Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Five Great Games on the Chrome Store for Applying Educational Skills

One of the pitfalls of educational games is that they are often content tucked inside of a mindless arcade game, trying to convey information and reward the end user with a carrot - such as being able to place a piece, fire a weapon, or defeat an enemy. The best kinds of games are experiences - places where the user takes on an identity, gets placed in a situation or simulation, or embraces a meaningful challenge. The games below not only are free on the Chrome Web Store, but they also cover one or more of Bloom’s Taxonomy of Learning in Action. In this pyramid of categories, the games in this list capture some of the various ways learning can be demonstrated. Enjoy!

Bloom’s Skill: Analyzing
Content Covered: Geography

Pursued is a clever spin on the games Geoguessr and GeoSettr, two sites that allow users to create Google Street View guessing games of where the user is based on what they can see around them. Pursued is this same concept, but set to a timer and with more of a game-like interface. In Pursued, users can take on user-created challenges to figure out what city they are in before the time runs out. I actually felt a genuine sense of panic while playing, furiously clicking around corners to find clues regarding the city I was dropped in to begin each round.

This game helps sharpen analytical skills, as students must utilize the clues around them and what they know about the geography of different areas of the world and popular cities to piece together where they are. Students must take in all of the different pieces of information, from the landforms in the distance to the street signs and landmarks to make an educated guess. The best part? Users can create their own rounds of Pursued, allowing the teacher to create levels based on areas they are teaching!

Bloom’s Skill: Applying
Content Covered: Engineering, Mathematics

I have to give credit to Eric Curts for writing this article, which brought me to Cargo Bridge, an addicting game available now on the Chrome Store. Cargo Bridge has a simple premise - you have an expanse to cover with “anchor points” on the map, and you must help some loyal workers cross the bridge, pick up their “cargo” and bring it back without the bridge collapsing. As players progress through the game, the types of materials change, upping the critical decision-making and demanding more out of students.

Applying different engineering and mathematical concepts gives students the chance to utilize the tools they learn and practice them in a competitive situation. The added beauty of games for this purpose is the “failure to learn” principle, which lets students tinker with the wrong ways to solve a problem until they discover a design that works. Such is the beauty of games - applying knowledge is a necessary factor to have an advantage over sheer chance and luck.

Bloom’s Skill: Analyzing & Evaluating
Content Covered: Internet Skills & Research

It’s an oldie but a goodie - “A Google a Day” is sort of a hybrid game (more like a “Challenge”, really), built to test a person’s Google search skills. The premise is simple: A Google a Day asks you a question that requires some research, and you get to Google to your heart’s content to find the answer. However, these questions most likely will not be solved by conventional means - you cannot simply repeat the question in a Google search bar or type in keywords. It might require some piecing together, usage of Google Street View, or more to get to the bottom of the question.

It will take a good mix of analyzing and evaluating to determine what will help land the user at the right answer. Evaluation will come in determining what sources and info will get you closer to the answer, while analyzing will be necessary in piecing together multiple searches to find a common thread. While it makes for a fun critical thinking diversion, A Google a Day could be contextualized in a research portion of a Social Studies or English classroom, or within a Computer Applications course.

Bloom’s Skill: Creating
Content Covered: Any (though Social Studies and Math are a good start)!

Let’s put it bluntly: Build with Chrome is just plain FUN. Take a basic collection of legos, set it in a virtual world accessible on any PC with internet, and you have Build with Chrome. Users have a blank slate to build with legos just like the old days, but no limit on supplies except for the shapes and space offered. Another kicker? The user can “place” their creation on Google Maps, letting students create a nice, virtual “collage” of buildings on the web-based program.

At the very tip of Bloom’s, we have creating, one of the most important skills to hone. Build with Chrome provides a versatile, free option for students to design to their heart’s content. All they have to do is design a creation and either screencapture it or even screencast it with an audio reflection. With these methods, teachers have an innovative assessment to see learning in action.

Bloom’s Skill: Understanding & Applying
Content Covered: Biology

Cellcraft is a clever arcade game with a humorous storyline that helps teach the development of a cell. In the game, you begin as a basic cell, being slowly taught the parts of the cell and what it needs to thrive by living its life and completing challenges based on cellular needs and situations. Cellcraft presents a unique way to learn the vocabulary and functionality of cells, going past memorization and absorption to understanding the concepts by doing what the cell must do and applying what the game teaches you to situations presented along the journey.

Sure, Cellcraft is billed as an edugame, but the design is a demonstration of how games with the goal of subtly teaching core subjects can still be engaging and experience-based rather than answering trivia questions to get to shoot asteroids out of the air.

What games do you know of that help show learning in action? What skills do you see games teaching effectively? Feel free to comment below: