Designing Games Session Review from Sloan-C/Merlot Conference

The first session I attended at the 5th Annual Emerging Technologies for Online Learning International Symposium – Designing Games and Simulations: Effective Practices – was both fun and informative. Here’s my experience:

When I first walked in to this talk, I was handed a half-sheet of paper and several blank 8 1/2” x 11”s, with a chuckle and the comment, “You’ll need these.” The paper read: “If the presenter says ‘Time is flying,’ then make a paper airplane and throw it across the room.”

Being asked to make paper airplanes at 8:30am? Sounded fun to me. During the first half-hour, a few unusual things happened – people cheering enthusiastically, applauding, jumping up… And eventually my cue to toss a paper airplane across the room. It turns out that all of these were a segue into the IFTTT tool – more on that later.

We got a quick run-down of Google Forms in the form of a choose-your-own-adventure game. All you need to do is have your buttons function as links to other form items, and each person’s adventure is archived in a spreadsheet.

YouTube was also demoed as a choose-your-own-adventure. You can put text boxes that are links to other YouTube videos in your own video. I could see this being useful for the Statistics group, either for our prelabs or much-anticipated exam solutions (continue to part b? Click!). My favorite part is that if the first video is embedded on a page, subsequent linked videos stay embedded. Check out the Time Machine video series under the YouTube tab for an example.

Google Sites got a quick mention – could be used for a choose-your-own-adventure or interactive syllabus.

Quandary (http://www.halfbakedsoftware.com/quandary.php) was my favorite new tool from this talk. It’s “action maze” creation software. I’ve already got an idea for using it for a new Name That Scenario that involved computer-adaptive testing and in-class bingo (if students are listening for specific terms in lab or lecture, they’re LISTENING!). Quandary can be used for simple things like one multiple-choice question, or something much more complicated – the presenters showed an business/economics example where you make a decision that might lead to your business gaining money, but losing reputation points. The money is visible to the student, but the reputation points aren’t. You can have as many visible or hidden variables as you want, and can have random aspects as well. Quandary is software that runs on Windows only, but produces HTML output that can run on a variety of platforms. There do seem to be some accessibility issues, though.

Flash got a quick mention also – but it wasn’t something attendees seemed interested in.

Another interesting tool was IFTTT. This is what inspired my paper airplane task. IF This, Then That can take tasks from one tool to another. Educational uses weren’t very detailed yet, but there’s obviously a lot of potential. A lot of the intended uses are for personal organization. If someone emails you with “Stats 250” in the subject line, it goes into a folder. If someone tweets with a specific hashtag, you get a text. What about this, though: If a student watches a prelab video, then they get redirected to a quiz. If they pass the quiz, then they get credit. Or: If a word for in-class Bingo was spoken, then that square becomes clickable. If a student clicks a complete row of clickable words, then they get added to a google form for an extra credit point.

A few key ideas from the presenters:

  • Predevelopment is key! Decide what your objective is first, then organize how you want to achieve that objective (or how you want your students to achieve them). THEN you can figure out what tools are best to get what you need. Design from the end (objectives) to the beginning (code).
  • Evaluate your LOs – ask for student feedback. If it’s more annoying than helpful, you’re encouraging students to waste time that they could be spending on actually learning.
  • If there’s a narrative in your LO, bring back your characters in the next LO! Students enjoyed their recurring characters.

The second part of the talk was dedicated to brainstorming an LO. I thought about a few for our Intro/Gateway Statistics class:

  • NTS redone (maybe with Quandary and scenarios rated for difficulty)
  • Name That Assessment (using the same basis)
  • When and how to use graphs (IFTTT?)
  • Presenting regression in a real-world environment (Choose-Your-Own-Adventure)
  • When and how to do a binomial test (Quandary?)

Overall, fun talk with some interesting new ideas that I’m looking forward to exploring more and hopefully implementing!

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