Category Archives: News

Growing the Video Game Industry in the US

Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology, or E-Tech was formed in February by U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kevin Brady.  You can read about the Caucus and see which members of the House have joined it on the Video Game Voters Network.  You can watch Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz speak on Technology and Education HERE at the Atlantic Forum on Technology in Education.

Why does Entertainment Technology need a caucus?  Why is there a Network of Video Game Voters?  Well, video games are big business, and the US is a big market for video games.  From The VGVN Blog:  In 2010, computer and video games contributed $24 billion in sales to the U.S. economy. The computer and video games industry employs 120,000 Americans in high-paying jobs in 34 states.  Computer and video games help soldiers rehabilitate, keep seniors active, and educate our children.  For more information on the roles of video games in our lives, see the Entertainment Software Association’s website.

Like any big business, everyone working and investing in it needs to anticipate growth in the future.  For growth in the video game market we need freedom to create and sell the games that will grow the market and we also need a local workforce trained for the jobs required.  Therefore, limiting regulation and enhancing education are key to increasing the strength of America’s video game industry.

Limiting regulation: Limiting what video games can contain is very similar to limiting what a book can contain, extremely similar.  Limiting the content of our stories and our speech should be resisted, regardless of the economic considerations.

Who is trying to limit what video game contain?  The State of California has had a law since 2005 that could be used (but never has) to restrict the sale of video games.  The Supreme Court will rule in the next two months on whether this law is constitutional.    The VGVN has an excellent FAQs page about the case. You can download the Supreme Court filing on the VGVN FAQ page, too. And here are the direct links:  Read the summary of ESA’s Supreme Court filing
Read the full Supreme Court filing.

Enhancing Education: We will need trained workers to keep up with the world video game and other technology related industries.  Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultzspoke about the E-TECH caucus at the Atlantic’s Forum on Technology in Education,March 30, 2011, see minute 4:30.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz spoke mainly not about regulation but about how we can use technology to enhance our education system.  For example, US students could debate with students in other countries.  It is easy to see how technology can enhance the education of student in every topic, not just technology related ones.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s example is simple:  debating economics with students in another country could enhance our students’ understanding of the topic.  Imagine learning about Roman ruins from students in Rome or debating the finer points of baseball vs cricket with students in India.  These kinds of interactions should be common place.

Moving forward locally… To make the innovative use of technology common place in our schools we need to speak up and demand it.  I suggest for starters, that we all go to your local middle school and see if their network allows access to Wikipedia.  You may be very surprised.  We could start by simply that our local tax dollars be used to give this free service available to curious 10 year olds.  See Wikipedia’s FAQ about Wikipedia in School. Then we can turn our attention to down loadable video games like Immune Attack, and blog sites where students could contribute to discussions on current events and science.

Additionally, their many opportunities for teachers, students and parents to get involved in projects that involve technology.  See our Science Games post for updates.

 

 

March Learning Tech Newsletter. Educational Molecules for Fun

We need you
Are you a teacher with access to PC computers?  Test IA in your classroom!  We spent 2010 developing an excellent test of learning and attitudes toward molecular biology.  Now we need students in 7th – 12th grades to play IA1.0 for 2 class periods and and then take our survey.  Please register here and we will send you more information.

 

Serious talks!  Melanie Stegman, speaking in DC and NYC

Melanie Stegman, Director of the Learning Technologies Program at FAS, speaks March 30 in Washington, DC in a forum on Technologies in Education.  The forum is held by the Atlantic Monthly.  Here is a link to upcoming events held by the Atlantic Monthly.

Melanie Stegman speaks April 7 in New York City at the second NYC Health Games event. This event is organized by Kognito Interactive with the support and input of Games for Health, Games for Change, and the NYU ECT program.

 

Moleclues and the Year of Chemistry

http://www.moleclues.org/ is a website where you can learn about the things molecules do… like make us fall in love, for instance.

Moleclues wants you to know that 2011 is the YEAR OF CHEMISTRY!  Watch their videos about chemistry, there will be a new one every month of 2011.  http://www.moleclues.org/chemistry-calendar Teachers can also get some teachers guides for each month… topics range from fashion, to weather, to love…

 

Immunology Is…  FUN!

Making IA2.0 requires finding the fun in Immunology

Many thousands of people spend their lives in windowless laboratories, standing day in and day out, barely speaking to their silent lab mates, often working in a 4°C room, or holding their arms up for hours while they conduct their experiments inside the awkward, but sterile cell culture hood.

Why are they doing this?

…continued in Melanie’s blog post on finding the fun in immunology.

Friend us…   You can support the cause of technology for education by playing IA1.0, sharing and commenting on our blog posts, following us on facebook, and/or joining FAS.

 

2011 is the Year of Chemistry

www.moleclues.org is a website where you can learn about the things molecules do… like make us fall in love, for instance.

The people behind Moleclues and the Year of Chemistry are The Molecular Frontiers Foundation.

Moleclues wants you to know that 2011 is the international YEAR OF CHEMISTRY!  Watch their videos about chemistry, there will be a new one every month of 2011.  http://www.moleclues.org/chemistry-calendar Teachers can also get some teachers guides for each month… topics range from fashion, to weather, to love…

Molecular Frontiers is collaborating with Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg, Universeum and the film company Untamed Science to produce 12 videos during the International Year of Chemistry 2011. The topic of the monthly videos follows the themes set up by Swedish Chemical Society.

 

STEM Video Game Challenge!

STEM Challenge!

 

 

 

This fall the first  National STEM Video Game Challenge invited professional, collegiate, and youth developers to submit prototypes of games to inspire STEM learning for kids pre-k to 4th grade.  The winners will be announced soon.  You can get your students or yourself involved next year!

Read about the contest at the http://www.cooneycenterprizes.org

I served as a judge for this year’s contest.  I played every game submitted in the STEM game category.  I can tell you that we have many smart, and free thinking young minds out there.  Encourage the minds you know to compete next year!  I will be discussing software that middle school and High School students can use to design and create games.

You can read what another STEM Challenge game judge wrote Here.

Serious Game Design: Maximizing Engagement

A friend of mine just referred me to a great blog on education, training and learning technology…  by Richard N. Landers, Ph.D.   Dr. Landers is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, USA.  The blog is called Thoughts of a Neo-Academic.  Richard wrote a series of blogs in September 2010 about a series of research papers published in Journal of General Psychology that are focused on video games.

Today’s post is about how we might create more engaging video games.  This paper is the subject of the post:  Rodrigo, M. (2010). Dynamics of student cognitive-affective transitions during a mathematics game. Simulation & Gaming, 42 (1), 85-99. doi: 10.1177/1046878110361513.

Dr. Rodrigo observed 7th grade boys while they played an math game.  She and her colleagues paired up to take note of the cognitive affect states of the students as they played the math game, Math Blaster.  The team assessed how the students’ states changed while they played the game.  The states the team defined and noted were
1.  Boredom
2.  Confusion
3.  Delight
4.  Engagement
5.  Frustration
6.  Surprise
7.  The Neutral state  (No affect discernible)

She noted that students often transitioned from confused to engaged.  She noted that boredom was the only state that persisted.  My post here is just a quick one, and if you want more details, please read Dr. Lander’s post for a nicer description.  What I would like to point out is that confusion is not a bad thing….  confusion may draw us in.  Confusion, I think, is a necessary step to learning anything.  This research is unique and powerful, I believe.  If you know of more, please let me know.

Rodrigo, M. (2010). Dynamics of student cognitive-affective transitions during a mathematics game. Simulation & Gaming, 42 (1), 85-99.  doi: 10.1177/1046878110361513.         You can download the paper here.

 

Students at Shadow Mountain High School, Phoenix, AZ Recommend Immune Attack

Wonder whether your students will like Immune Attack? Wonder whether it is game enough to hold their attention? Well watch this video.

And oh, if you work for a AAA video game company you can reach me by email!

Thank you to Debbie Kovesdy, her students and the biology teachers who participated in our evaluation. If YOU would like your students to participate in our evaluation, please let me know! We need more students to strengthen our data… We have significant gains in LEARNING and CONFIDENCE. Be a part of a revolution in learning and in gaming!

Register here!!!!

USA Science and Engineering Festival!

At the USA Science and Engineering Expo, we had a great time introducing our “free Video Game” to 4000 people. While kids of all ages ran into our booth to see for themselves whether Immune Attack was any good or not, parents were happy to hear that our video game is about white blood cells fighting bacteria. The main character isn’t a military character, it’s a Microbot. It’s main weapon is a ray gun that activates proteins.

The crowd at the USA Science and Engineering expo was curious and eager to hear about real science! Some high school kids wanted to talk about careers in science. FAS is a science policy think tank, so we had plenty to talk about! Additionally, video game production requires many different types of scientific, mathematical and engineering related skills. Someone needs to design the game and designing means testing to find out whether the game is fun. Testing means experimental design! Which audience finds your game fun? And what is your control game? Then someone will program the game. Someone else is an expert at drawing three-dimensional objects using software like Maya, Studio Max, or Cinema4D. Then still another artist uses other software to create all of the backgrounds. Then another artist uses more technology to create the characters. And if you are making a realistic video game, then someone serves as a subject matter expert and makes sure the historical context is correct, or that the science in the Microbot is accurate… I could go on and on. See below for links to art and biological science in particular:

I enjoyed meeting all of you. Please support technology in our schools! Why? Because you can’t see viruses, you can’t see bacteria. You can’t see proteins. But you can see them in a video game! Imagine learning soccer, but never being shown the field. Previously, we did not have ways to see bacteria and proteins, but now we do! And the new data is being used by many people in the Medical Illustration Field to create videos and diagrams that explain the molecular science that affects our everyday lives.

Here are some examples of great medical illustration resources:

The Association of Medical Illustrators

The book: The Machinery of Life

The Biomedical Communications department at the University of Texas Southwestern.

My school will not let me download Immune Attack

Dear Melanie,
Our school has a filter which blocks the Immune Attack download site. Could you perhaps send the game an email attachment?
Sincerely,
Karl
aka, teacher at a K-12 school anywhere in the US

Dear Karl,

Yes, I am familiar with that arch enemy of educational software progrIt does fit on a CD. You may download it at home, burn it to a CD, then copy that CD as many times as you like, and then insert the CD into any computer you would like to install the game on. You have to install the program. This may lead to another common and equally huge problem: permission. There is currently a debate between whether holding your breath or kicking and screaming works better. Please let us know what works for you.

I hope humor gets you though this moment of frustration! I can make a CD for you if you would like, and mail it to you. No problem, just send me your best snail mail address.

Here is a big Happy Note! Immune Attack 2.0 is now funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. We will take advantage of brand new technology: IA2.0 will be programmed in the Unity Engine, and it will be Mac, PC and BROWSER playable! Yiiihaw! No downloading and no installation! However, installing onto PC or MAC will be supported, so that an internet connection will not be necessary to play IA2.0.

IA2.0 won’t be ready until next school year.  In the meantime, here is some more joy to tide you over:
Metablast
is a fantastic looking new 3D game that is also about a microbot! This bot is inside a plant cell in which photosynthesis is failing! This game is also funded by the National Institutes of Health, also uses real proteins structures and other actual data and also turns real science facts into a real cool adventure. Level one will be released and week now…..
mygameIQ
is a program that you can install on your PC that will let you easily find and download and install many learning games. Instead of searching for 100 different games on your computer, you just open to the mygameIQ, and click play on which ever of your games you wish to play. The best part is that we here at FAS Learning Tech get a report on how many people played IA through mygameIQ, how many times they played. So we can find out how popular the game is, which helps us design the sequel! It is also vital to get renewed funding.
PS: mygameIQ is PC only. Please let them know if you want a MAC version!
LearningTech Blog
I maintain a list of the excellent learning games that I know about. So keep up today on my blog. You can also sign up there for my monthly
Learning Technologies Newsletter.

Please let me know if I can help you out in anyway. I support the use of Immune Attack as a model for students who are designing their own games, for the study of the intersection of art and science, and to drive up interest and knowledge of molecular science in the general adult public.

Sincerely yours,

Melanie

Melanie Stegman, Ph.D.
Director, Learning Technologies Program
Federation of American Scientists
1725 DeSales Street, NW 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
mstegman at fas.org
www.fas.org/immuneattack

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