Lab: “Play the Science: Experiencing Science by Having Fun with Games” – Jeremy Friedberg, Spongelab Interactive

Very insightful and cool examples of online learning games, from someone who is out there delivering them. Very inspiring to see how they’re tackling different approaches (based more on what they think would be cool to learn, rather than what is forced by a strict school bureaucracy), and hear their justifications for some of their choices.

Changed my ideas about where online education could end up in five years…
(and left me obsessed with the idea of students creating an “education profile” – something like Xbox-achievements-accumulating-profile meets real-world-medical-records).

He says “Play is science.” Apparently this is part two of their presentation… Maine dude shows a guitar hero knock-off for gene enzyme sequencing [? is that what it’s about? this kind of made me groan, because the key to Guitar Hero is the dream of being a rockstar. Any demo that perverts the controller into something else seems like a misguided attempt to be hip]. Despite looking a little confusing and un-cool, it does seem like an innovative way to let people explore a broad boring space. After inviting an audience member to come up and try it, they open up for discussion.

With some input from Purdue they built “genomics digital lab“. Plant game. Made in flash. Looks incredible. This whole thing makes me drool (although I haven’t really dug in to try and understand the details). … And this is all offered free on their website?!?!? (Some lady mentioned using it in demo)…

Notes: they have a built in “Notepad” tool… which lets users record their thoughts at key points. Used to gather feedback. Can tell if problems are technical usage, or game play concept. [great idea for all our future development projects]

Questions: What all are they tracking? Feedback forms only? Do they build in hooks to get a vague idea what was clicked? Is this approach viable in flash?

Shows trailer for their new game about The History of Biology.
Talks about modern peoples’ general lack of interest in science, and a personal urge to convey how awesome certain things are. [Sounds exactly like Jon]. They created a mystery that drives the user on a scavenger hunt to explore both fake and real websites (like, USDA). Seems like a really cool way to make an Augmented Reality Game for education (instead of for pointless movie marketing, where you usually see this sort of thing).

Tells charming story of Jansen who invented the first microscope. The dude was into telescopes then switched over, and was investigated for coin counterfeiting – but in the end he bought his way free. Stories like these hold a modern student’s attention [and humanize scientific innovations… and can also open the dialogue to scientific ethics].
The whole project is apparently quietly designed to open a dialogue on the emerging field of synthetic life (DNA sequencing work). It notes that Mendel faked his research. They were all just people. Claims this is what attracts users to the learning.

They put a lot of effort into randomizing their game (lists of emails and such). So you can’t post a walkthrough. (created a probe tool, to help tech support figure out what user was exposed to). Data is generated at start…
It tracks achievements. Tracks leaps to external sites (you access emails and websites THROUGH it’s game interface). And notepads let user give extra feedback.

… I got his card afterwards, but couldn’t butt in to talk to him. Overheard some mention of getting a discount with serious play code? Something about credits needed to access certain projects on their website (sounds like an interesting way to offer everything for free, without just throwing it all away).

… this session left me daydreaming about a zany potential future where: kids go to websites for their learning games about anything they’re interested in (because school is just government mandated daycare where they mostly acquire social skills), and each kid has an education profile (much like doctors’ records) which each of these websites could access, along with the kid’s parents. Thus, parents could tell the kid isn’t performing very well in long division, thanks to the results of the games they’ve been playing.

[p.s. Jeremy spoke up in a session the following day, and really impressed me with his perspective on online learning priorities. more on this in that session’s notes]

… probably no need to check back on this one actually.
maybe I’ll post a link to the other session I just noted.

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One thought on “(SPC:Day2)- Online learning games, tools, and sponges

  1. Just spammed an interesting comment.
    “Frank Fritz” wrote
    Hey Blogs,
    Thanks for the above, In our quest to find online educational games and learning activities for kids in kindergarten, preschool and first grades, we did a detailed study to see how well they fulfill parental expectations and needs. Our findings show significant gaps, indicating challenges and new opportunities for online educational websites for kids.

    which almost seemed like a legit comment. Except that it linked to all this weird silver dollar pricing crap.
    If you are a real person, Mr. Fritz, let me know.

    Otherwise, let us marvel at the sophistication of spam bots.

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