Report on the Summit on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists

The Federation of American Scientists has just released a full report on a meeting they convened last year with the Federation of American Scientists, Entertainment Software Association and National Science Foundation, the “Summit on Educational Games,” where nearly 100 experts met to discuss ways to accelerate the development, commercialization, and deployment of new generation games for learning.

The report includes examples of three educational games produced by the Federation of American Scientists, policy recommendations, and more.

This report preceded an announcement on October 19 that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation will donate $50 million to study the impact of digital media on student learning. The five-year project will fund “research and innovations designed to explore the impact of digital media on youth culture and to investigate how a myriad of new-media technologies, from video games to social networking web sites, can be used to help students learn.”  See the article in eSchool News.

Here are some excerpts from the FAS report on the Summit on Educational Games.  Chris.

“The success of complex video games demonstrates games can teach higher order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change. These are the skills U.S. employers increasingly seek in workers and new workforce entrants. These are the skills more Americans must have to compete with lower cost knowledge workers in other nations. Games and simulations can also serve as powerful “hands-on” tools for teaching practical and technical skills, from automotive repair to heart surgery. In addition, today’s students who have grownup with digital technology and video games are especially poised to take advantage of the features of educational games.”

Key Conclusions

1. Many video games require players to master skills in demand by today’s employers.
2. There are several attributes of games that would be useful for application in learning. These include:

  • contextual bridging (i.e., closing the gap between what is learned in theory and its use);
  • high time-on-task;
  • motivation and goal orientation, even after failure;
  • providing learners with cues, hints, and partial solutions to keep them progressing through learning;
  • personalization of learning; and
  • infinite patience.

3. There are differences between games for education and games for entertainment.
4. A robust program of research and experimentation is needed to enhance development of educational games by stimulating transfer of the art and technologies of video games to education and learning systems.
5. High development costs in an uncertain market for educational innovations make developing complex high-production learning games too risky for video game and educational materials industries.
6. Several barriers inhibit the markets for education games. These include: market fragmentation (e.g., 16,000 K-12 school districts), schools’ unwillingness and limited budgets to abandon textbooks in favor of technology-based materials, negative attitudes about video games on the part of some parents and educators, and schools’ reluctance to purchase educational technologies with unproven efficacy, especially in terms of today’s education standards.
7. Educational institutions need to transform organizational systems and instructional practices to take greater advantage of new technology, including educational games.
8. Outcome data from large-scale evaluations of educational games are needed to demonstrate that these technologies are equal to or offer comparative advantage vs. conventional instruction methods.

Report on the Summit on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists

Recent Articles: Debate on Virtual Science Classes, eCollege, Connective Knowledge, Resources from the Scout Report

Here are some recent articles and resources that might be of interest.  Chris.

No Test Tubes? Debate on Virtual Science Classes
by Sam Dillon
New York Times, Oct. 20, 2006

. . . “As part of a broader audit of the thousands of high school courses that display its Advanced Placement trademark, the [College] board has recruited panels of university professors and experts in Internet-based learning to scrutinize the quality of online laboratories used in Web-based A.P. science courses.”

“ ‘Members of the College Board insist that college-level laboratory science courses not be labeled ‘A.P.’ without a physical lab,’ the board said in a letter sent to online schools in April. ‘Online science courses can only be labeled ‘A.P.’ if the online provider’ can ensure ‘that students have a guided, hands-on (not virtual) laboratory experience.’ But after an outcry by online schools, the board issued an apology in June, acknowledging that ‘there may be new developments’ in online learning that could merit its endorsement.”

“Mr. Packer of the College Board said in an interview that the board had set up three five-member panels composed of biology, chemistry and physics professors and online educators, which are to meet in New York next month to review the online laboratories offered by Internet-based schools for A.P. courses.”

eCollege Seeks to Sell Datamark
by Elizabeth Redden
Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 20, 2006

“Citing slower than projected growth, eCollege, a company that provides online educational learning services, announced a plan to potentially sell its enrollment marketing division, Datamark, Inc. Wednesday – a move, one analyst said, caused by a cool(er) front descending upon the once white-hot for-profit education market.”

. . .“Datamark’s model of recruiting and retaining students is based in part upon “lead generation” and “lead conversion” — that is, attracting students, or “leads,” via direct-mail, e-marketing, television and advertising campaigns, and boosting enrollment by “converting” those leads into students. While that strategy has worked well in the for-profit markets where Datamark has thrived, many nonprofit institutions think viewing and interacting with students as “leads” is antithetical to their purposes, said Trace Urdan, an analyst of for-profit education for Signal Hill Capital Group.”

Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge
by Stephen Downes, ITForum, Oct. 10, 2006

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to outline some of the thinking behind new e-learning technology, including e-portfolios and personal learning environments. Part of this thinking is centered around the theory of connectivism, which asserts that knowledge – and therefore the learning of knowledge – is distributive, that is, not located in any given place (and therefore not ‘transferred’ or ‘transacted’ per se) but rather consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community. And another part of this thinking is centered around the new, and the newly empowered, learner, the member of the net generation, who is thinking and interacting in new ways. These trends combine to form what is sometimes called ‘e-learning 2.0’ – an approach to learning that is based on conversation and interaction, on sharing, creation and participation, on learning not as a separate activity, but rather, as embedded in meaningful activities such as games or workflows.

Resources from the Scout Report:

College Math Resources

Free interactive web-based resources that help with the learning of college-level mathematics.  Resources include tools, tutors, online courses, general catalogues, organizations and institutions.

Consortium for the Advancement of Undergraduate Statistics Education

The “Resources” area is divided into sections that bring together datasets, analysis tools, lecture examples, and for a moment of inferential humor, a number of cartoons, jokes, and songs, all informed by the world of statistics. The “Teaching Methods” brings together 35 resources, such as a set of tips of teaching statistics to large classes and how to discuss causality in introductory statistics courses.

Interactive Chemistry Tutorials

This is the entry point to a set of 92 pages aimed at aiding individuals in the study of chemistry. The pages generate unique problems and also provide detailed solutions. This material has been created at California State University, Dominguez Hills, and is the sole copyright of George Wiger.

Johns Hopkins Podcasts

Johns Hopkins Medicine offers a free, five to seven-minute, health and medicine podcast, a lively discussion of the week’s medical news and how it may affect you, hosted by Rick Lange, M.D., chief of clinical cardiology, and Elizabeth Tracey, director of the Hopkins Health NewsFeed, a radio news service program.  For example, this week’s topics include: benefits to nonsmokers of smoking ban (study in JAMA), risks of not immunizing children, relationship of psoriasis to cardiovascular risk, use of atypical antipsychotics in people with Alzheimer’s.

Justice Talking

This weekly hour-long program produced by the Annenberg Public Policy Center, invites the nation’s top advocates to discuss “the tough, provocative legal issues that capture the headlines, from stem cell research to prayer in school, gay marriage to Guantanamo Bay.” Hosted by veteran National Public Radio correspondent Margot Adler.  Includes commentaries, book reviews and roundtable discussions on current legal issues.

Small Business Video Seminar

A collection of 11 “how-to” seminars and podcasts on starting a business from the New York Public Library and the Partnership for New York City.  The sessions relate to doing business in New York City, most of the material and suggestions could apply to nearly anywhere.  Titles include, “Credit Management and Credit Repair for Entrepreneurs,” “Market Research: Information Sources for Small Business,” and “Retail Essentials: How to Open and Run a Successful Retail Store.”

Recent Articles: Debate on Virtual Science Classes, eCollege, Connective Knowledge, Resources from the Scout Report

Articles on Information Literacy, Gmail on Campus, Citizendium, IT Security, Common Cartridge, Digital Divide, Adjuncts

Here are excerpts from some really interesting articles that pertain to distance learning. I just spoke with the folks at ETS and they will be putting the results of the information literacy study (see below) online. I will send the information to you when I receive it in the next week or so. Chris.

Students Lack ‘Information Literacy,’ Testing Service’s Study Finds
by Andrea L. Foster
Chronicle of Higher Education (requires subscription), Oct. 18, 2006

“College students and high-school students preparing to enter college are sorely lacking in the skills needed to retrieve, analyze, and communicate information that is available online, according to preliminary findings released on Monday by the Educational Testing Service. “A study by the nonprofit testing service looked at the scores of about 3,000 college students and 800 high-school students who earlier this year took a new ETS test designed to measure their information literacy and computer savvy. The test is called the ICT Literacy Assessment Core Level. “ICT” stands for ‘information and communication technology.’ According to the preliminary report, only 13 percent of the test-takers were information literate. ETS set what company officials described as a rough, unofficial information-literacy bar using information from a variety of sources, including the Association of College and Research Libraries.”

Google Expands Its Bid to Run Student E-Mail Systems, Offering Additional Services
by Jeffrey R. Young
Chronicle of Higher Education (requires subscription), Oct. 12, 2006
Google Apps for Education

“Google has expanded its efforts to provide student e-mail services to colleges, and while some campus officials are not yet ready to hand over such a critical function to an outside company, they are tempted by the price — it’s free.”

“Google announced the expanded service here on Tuesday at the Educause conference on technology in higher education, which ends today. The service, called Google Apps for Education, lets participating colleges outsource their student e-mail while still allowing campus users to have an address that originates from the college’s domain — meaning it will still end in .edu. Besides Google’s popular Gmail service, the package includes an instant-messaging client, a calendar, and a Web-page tool.”

Co-Founder of Wikipedia, Now a Critic, Starts Spinoff With Academic Editors
by Brock Read
Chronicle of Higher Education (requires subscription), Oct. 18, 2006

“Can scholars build a better version of Wikipedia? Larry Sanger, a co-founder who has since become a critic of the open-source encyclopedia, intends to find out.”

“This week Mr. Sanger announced the creation of the Citizendium (, an online, interactive encyclopedia that will be open to public contributors but guided by academic editors. The site aims to give academics more authorial control — and a less combative environment — than they find on Wikipedia, which affords all users the same editing privileges, whether they have any proven expertise or not. The Citizendium, whose name is derived from “citizen’s compendium,” will soon start a six-week pilot project to determine many of its basic rules and operating procedures.”

More Colleges Turn to Private Networks and Other Measures to Protect Data, Report Says
by Andrea L. Foster
Chronicle of Higher Education (requires subscription), Oct. 18, 2006
See the full text of “Safeguarding the Tower: IT Security in Higher Education 2006

“To protect their electronic data and computer networks, colleges have stepped up their use of virtual private networks, spam filters, and fire walls, among other measures, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Educause Center for Applied Research. The report also says that, over the past two years, the most serious threat facing colleges has shifted. Institutions used to worry about outsiders seizing control of computers and networks, but now the greater danger is that intruders will gain access to confidential electronic data.” . . .

“In a comparison of security approaches used by the institutions that were in both surveys, the report found that 75.4 percent of the colleges used virtual private networks in 2005, up from 45.6 percent two years earlier. Virtual private networks allow people to access computer information securely from a remote location and are considered an effective means of protecting sensitive data.”

Opening Up Online
Learning by Doug Lederman
Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 9, 2006

. . . “many may be heartened by the announcement . . . that three dozen academic publishers, providers of learning management software, and others have agreed on a common, open standard that will make it possible to move digital content into and out of widely divergent online education systems without expensive and time consuming reengineering. The agreement by the diverse group of publishers and software companies, who compete intensely with one another, is being heralded as an important breakthrough that could expand the array of digital content available to professors and students and make it easier for colleges to switch among makers of learning systems.”

“Of course, that’s only if the new standard, known as the “Common Cartridge,” becomes widely adopted, which is always the question with developments deemed to be potential technological advances.”
“Many observers believe this one has promise, especially because so many of the key players have been involved in it. Working through the IMS Global Learning Consortium, leading publishers like Pearson Education and McGraw-Hill Education and course-management system makers such as Blackboard, ANGEL Learning and open-source Sakai have worked to develop the technical specifications for the common cartridge, and all of them have vowed to begin incorporating the new standard into their products by next spring — except Blackboard, which says it will do so eventually, but has not set a timeline for when.” . . .

“The Common Cartridge approach is designed to deal with two major issues: (1) the significant cost and time that publishers now must spend (or others, if the costs are passed along) to produce the material they produce for multiple, differing learning management systems, and (2) the inability to move courses produced in one course platform to another, which makes it difficult for professors to move their courses from one college to another and for campuses to consider switching course management providers.”

Here is the press release from the IMS Global Learning Consortium

Better Yardstick Needed to Measure Digital Divide
by Karine Barzilai-Nahon, Oct. 16, 2006
See the full text of her paper, “Gaps and Bits: Conceptualizing Measurements for Digital Divide/s.”

“Relying on easy-to-measure factors like how many Internet access points a place has presents a simplistic picture of today’s digital divide. A more sophisticated approach is needed to get an honest assessment of who is being left behind, according to Karine Barzilai-Nahon, an assistant professor at the University of Washington Information School.”

“ ‘Ten years ago, when someone had a connection, it was enough,’ Barzilai-Nahon, said. ‘Today, in some places it’s nothing. The idea is what do you do with the content? Do you know how to use it?’ The power of technology is about knowing how to harness it to enhance daily life both at home and at work, she said. ‘Think about those people that don’t know how,” she added. “Ten years from now, who will hire them?’ “
“It is distressing, for example, to see that student access to computers falls off dramatically when they leave the classroom and return to different socio-economic realities at home, Barzilai-Nahon said. She pointed to a report issued last month by the U.S. Department of Education showing that 37 percent of students from families with incomes below $20,000 use computers at home, compared to 88 percent of those from families with incomes over $75,000.” . . .

“To get a better handle on those who are being left behind, Barzilai-Nahon is calling on policymakers to use a different yardstick, including the following items, to measure the digital divide: Social and governmental support and constraining factors, including training, funding and emphasis on digital empowering; Affordability relative to other expenditures and average income; Use, including frequency, time online, purpose, skill level and autonomy of use; Socio-economic factors, including age, education, geography, race and language, among other factors.”

Adjuncts and Graduation Rates
by Scott Jaschik
Inside Higher Ed, Oct. 16, 2006

“If community colleges want to see more students graduate or finish programs, what should institutions do? Add new testing or assessment programs? There may be a simple answer. A national analysis of graduation and program completion rates at community colleges has found that institutions with higher percentages of full-time faculty members have higher completion rates. The study was conducted by Dan Jacoby, the Harry Bridges Professor of Labor Studies at the University of Washington, whose paper on the research is forthcoming in the Journal of Higher Education.

Also see the article October 17th in the Chronicle of Higher Education by Robin Wilson “Study Links Proportion of Part-Time Instructors With Graduation Rates at 2-Year Colleges,” (requires subscription).

Articles on Information Literacy, Gmail on Campus, Citizendium, IT Security, Common Cartridge, Digital Divide, Adjuncts