of tools include WildKey, an ambitious branching database tool that provides pupils with simple prompts allowing them to categorise flora and fauna ‘in the field’. The suite also contains WildForm and WildImage as well as WildMap, which allows pupils to create their own trails – and all of the user-created content can be shared with other learners.

WildKnowledge began as a collaborative project between Oxford Brookes University and software company Adit Limited. It appears that WildKnowledge have considered some of the extended applications of their software – their brochure makes brief mention of the possibility of user-created treasure hunts and GPS-enabled role-playing games. Perhaps some teachers may soon introduce educational geocaching hunts into the school day?

Via Flux.

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Digital residents and digital visitors

Over at TALL blog (part of the University of Oxford’s Department of Continuing Education) there’s a great article discussing different categorisations of online users. In recent years, online users have been typified as Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, to distinguish those who grew up using online systems and latecomers more used to traditional systems. The TALL blog article argues that their students can be more usefully broadly categorised as Digital Visitors and Digital Residents, relating to the extent of the user’s profile and social life that is conducted online:

In effect the Resident has a presence online which they are constantly developing while the Visitor logs on, performs a specific task and then logs off.

The article goes on to suggest how this categorization can inform online learning tools:

This Visitor, Resident distinction is useful when considering which technologies to provide for online learners. For example if your learners are mainly Visitors they are unlikely to take advantage of any feed based system for aggregated information you may put in place. They are also unlikely to blog or comment as part of a course. The Resident will expect to have the opportunity to offer opinions on topics and to socialise around a programme of study. In fact they are likely to find ways of doing this even if they are not ‘officially’ provided.

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