Category Archives: Game-Based Learning

Educational Games are Now a “Hot Topic”


I recently joined game developer Say Design as a full-time consultant, and one of my responsibilities is to help them expand their reach into the educational market. I actually began my career developing educational software, first as head of development for educational software publisher Edu-Ware Services and later starting my own company, Electric Transit, which developed serious games (long before they were called “serious games”). But that was many years ago, and I am very interested in learning about developments in the educational space since I last worked there.

Last week Say Design sent me to San Francisco to attend the “SIIA Ed Tech Industry Summit, which describes itself as ” the nation’s leading education technology conference.” This year the conference’s focus on “Navigating Next”: review what’s coming next in the teaching and learning process in a post-PC world. The conference schedule identified the following as “hot topics” for this year: Game-Based Learning; Distribution and Implementation of Game-Based Learning; and Going Global, Going Mobile.

Towards the end of the conference, I attended the Education Technology Awards Luncheon, where awards were given out to educational technology innovations that were “most innovative” and “most likely to succeed.” To my surprise (although I voted for it), both awards were given out to a game — SimCEO, a multiplayer serious game that teaches kids how to run their own business.

Actually, the entire conference was a bit of a shock for me. Back in my Edu-Ware days, it was a tough sell getting our educational tutorials — let along educational games — into the school market; most of our sales were to home consumers. The problem back then was there were very few computers in schools. Few schools even had a computer lab, where teachers could take their class for an hour each week.

I credit the iPad for now getting schools to embrace educational software in general and game-based learning in particular. Schools across the nation are starting to bring the iPad and other tablets into the classroom, and they need content — both ebooks and elearning software — to integrate them into their curriculum.

I suspect I’m going to become very busy.



Hacking The Classroom

Hacking the ClassroomLast Saturday I attended an event called Hack The Classroom at Loyola Marymount University. Aimed at K-12 teachers working at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the six-hour program consisted of talks on the future of technology in education and hands-on workshops on how to hack your classroom with the top iPad Apps, Google Docs, and other technology. My wife, a Catholic high school teacher, had invited me to go with her, and since I was about to head up development of a educational software project myself, I was interested to attend.

Not having been inside a school in over thirty years — aside from visiting my wife’s classroom, attending my children’s open houses and delivering an occasional talk to students about game development — I really didn’t know much about changes in teaching approaches that had taken place since I was a kid. I was immediately blown away by the keynote presentation about technology as core curriculum, which related the evolution of educational thinking, from traditional (Web 1.0) to current (Web 3.0).

Hacking the Classroom


Whereas education in my youth was closed and industrial, the current view is that education should be open and ubiquitous.

Most surprising to me was the concept of “flipping the classroom”: the idea that teachers should present their lectures at the student’s home (via online presentation software), and that “homework” should be done in the classroom so that students having problems can be assisted by teachers or more advanced students acting as tutors. This is a form of blended learning which encompasses any use of technology to leverage the learning in a classroom, so a teacher can spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing.

As excited as I was about these new approaches, I was somewhat dismayed that there was a need for workshops to show teachers how to use such simple resources as Google Drive, Twitter and even Wikipedia. However, I’ll give the teachers credit for recognizing that there was a need for them to step up and learn about the technology that their own students use everyday.

There are plans for future Hack The Classroom events organized for other educator groups. You can learn more here.