Wow. 200+ educators in one place to explore all things related to games and learning!! Thank you @gametolearnmb for organizing an incredible event! I wish I could be physically present to hang out with you all (y’all as we say, ’round here) and learn! Here is my presentation. PLEASE – The best thing you can do is connect to other educators who are passionate about the things you are passionate about! Let me help – reach out to me on Twitter – @lucasgillispie, and let’s make those connections!
What is Pokemon Go? A Parent/Educator’s Overview
This weekend, Pokemon Go has taken the app world by storm. Pokemon Go is an AR (augmented reality) game in which you collect monsters (Pokemon) out and about in the real world. The game, by Niantic Labs, creators of the AR game Ingress, uses your smartphone’s GPS and data to share the location of these critters in the real world. Look at your phone’s display. See some rustling leaves on the sidewalk ahead? There’s one hiding there!
As you explore, real world landmarks: statues, memorials, churches, parks, historic markers, and the like are represented by blue icons called Pokestops. Get close enough to it, tap it, and give it a spin to collect items to aid you on your quest to collect more Pokemon. There are also Gyms where your Pokemon can battle those of other players. The more you play, the more you level up and the better items and abilities you get!
So, what’s the value in this game? It gets us out and about! The best way to play the game is to get out, walking/jogging and exploring! This is a great way to encourage your kids to get out of the house and play a game in the real world. In fact, I just walked nearly four miles with my daughter as we explored our local community college, gathering resources and collecting over 25 Pokemon! Sometimes you find Pokemon eggs. Want to hatch them? Put them in an incubator. The game then requires you to walk a certain distance to get the egg to hatch. Talk about motivation!
The more landmarks and points of interest near you, the more likely you are to find places to interact. We live in a fairly rural community, so the local college and the downtown area are the most rewarding play areas. If you live some distance away from an area like this, you may want to drive/bike to an area and then explore.
Only have one phone? You and your kids can always take turns finding and capturing the Pokemon you discover. (Hint: Hold down the Pokeball and flick it toward the creature when the circle’s the smallest to increase your chance of catching it.) Also, keep in mind a few things. With music, graphics, GPS, data, and screen that stays on while you’re playing, this game will drain your battery! (There is a low battery mode, but I haven’t tried that yet.) For extended play, you may want to take a backup charger. Also, though this is a fantastic way to get some exercise, it can be distracting. Don’t forget to look where you’re walking!
At the end of this month, the Pokemon Go Plus (a wearable gadget that connects to your phone and vibrates to let you know when Pokemon are near) will be available to help you in your quest to “catch ’em all.”
Pokemon Go is a great way to connect to your kids and get outdoors for some physical activity. This is also a great game to encourage kids to research strategy, how-to’s, and the Pokemon lore. The hype is huge right now, so why not take advantage of it?
Time for me to go and train my Bulbasaur!
Scrap Mechanic – An Engineering Sandbox of Fun
Years ago, a growing buzz in my social feed and from students kept pushing me to explore a retro-looking sandbox building game. I ignored it as long as I could, but finally caved and tried the game. The game was Minecraft and it had huge implications for learning.
Well, history repeats itself, though this time with considerably less resistance on my part. Once again, my radar is getting pinged from different sources about a new game called Scrap Mechanic. First, I’m seeing the amazing Adam Clark (aka WizardKeen) posting Let’s Play videos with the game. Then, one of our district media coordinators contacted me saying that her son wanted to buy it and wondering if I knew anything about it. So, I did the responsible thing… I bought it myself! Check out the game trailer below:
There’s a great deal of learning potential, here, too. The main idea of the experience, so far, is building structures and machines. Building structures is relatively familiar territory, but the real fun is in machine building. Unlike other sandbox games, physics plays a big role in Scrap Mechanic. There’s gravity and other forces at work. With engines, wheels, thrusters, and bearings, players can create everything from gas-powered cars to rocket-powered flying saucers, or if you’re so inclined, a rocket-powered flying saucer car. Maybe you want to build a catapult to launch your friends across the world or build a transforming tree house. These are just a few examples among many out there on YouTube.
Creative tinkering and trial-and-error exploration are hallmarks of the game play and those are just a couple of the reasons Scrap Mechanic has huge implications for learning. This is a fantastic, digital maker space! This would be a welcome addition to classrooms and media centers looking for an alternative digital space to encourage students’ creativity. Either turn your learners loose and let them follow their own interests, or give them a challenge to help them get started! Build a vehicle that can transport three or more crates from your shop to the warehouse. Create a stable, rocket-powered car. Design a machine that will fling your friends the farthest. There are so many possibilities. As they design students will have to wrestle with engineering challenges. “How can I add weight to make this vehicle more stable?” “To what angle should I set this bearing to maximize the reach of my lift arm?”
Check out this video of a group of YouTubers who’ve challenged each other to build machines to throw their friends across the map (mild language warning):
Keep an eye on this one!
Using Virtual Worlds For Peace
Came across the article, Virtual Swords to Ploughshares, today. Researchers at Duke University have partnered with area company, Virtual Heroes, to create a virtual world/simulation in which students practice skills in diplomacy and crisis response. The program is called Virtual Peace. The scenario in this game-based environment was designed by educators from the Duke-UNC Rotary Center for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution and resembles Central America following hurricane Mitch. Students work in teams to decide how they’ll distribute relief funds and deal with unexpected crises, often generated on-the-fly by their instructors who monitor the virtual environment as the game takes place.
Students participating in this scenario don’t even have to be in the same physical location. The design, very similar to an MMO such as World of Warcraft, allows student players from all over the world, to work collaboratively.
It’s promising to see researchers and designers leveraging the power of MMO-like environments for educational purposes.