Game-Based Learning: How Can We Prepare K-12?

Game-Based Learning: How Can We Prepare K-12?

Game-based learning has drawn considerable interest from K-12 as the industry continues to look for methods to better engage students with mediums they already embrace. The question originally centered on whether or not games should be exclusively entertaining or centered on learning outcomes. For many, including parents, teachers and students, this either-or approach seemed counterintuitive to how children and adults like to learn information. The question often being, "Why can't learning be fun?" 

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Triseum CEO  André Thomas to discuss how gaming has evolved from basic principles of entertainment to blend rigor and relevance with high-end and engaging graphics. Thomas has been profiled recently as his efforts, in connection with Texas A&M Universityhave drawn significant attention from both higher education and K-12. Here is an excerpt from The Huffington Post and an interview with VentureBeat:

Huffington Post: My Conversation with André Thomas: From the Head of Graphics for Football at EA Sports to Leading the Way In Higher Education Gaming

by Robyn Shulman

Q. Gaming has tremendous benefits to the education field. You express great devotion for teaching and mentoring students about design and game-based-learning. Can you tell us how students and professors are reacting to this field? Do you see better retention, deeper engagement, and greater success through your program?

There are mixed reactions. Students are overwhelmingly positive toward game-based learning, considering that 97% of students play games four hours or more a week (both male and female), which is not surprising. With faculty, I see mixed reactions and I can understand why. Occasionally, I walk into a classroom where students play a popular entertainment game for research and I pause and ask myself, “Is this learning, they seem to have so much fun?”

It is fun ; we know that every game teaches you something, at the basic level how to play the game, and all the way to how to kill aliens or zombies as well as how to combine colors in a row, etc. These may not be things we want students to learn, however, players are learning. Once students and professors get comfortable with using games in higher education for learning, they rarely go back. To give you an example, our first game was assigned as homework last semester and students played an average of 10 times between 2 - 4 hours each time. I have yet to hear of any other homework assignment that engages students so deeply.

However, having said all of this, games for learning are not a silver bullet. It is very easy to create ineffective games. For example, if you look at YouTube, almost everyone can create a movie now and make it available to the rest of the world, and this doesn’t mean we’re overwhelmed with award winning films. Creating great engaging learning games takes a great deal of experts and a lot of iteration. In addition, just because great tools such as Unity make it easy to create games, doesn’t mean everyone should.

Students are smart. If chocolate covered broccoli doesn’t work with middle school students, it sure doesn’t work with college students. They like to have high-quality experiences and are used to high-quality games. The challenge is to craft a game that provides these levels of learning experiences backed by rigorous research as well as making the game engaging and appealing to the students. Unfortunately, this can be very time-consuming, difficult and expensive; and we’re not yet seeing many great examples in the higher education space. I hope that in the next few years we see more high-quality learning games for both high school and university students.

VentureBeat: Triseum gets $1.4 million to make educational games on art and calculus

by Dean Takahashi

The second game will be about calculus. It’s the first game in a four-game series designed to help students learn calculus. (About 42 percent of students drop out or shift out of calculus classes the first time around.)

“We’ve created a 3D adventure game that is more affordable than your calculus textbook,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to create games that students want to play, and that’s what we’re seeing in our games. You have to learn. You can’t just game it and guess your way through it.”

The students play the art history game an average of two to four hours per play session.

“I’m not aware of any other kind of homework that encourages that kind of engagement,” Thomas said.

André Thomas

André Thomas has spent over 20 years in CGI production and was formerly the Head of Graphics - Football for EA Sports Football games (NCAA, Madden, Head Coach, NFL Tour). The Madden franchise is the longest running and most successful sports franchise in the history of the games industry. After finishing his education and working for a few years in Germany, André was able to turn his passion for Computer Graphics into a career in 1994. André created graphics for such notable feature films as Men in Black , Con Air , Independence Day , and Tomorrow Never Dies . In 1997, he moved to London where he worked for 7 years on live action features and commercials. He worked on the Disney backed, all CG-3D feature film Valiant in 2003. After the completion of Valiant, André joined DNA Productions in Dallas where he worked on the CG feature Ant Bully and oversaw the shading and rendering of the movie. In 2007, André relocated to Orlando, Florida were he joined Electronic Arts - Tiburon and worked on over 15 shipped football games for the majority of platforms.

André joined the faculty of the Visualization department in the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University in January of 2014, where he is currently teaching Game Design, Game Development and interactive graphics techniques and established the Learning Interactive Visualization Experience Lab - LIVE lab.

André founded Triseum in Texas in 2014 to address a pressing need in education and fulfill a lifelong dream.



jenny singh Nov 16, 2017 · #3

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Mary White Jun 17, 2016 · #2

Interesting interview and topic. I had the thought that video games make kids behave like zombies, they are too concentrated on playing that they don't react; but maybe looking at in from another perspective since they're so engaging they can be used for good. Thank you @Rod Berger

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Daniel Anderson Jun 17, 2016 · #1

Great article Rod @Rod Berger, I'm glad to see more buzzes about gaming and education is happening. It's been long known that video games can actually improve multitasking, problem solving and attention span. Our generation always had puzzles etc..

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