It’s a learning game — and a test

Learning games are trying to “bridge the gap between instruction and assessment,” reports Education Week.

In SimCity’s Pollution Challenge game, students “must balance the growth of their cities with environmental impacts.” The game analyzes how well a student understands “systems thinking” and reports that to teachers.

“If a student builds one bus stop, then waits before strategically building other bus stops, he has an eye for problem-solving that I would not have gotten with a multiple-choice or written test,” said Matt Farber, a social studies teacher who beta-tested SimCityEDU with 6th graders at the 650-student Valleyview Middle School in Denville, N.J.

More assessment-embedded games are on the way, experts say.

“Stealth assessments” can measure “creativity, persistence and conceptual understanding during game play,” said Valerie J. Shute, a Florida State educational psychology professor. Shute co-developed Newton’s Playground, which uses simulations to teach about gravity, mass, and other physics concepts. Assessment is embedded in the game.

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  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Games, like other sorts of lessons and curricula that are divorced from actual practice, are dependent on assumptions about the nature of things that may or may not be correct.

    For every Math-Blaster Plus dealing with irrefutable facts about the workings of arithmetic, there’s going to be a game based on some group or another’s hotly contested ideology or ass-backward methodology.

  2. cranberry says:

    I’d prefer real ramps, balls, etc. to teach mechanics. It’s not as if it’s a new, unknown field. Other than enriching the software company, I find no reason to prefer a simulation to reality.

    Splurge! Let them have reality!