Greg DeKoenigsberg Speaks

The edutainment industry: patches welcome.

Posted in fedora, oer, sugar, Uncategorized by Greg DeKoenigsberg on May 25, 2010

(For the short version, just go to http://math.tinygames.org and look around.)

There’s a lot of “edutainment” content out there on the web. Tons, in fact.

Trouble is, most of it sucks in at least one of the following key ways, and in most cases, more than one of these ways:

1. Behind a walled garden.

2. Written in Flash or Java or Shockwave. Which generally means:

3. Source is not available. Which means:

4. Can’t be extended to improve gameplay.

5. Can’t be localized.

6. Can’t be bundled for offline use.

7. Can’t be configured to record assessment data.

8. Not actually all that fun.

So, what can we do about this situation?

“NOTHING DRAWS A CROWD LIKE A CROWD.” — P. T. Barnum

It’s time to build THE WORLD’S BIGGEST COLLECTION of games that are:

1. Open source.

2. Browser-based (and therefore cross-platform).

3. Tiny in footprint, so they can actually run on most browsers (even mobiles).

4. Aligned to actual learning objectives.

5. Fun. (At least as fun as most stuff out there, which ain’t hard.)

6. Well-advertised! (Once there’s something worth talking about, that is.)

Seriously, if Google can reproduce a killer version of Pacman entirely in Javascript for its doodle, then surely we can create some decent and useful Javascript education games.

Sounds fun, right? Of course it does!

Sounds like a lot of work, right? Of course it does!

The key is figuring out how that work can be done in very small increments.

“WE CAN DO IT!” — Rob Schneider, “The Waterboy”

* * *

I’d like to start with math games.  Some of you may remember the Fourth Grade Math idea during Sugar Labs days.  Well, this is similar, but in my opinion more broadly applicable.  How does it start?  How does everything start — with Yet Another Wiki!  Which I’ve set up here:

http://math.tinygames.org

It’s deliberately simple. The goal is to be a collection point for Javascript math games that are aligned to specific learning objectives.  That’s it.  Dead simple.

* * *

What can you do to help?  I’m glad you asked.

1. FIND GOOD GAMES. It may well be that a lot of these games already exist. If you already know of some good javascript games that currently exist, add them to the wiki under the appropriate skill(s).  (This is probably what I’ll spend a big chunk of my time on.)

2. MODIFY AN EXISTING GAME TO ADDRESS NEW SKILLS. A lot of the games out there can be easily altered to address different skills. Modify a game to create a brand new game. The source is right there. :)

3. CREATE A NEW GAME TO ADDRESS NEW SKILLS. Particularly good for game design students, of whom there are thousands and thousands. What better way of honing your game design skills and building your resume, young and excitable undergraduate (or high school student), than by designing a small educational game for the children of the world?  You’ll also get an awesome job reference out of the deal.

4. REVERSE ENGINEER A GAME. Short on ideas? There’s tons of ‘em! Just go to sites like funbrain.com or primarygames.com, find a game that matches a skill on the list, and rewrite that game in Javascript using jQuery.  Be sure to call it something else, though, so you’re not violating anyone’s copyright.

5. TELL YOUR GEEK FRIENDS. Especially the ones who have jQuery chops, and especially the ones who are married to teachers. Just send them a link to this blog post. In the whole wide world of geeks, if we can find a hundred, or even a dozen, who are willing to spend a few hours a week hacking on this problem, we can create a ridiculous army of educational awesome.

6. JOIN THE MAILING LIST. Come join the list, say hello, and share your ideas at:

http://groups.google.com/group/tinygames

It’s a very new list, so there might not be much traffic, but hey, that’s a good thing. You probably read way too much mail as it is. I can promise you that if you care about this kind of thing, the signal-noise ratio will be very high.

Is this a fool’s errand? Maybe. Maybe not. But it’s my fool’s errand, and I sure could use some help.

(p.s. jQRPG continues to stumble along.  Now with multiple maps!  Basic game objects come next.  This is what I do when I take a between-jobs vacation.)

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2 Responses

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  1. Bedava Oyun Oyna said, on May 25, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    seems to be interesting!!

  2. Mel said, on May 25, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    You know what you need, Greg? A hackathon. Maybe ping the Serious Games Summit folks (Ben Sawyer et al) about doing something at next year’s party, and seed some smaller Game Jams in the meantime?


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