The game is the lesson — and the test

Someday, video games like Crystals of Kador will be testing and learning tools, University of Wisconsin researchers believe. To play the game children assume the identity of a damaged robot stranded on a distant planet. Players learn to communicate with humanlike aliens to enlist their help. Researchers believe the game measures children’s learning and build empathy, reports Benjamin Herold in Ed Week.

. . . Crystals offers a potentially transformative response to two cutting-edge questions now being debated in the world of testing: whether digital games can effectively blur the line between instruction and assessment and how educators can better gauge children’s social and emotional skills.

“Our job is to provide compelling examples of what assessments can be,” said Constance Steinkuehler, an associate professor of education and former White House policy analyst who co-directs Games+Learning+Society, a center based here that is dedicated to designing and studying video games.

. . . They also hope to show that video games can strengthen the circuits in children’s brains that regulate empathy, self-control, and the other “noncognitive skills” that researchers increasingly view as the foundation of lifelong academic, financial, physical, and emotional well-being.

Games are like little petri dishes, Steinkuehler tells Herold. “You can put people into games and actually watch what they do . . . what they repeat, what they struggle on, and where they spend the time. And you can use that [data] to draw inferences about how they’re learning.”

Progenitor X teaches students about stem cells. Players assume the identity of a scientist infected by zombies who must grow new organs to survive. “Players who engaged with Progenitor X’s toughest challenges improved their scores” on an exam even if they “lost” the game, writes Herold.

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  1. This is news? 30 years ago, we had Odell Lake, Odell Woods, Oregon Trail, the ‘muncher’ games………The problem is that, somewhere in between, the games got fuzzy and lost their edge. We have a vintage Apple IIe, (rummage sale. $5 including about 70 games), and the kids still enjoy playing them and learning from them.

    • Arguably the first automobile, Cugnot’s steam traction engine, had its debut in 1770. But it wasn’t until other developments occurred that the automobile became practical and commercially viable.

      The same thing will happen with learning/testing games.

      If it hasn’t already.