My colleagues at USU Brett Shelton and David Wiley have published their edited volume entitled The Design and Use of Simulation Computer Games in Education. A pdf of the book is also available. You might also be interested in the L2TD project (Learning about Learning-Technology-Design), which also has a book coming out soon.
I posted earlier a list of a few blogs that discuss educational research every now and then. Since then the Education Research Report blog has been discontinued as a free resource. Here are a few more related blogs, as well as some educational gaming/simulation blogs:
- Mark Guzdial – GT professor in the area of computer science education
- Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning
- The Pulse: Education’s Place for Debate
- How We Learn
- Bill Kerr
- Education with Technology
- Unbounded – exploring the potential of technology-based learning (out of Ohio University).
Educational Gaming/Simulation blogs:
Building off a previous post about introducing computers and educational games to young children, I ran across some more information via Scott Traylor’s 360Kid blog, which has some great posts related to designing educational games and toys for children, which is what his 360Kid company does.
In one post, Scott discusses how companies are starting to design more learning technologies and educational media experiences for very young children, and he links to a report and video from a panel of researchers at the Kaiser Family Foundation entitled “A Teacher in the Living Room? Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers”. Here is the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a big increase in new electronic media products for very young children, including those as young as one month old. A driving force behind this new market is the advertising and package labeling that makes claims about the educational benefits of specific products. A Teacher in the Living Room? Educational Media for Babies, Toddlers, and Preschoolers examines the educational claims about commercially available educational media products (videos and DVDs, computer software, and video games) for very young children and what kind of research has been conducted to substantiate the educational claims.
Scott also shares a recommended reading list at a recent conference for developers of children’s media. One item I found interesting was a dissertation that Hoysniemi Johanna of Finland recently completed on the Design and Evaluation of Physically Interactive Games, such as playstation 2′s eyetoy webcam games or the Hasbro iOn. You may have seen games like these at an arcade or science museum. You stand in front of a webcam and see yourself in the game. You can move your hands or body to interact with virtual objects on screen. As far as I can tell though, the Hasbro iOn hasn’t really caught on like the V.Tech or Leap Frog stuff. It may be possible to create a free open source clone that works on a normal PC with a cheap webcam. Some people have worked on related projects using C# and DirectShow (1,2), but nothing public.
Finally, in this Youtube video posted by Scott, Brenda Laurel gives a talk at the Education Arcade symposium. She has a new book coming out entitled From Barbie to Mortal Combat: New Perspectives on Gender, Games, and Computing.
These are just some anecdotal tips based on experience with my 3 year old, so take this with a grain of salt.
If you want more professional advice on educational technology and very young children, research-wise, there is not much out there. The recommendations concerning young children and computers are mostly the same as with TV. Supervise your children, limit the amount of time they spend at the computer, don’t expose them to violent or inappropriate content. That includes games that involve shooting or exploding things. See this position statement by the National Association for the Education of Young Children for more info, although that statement is over ten years old (before there were online flash games, before Leapfrog Leapster and VTech V.Smile and similar toys).
Infants (> 6 months)
At this point your infant can sit in your lap and bang on the keyboard a while. There are keyboard bang games out there such as this online alphabet bang game from KiddieGames.com. This is basically a cause and effect activity, just like many electronic cause and effect toys we buy infants nowadays. They do some action, and the toy or screen responds with a sound and/or visual stimulus.
Use the F11 key to maximize your browser window when letting your infant bang on the keyboard. If you have a laptop, use an external keyboard if at all possible to prevent damage. If you let your infant bang on the keys while not in a game, be careful because they will find key combinations that you did not even know about.
Another idea is to open up a blank Word/OpenOffice document, change the font to something large and centered, maximimize the window, and let your child hit the keys to again see the causal relations.
Toddlers (> 1 year)
At this point my child was becoming more and more curious about the computer, started playing with the mouse, and learning that different keys did different things. My child learned from observing, too, eventually figuring out that pressing the start button turned the computer on (and much more later). At some point your child may be able to move the mouse and see how it is related to changes on-screen, but cannot yet point and click at objects on the screen.
You might start looking for software designed for toddlers that doesn’t involve point and clicking yet. Most technology and office supply stores have these kinds of CDs for very cheap. I highly recommend the Reader Rabbit Playtime for Baby and Toddler CD. It has games that gradually introduce mouse skills. At first you can just click or move the mouse to make things happen, and later you can click on objects on the screen.
At this point, too, you might want to create a separate account for your child, an account with limited access and privileges. Before you know it they will have figured out how to double-click icons to start a program or browser, how to move icons, how to turn on your computer, monitor, and speakers, how to click on their own name to login, and eventually even start a web browser and go to bookmarked sites.
Pre-Schoolers (3 and higher)
There are various games requiring different skill levels at those sites. Some of the games are very educational and will help your child learn things such as the alphabet, matching, turn-taking. Other games are not so educational but might help develop hand-eye coordination. I would recommend you model how to play the games for your child. Sometimes your child may not be capable of playing a game themselves yet, but they still can enjoy it through collaborating with you.
If you find any of these sites valuable, I would recommend you bookmark them and put them on the favorites bar of your child’s web browser so that they can be easily accessed. Your child will remember the games they liked to play, and eventually learn how to navigate the sites to find those games as well as try out new games.
There are many expensive software tools and electronic educational toys designed for pre-schoolers, such as LeapFrog’s Leapster and the V.Tech V.Smile. I tried the Leapster and it is very nice, but my 3 year old is not old enough for that yet. Also, frankly, the online flash games are much richer, more educational, and of course free. You can access hundreds of games at the sites linked to above, versus the hundreds of dollars it would cost to play more than a few games on the V.Tech or Leapfrog systems.
There has been research showing that the V.Tech/Leapster type electronic toys offer no significant advantage over traditional toys and learning experiences for young children, and I’d expect the same to be true of the online children’s flash games as well. It has helped supplement the activities we have done with our child, such as learning the alphabet and numbers.
One other item to consider for your child and the computer is videos and songs. If you have any videos or songs you would like to allow your child to watch, the free VLC Player can play any type of video or audio. After some modeling, your child can learn how to play/pause media, and how to use the scroll bar to jump to different sections of a video.
Your child will be curious about just about any technology you are using. Cell phones, PDAs, etc. My little one liked drawing on an iPAQ notepad, but be careful of items that are small or sharp, such as a PDA’s stylus. Keep potentially dangerous items out of reach of your child at all times.
Clayton Wright has created a list of many of the ed tech related conferences coming up in 2007. See the word document at the bottom of the page. Some others not mentioned are listed here (sorry, requires a free subscription), including ICLS (2008), Frontiers in Education, SIGCSE, Visualization in Science and Education, Engineering Interactive Systems, Enactive, Physics Education Research Conference, Multimedia in Physics Teaching and Learning, the K12 Online Conference, and others.
Educational technology news:
Some bloggers have been writing some interesting multi-part series recently that are related to educational technology:
- Scott McLeod wrote a six-part review of the literature and ideas related to Gaming, Cognition, and Education (here is a pdf version).
- Brian Benzinger has a nice three part series listing all those new “web 2.0″ sites out there and how they can be applied to education, in Back to School with the Class of Web 2.0.
- Henry Jenkins of MIT broke down a paper he recently wrote into a multi-part blog series entitled Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture.
The Learning about Learning-Technology-Design Project (L2TD) is the successor to the Trails Project, which I wrote about a couple years ago. It is essentially concerned with the same goals as this blog. I quote from the older TRAILS page:
aims to broaden and support the pool of talent available to address the needs of K-12 education by creating powerful technology in forms such as simulations, interactive drill and practice, adaptive tutorials, and virtual manipulatives.
It is about designing better and more interactive educational technologies. So far the L2TD project is really a collection of links to courses on the design of interactive learning software. So there are links to course syllabi, reading lists, and activity ideas. Some of the courses are oriented around game design, while others are more learning sciences focused.
I’ll let you judge the reports on your own, but here are a few bits and pieces that caught my notice so far:
The high cost of game development and uncertain markets for educational
innovations make investments too risky for both the video game and educational
materials industries. There is also no funding for educational game development
or educational game companies from venture capitalists, mezzanine funders, or
Government grants are too small and take too long to administer to support
educational game development or educational game companies.
…the market for K-12 materials
is splitting into products for school and products for use after school. The
informal, after school market may be easier to penetrate and more
receptive to innovations.
Schools and other education venues such as community centers
should explore the use of video game consoles — high-powered,
durable, low cost, low maintenance computing devices — for learning
applications. This includes game consoles discarded because they
have been replaced by a new generation of technology.
and finally, something from the fact sheet:
What research is needed to advance games for learning?
- Research is needed to determine which features of games and simulations are important
for learning and why, and how best to design these systems to deliver positive learning
- Research is needed to develop automated tools to streamline the process of developing
games and simulations, and to reduce development costs.
- Research is needed on how to best assess the knowledge and skills learners acquire from
games, and on understanding the barriers to the adoption of learning innovations in
The LiveMove product was announced by AiLive yesterday. You can use your own gestures to create a gesture-based game. Here is a demonstration video (also available at google video). Unfortunately it costs $2500 a pop, on top of the $2000 or so it costs to get a Wii developer license. As an alternative, you can use the XNA framework for .NET and XBox 360 development for about $99, but of course the XBox costs more than the Wii will.