Tech-ED

Enhancing Education with a Touch of Technology

Archive for the category “Gamification”

App Review: DuoLingo

So I recently have invested a good portion of my time into the somewhat recent app DuoLingo.  I saw the website during the introduction phase and my how the service has flourished. Since las November they recently published the iPhone app which as increased my time learning Spanish tremendously.  It also helps that there is a little reminder everyday. This app is a true help to learning Spanish and Italian as I come to find out personally.

The structure of the software is somewhat of gamification where you have to complete several tasks before you can move on to the next round.  The layout reminds me of Mario Brothers 3 fo Nintendo. You can select a couple of things to learn first and move down the track from there.  It is also nice that every lesson you get 3 extra “lives”.  This allows you as the learner to have a safety net of failure and focus on the learning taking place. It is also nice because there is a limit to your tries before you have to start over again.  This is where I have a split decision and yes it does force me as a learner to go back through the exercise again, but now is the app training me for test taking? I will leave that up to you to decide. Regardless, the app has actually helped me learn spanish not just memorize it.  I was having an email conversation with a native Spanish speaker and I mentioned I was learning Spanish because I actually thought in Spanish instead of strictly English. He was elated, because to truly learn you must spend time and that time is also out of the “learning time” thinking about the language.

If you are looking for a free online learning tool this has to be one of the best I have come across and I say watch out Rosetta Stone! If DuoLingo can keep expanding and getting fans like myself and actually teach us new languages that we don’t just learn partially or key phrases I think they could easily have a new share in the market.  Thanks DuoLingo for helping me achieve one of my goals in life, and I will continue playing/learning until I reach the end of my map!

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Day 4: Zombies, Run

Yes, I took a hiatus from writing about Zombies,Run! for a while now and there is no good reason for that other than mental health.  Zombies,Run on the 4th day ended my mission, and now I am convinced that it is a good app for exercise. I know I said I would give it 5 days for a trial, but the creators that came up with the story re incredibly clever. That is the main draw, is that I can escape my run into this world that is laid out to me in my ears.  Not many people can describe something so well that you forget about what you are doing and lose yourself in the story.

The game has become a book and I am the main character. Yes I am running, and yes it is a little cliché since it is about zombies and that phase might have passed onto something new; however, the game is fun and well funny. The story line continues and I still find myself slipping into the jungle surrounded by a city wall that protects me from the zombies. After 4 days I give this fitness app my approval for beginners.  It is fun and fantastic to take you through your run into another world where Zombies dictate your every move.  The game play is really nice since well you exercise the whole time.

The game continues after your runs too. You can use items you collect to upgrade your city.  I am not sure how much this does for you running, but it will help you and the people you meet survive the zombie assault! Get ready, run, and build you city to defeat the Zombies (if you can) and survive as long as you can! Good luck and boost your life and your miles with Zombies,Run!

PlayStation 4

The new PlayStation 4 debuted yesterday with a surprising plot twist in the plot. There was no console debut. It was bizarre that there was so much hype about the release of the new console and the only hardware that appeared was the controller, and new camera system. The new controller looks really cool with a touchscreen, but I can’t get over the fact that they didn’t show the console.

After watching game company after game company show off their incredibly amazing looking games I lost track of time, and really was focused on the graphics.  The graphics and processing seems amazing! The real life looks and subtle details that games can generate finally rival that of Hollywood CGI movies.  There were facial expressions that were almost beyond my own, and cars that looked so real that they can drive off of the screen and become real. The new editions to the PS4 family looked so incredibly crisp, clear and wait you can download them all from the internet? Yes, the next big thing is that you download all of your games with the new console. It seems as though all we will need in internet and a hard drive, but will it be solid state? You can also play games as they download, and not pay until you really “love them”.  I think that means you get a certain amount of time free, or limited features.  Sorry GameFly, you might be out of business with the PS fans.  Also, there is a new open kit for developers to really take the PS4 to the next level and build their own amazing games.  All of this is great, but where is the hardware?

The games move on and on, so many in the 2 hrs, but the grand finale was PlayStation adding two new developing companies to their arsenal.  We hear about so many current companies producing so many other games then there is silence. There is some slight suspense in the room waiting to hear about the new companies that will be producing games for the PS4 (and PS3) console. Epic music starts to play and you hear and old wise man com over the audio, claiming to be Dekard Cain. Yes! Blizzard is going to be porting Diablo III to the PS4. The crowd does nothing, and it is quite awkward. You would expect at least one clap, but nothing.  We all know as gamers that title has been out for so long that everyone has leveled up as much as they probably want at this point and no expansion? So the stage goes quiet, and more epic music plays. You see 4 men walk on the stage and, yes it is everyone from the Bungee studio! The new game Destiny appears to be a pre-Halo MMORPG that happens in real-time and you can control things from your mobile device. This is another leap for gaming, but is it enough?

PlayStation, great job introducing your titles and showing that it is more about the experience of the gaming rather than the console. However, for most of us heavy gamers we would have like to see the console, hardware, and a demo of how it should be played rather than titles most of us would have downloaded and played anyways regardless of the graphics because there are so many challenging fun games. Kudos to the developers and companies producing games, because without them the PS4 would juts be a computer.

Gaming: Bridging to a Better Education

For a long time games have been this separate piece of our lives, that we don’t recognize as being apart of our lives. Many people see them as something they don’t understand, but all along they have bridged into reality. As soon as we talk about them in our daily lives they become a part of our day by definition they are not compartmentalized. The play is compartmentalized, but the actuality is they have been bridged to reality since shortly after their conception.

Games are fantastic, there is a plot for players to follow or a brief introduction if the plot doesn’t matter. Most games are actually measured by gamers in hours it takes to complete the game. Much like a college course you are wanting to take and conquer.  As we all know you gain skills/experience/weapons as you face harder challenges/enemies, and there are twists and turns throughout the game that can alter your path. Many times we all try and find all of the secrets of the game that players must spend time study maps and pay attention to every detail of the game experience.

This is a great time to see education slowly embrace the concept of gaming. It is incredible that the idea behind gaming makes sense, but how can we leverage that in education.  Students are uninterested, yes they are gaining knowledge, but are they truly thinking about the concepts and not just passing tests. With the embrace of design thinking, roundtable discussions, gamification, technology integration, and everything else education is embracing students are more engaged than before. This has intrigued me to watch this happen since it makes sense thinking back to my education.

The only thing that some schools have done is taken this to the online realm, and why shouldn’t we? Students today need to learn how to parse through information that in their life will be continuously thrown at them. Here are some ideas to set your class up as a game more so than it already is:

  1. Plan you curriculum out that you acknowledge a completed unit/level of the class. Many times we do complete them, but then we move right on to the next thing. Take a class and signify this with something fun that is not a test.
  2. If you are online or have a blog/wiki for your course use badges as students get skills. Class Badges is a great starting point.
  3. Teach them the ability to find false information. Use social media to teach students what is important information, show them hash tags, talk to you librarians about internet searching.
  4. Use the things they are interested in to teach them life skills. Do you know about everything Google can do? I surely don’t (more to come on this) but there is plenty to keep us all busy for a while 🙂
  5. If you really want to go 100% gamer turn your class into a LARP. Once students enter your room they are different characters on different missions but all have to work together for a common goal.

A great quote that has resonated with me brought back from a conference. Teachers are like cavemen coming out of the cave, its scary but a necessity for survival. Our students are already using the tools of today and tomorrow, why would we shut that off to teach them about today and tomorrow?

Learning Languages

Recently I have been testing out the website and app Duolingo. There are claims from TechCrunch that the software is actually better and more engaging than RosettaStone and those other guys in this business.  There is much to be said about the newer soft ware, and I really like the fact that as you progress through the levels you are translating words online for others to read. The idea that as I learn I am helping others read these translations is amazing.  When all is said and done, does it really help?

I have used RosettaStone many years ago, but I have seen it in action recently, and it still remains the same. However, there is now some more speaking and you don’t just click on pictures to match words.  There have been many improvements since the early years. The program has been proven time and time again; however, when you think about it how many other language software programs can you think of quickly. If you are like me you can think of absolutely nothing else like this software.  Sure there are online courses for languages, but has RosettaStone been so good because it works or due to the lack of competitors in the market?

Move out-of-the-way Rosetta, you are getting some seriously strong competition! Duolingo has actually worked quite well over the past 3 weeks I have been using it.  The gamification of levels and lives make Duolingo somewhat addicting.  It is incredibly hard to put down once I start on a level I really want to move on to unlock the next level.  The interface is simple and reminds me of Mario Bros. 3 moving from level to level. However the graphics are better even on my cell phone.  Duolingo has me hooked and I am learning Spanish and Italian, but it is because I want to learn.

MarioBros3

Both softwares have the one major fatal flaw, the user.  No matter how many times we look at statistics of people using the software, we need to take into account the learners wanting to learn.  I know that if I was still in school I would prefer to take a course that had levels, and a gaming side to it if it was structured properly. What about those students and people “using the software” but not actually wanting to learn.  This is where I think Duolingo has the leg up in the competition because the software actually keeps the user in the software.

Have you used language software? If so what was your experience like?

Day 3: Zombies, RUN!

Yawn, another day to pound the pavement. Today was the mid-week struggle some of us can’t seem to shake. It was a struggle to get through the alarm, that didn’t go off and get ready for the late start on the run. I fired up Zombies, Run Chapter 2. Immediately I meet a new friend and I start to listen to his story, and I’m already through a 1/2 mile. What just happened?! I learned that there are multiple other cities in the story and different people had split up since the zombie outbreak.  It seems as if I am running through a novel for the first part of my run, which doesn’t disappoint me on a tough start.

The app has started to morph into more zombie chases in chapter 2.  The story slows down a little as you realize there might not be many people left in the world you are running through.  I venture out beyond the city walls and we find an old package through the run. It turns out there are necessities of life scattered all through out the jungle I am stuck in at this point. We are now on a race with zombies for supplies. The zombies seem smarter as well being able to predict where I am running now. It is getting harder to escape and escaping takes loner now.  They are learning my habits! I then her that I have hit 2 miles and I am right back on track for my pace.

The app on day three has me now running harder for longer and is pushing me to be a better runner. Honestly I am getting lost in the game part so I forget until I actually think about what I am doing. Every runner new or veteran knows that your mind carries you through or stops your runs, and the app really takes your mind out of the exercise.  This is fantastic if you struggle because you psych yourself out. This is where if you don’t have a running partner to get you  out and challenge you it can be tough to not think about your run. I am feeling a little faster and stronger from the zombie chases, and on my short runs it seems to be helping my endurance now.  Who would have thought an app about zombies would improve my running…

Children Learning Ethical Hacking

hacking
Today’s children are leveraging open courseware such as CodeSchool.comCodeAcademy.com and CoderDojo.com to learn how to hack their way into online games according to Mashable’s post: http://mashable.com/2013/02/09/kids-coding/.  This is a story that can quickly divide people into two camps, those who say the sites should make sure their security is stronger, and those that say students and children should learn how to use their powers wisely.  Well what if they are?

If you are on the side of the children who have spent time to learn to work around a system and say that security should be brought up to higher standards, let me ask you a question: What if it was your paid site, or restricted games? If you are trying to provide a service to a certain age group and children who shouldn’t see that type of content or are not allowed on your site, what would you do? This brings up the question many have now about Facebook, and how children under the age of 13 are signing up by the millions according to this Huffington Post Article. We all know that curiosity soars in children especially pre-teens, so why not strengthen security, and prevent the sites from being hacked. After all you are storing personal information on these sites, and how safe would I feel if my son or daughter could bypass your security? It seems as though if your site full of children’s personal information, even if authorized by an adult, is vulnerable to children of the same age there needs to be something done about the problem.

If the shoe is on the other foot and you say children should be using their powers of coding to break into these sites to expose their weaknesses, should that be done on a live server? Should this be done to possibly expose others information, or allow them to see behind the curtain of the software they should not have otherwise had access to? With great power and skills, comes great responsibility. Most of the code uses created malware to allow these children to steal currency, login to social media sites, and do other damage to people in the virtual world.  However, more and more the virtual world crosses into the physical world, with ramifications similar to stealing lunch money, ruining friendships, and other larger problems (such as breaking into websites?).

It seems as though either way we are in the midst a moral dilemma that we might not have had to think about before as our world ever changes. I would love to hear some feed back on your thoughts and what you would do if you child was the one hacking away…Also, as educators, families mentors does the landscape of our youth really change what we are teaching, or do we just need to reference different outlets?

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