Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On Kerbal

For my game studies class this past semester, I spent a lot of time with Kerbal Space Program.

I really enjoyed this game from a very early time, though, I'll be the first to admit that rocket science is something that I actually know very little about.  In fact, I know so little that I'd never been able to get a satellite into orbit.

See, I played the game VERY early on.  I love the idea of a serious game teaching a difficult subject in an engaging and fun environment.  Kerbal is the definition of a serious game to teach a complex subject along the lines of James Paul Gee and his work.

Kids are able to put something together in an engaging way, communicate with other players, and put it all together to move forward.

The trick here is convincing parents and educators that games can be a way to teach children. Slowly, but surely, this is happening.

I recently looked at some of the curricula implemented for Common Core in New York via Eureka Math (sample here). I investigated based on some discussion surrounding the wisdom of instructing kids in Kindergarten, and if doing so was "too early".  In looking at the lessons, the goal is the kids learning, certainly, but each of the lessons are actually games.

A bit of deconstruction here:  parents questioning the wisdom of Eureka Math often assume that "learning" and "lessons" involve the very conventional, post-industrial age education.  We all know this stereotype: rows of desks, kids sitting, quiet, heads down, scribbling answers on papers for grades, listening to instructions by the teacher.

Eureka is gamifying mathematics for kindergarteners. The kids don't sit at a desk and memorize facts and figures and recite them back to the teacher.  They play with beans and gloves, interactively manipulating tokens and the learning environment to build useful facts within the context of play.

How awesome is that?

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