Role-playing in Virtual Worlds at FETC

If you happen to be in Orlando next week at the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC), then make sure you stop by for my presentation on “Role-playing in Virtual Worlds.” I’ll be discussing the many benefits of role-play to students in the classroom including building connections, practice retrieving information, decision making, critical thinking, and empathy. Here are a few examples from using the Odeum Platform, a Virtual World learning environment, that I’ll be discussing:

 

  • Helping students understand the tension building to the Declaration of Independence by role-playing as a patriot spy.
  • Giving students an engaging method of repeating sentence patterns when learning Spanish by having them practice navigating and buying items in a market.
  • Assist students in identifying characters, character traits, and how specific scenes affect the play Macbeth

 

The Odeum Platform is a library of searchable role-playing personalized learning adventures that take place in 3D virtual worlds. Think World of Warcraft, but instead of fighting goblins in the Jade Forest, students are helping Paul Revere in historic Boston. Subjects where role-playing seems most effective are Social Studies, Language Learning, and Language Arts. The platform has a variety of benefits for teachers including:

  • Single place to find simulated learning adventures.
  • Powerful feedback on student progress and learning objective mastery
  • Ability to customize any part of the experience from learning objectives to character dialogue.
  • Create your own experience or have your students create to prove their mastery of a topic.

 

I’ll be exploring how the Odeum Platform uses AI and game mechanics to support the mechanics of scaffolding, giving students a personalized learning experience. Specifically, how role playing in an immersive environment allows students to progress from practice, learn from failing, and achieve learning objectives.

 

We are preparing for our Alpha and need Early Adopting teachers who are interested in using the latest technology in their classrooms. Please, come by my session and introduce yourself or fill out this calendar event for a quick 15-minute demo of Odeum.

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My Dreams for Immersive Games in Education

Originally appeared on Gamasutra

I love to play role-playing games. I love pretending to be someone else in another world. Whether it’s fighting Orcs or stealing cars, there is a magic when you’re immersed into Azeroth or Vice City. But what if there was a way to capture this pastime that engages our kids for countless hours and make it educational. So, instead of taking on quests to fight in the The Battle of Darrowshire in World of Warcraft – kids would take on quests using their critical thinking skills to help Paul Revere in the American Revolutionary War.

This is not ground breaking or even a new idea. It’s one that many of us have had. In fact, there are groups of teachers who have banded together to form World of Warcraft in Schools where they use quests as the content for reading and writing. But I’d like to take it a step further. I’d like to create historic Boston and let kids explore. I’d like to immerse kids into ancient Rome to learn about the Republic and its politics by actually being a senator. It’s like bringing the fieldtrip to the classroom – except this ensures Active Participation.

My dream started to become real while I was getting my Master’s Degree in Computer Science with an emphasis on Educational Games. I was back to school after having taught Kindergarten and English. My Master’s project was a virtual world for learning Chinese. The idea was that students could practice their Chinese by interacting with the NPC’s of the virtual world.

My experience working with Game Engines for my Master’s degree landed me a job in Southern California where I led the development of a game client for playing the Trading Card Game Chaotic. I learned about startups, leading teams, and creating reliable/redundant/reusable/scalable code for games. This brought me to the startup Game Time Live as the Director of Software Development where we created GameSlam, a sports predicting game that won ESPN’s Best New Sports App of 2011. Finally, in 2012 I Co-Founded Dark Vale Games where I led the development studio to create Forge – a multiplayer Arena game on Steam.

In 2015 I decided to return to my passion: Educational Games. But now, armed with 10 years building startups and entertainment games, I have the experience and contacts to make a real contribution; to make games that are engaging like the entertainments games I’ve worked on while bringing educational value from my experiences as an educator. Odeum is the result of that dream.

Odeum is a 3D Role-Playing Game (RPG) Platform that promotes Critical Thinking among 6-12 graders in the areas of History, Literature, and Foreign Languages. In Odeum you are the hero. You are immersed (much the way kids are immersed in World of Warcraft) into 3D virtual worlds from history and literature and must complete Quests that contain educational objectives.

So what does this all really mean? Imagine how you learned Macbeth. You probably took turns reading the Old Text and followed along while other’s read. But does that mean you had comprehension? In Odeum’s Macbeth game you still read the Old Text carrying out Quests, but now you must understand the Old Text in order to complete the Quest. And if you don’t? Odeum will automatically adjust and build the required scaffolding (educators call this Differentiated Learning). Teachers don’t have time to assess each student’s comprehension as they’re reading and offer one-on-one help to those that need it. But Odeum can.

We’ve built the platform and a few Role-Playing Games. We’ve tested in schools and teachers and students have responded very positively. One student told me “It’s just like Oblivion” which as you know is an incredible complement. And while we might not be just like Oblivion, compared to the alternatives they see in the computer lab, we definitely have something special.

So, we’ve built the platform, received validation from teachers, and students are engaged and showing active participation. Now, we need to build out the rest of the library of games. My dream is to have a Role-Playing game in our library for every lesson in History and Literature a teacher would want. And with our platform’s ability for teachers to customize and even create and share their own games, I think we can do it. But I need help and that’s why I’ve started a Kickstarter Campaign to build out the library of games.

But that is not the end. All of our games, environments, and characters are in 3D. This means that as Virtual Reality continues to grow in Education there will be a need for content. And we’ll be there – Ready.

iOS: Math Defense

Math drills can be boring, even apps that try to gamify the experience. In this iOS/Android mobile app aimed at 6-10 year olds students play a tower defense game where they energize towers by solving math drills. Aliens have landed and you must stop them by using their own technology against them.

Math Defense uses a Freemium pricing model. The addition pack is free, but subtraction, multiplication, and division tables must be purchased separately as In App Purchases.