Sunday, October 13, 2019

Learning Through Games

Learning Through Games Learning through Games Every parent and teacher out there can attest to the fact that no matter how smart a child is getting them to study is quite a difficult task, simply because of all the distractions out there. So why not take one major distraction – video games and put it to good use? There are so many good educational tools available many of them cleverly disguised as games. The kids and some adults too will get captivated by the storyline and learn tons along the way. Here are a few of the best ones covering topics like Physics, Engineering, Art and English. Ogre Academy Math Ogre Academy Math is an educational game created to enhance the basic math skills in children. This game caters to a slightly younger audience of ages 5-6 years by default, but can be customized to appeal to those at a higher grade level as well. The game takes place in an ogre filled classroom part of a player avatar’s dream. The player is given a series of questions in the form of math problems that he must solve. Most of these problems are simplistic but the difficulty increases as you go on. They can be addition, subtraction or counting problems. With each correct answer you get a candy bar which is used to feed the ogres. While some students may object to having to give away the candy, it is used to keep the ogres at bay so it must be done. After ten or more wrong answers the candy deprived ogres come and carry the avatar away from their bedroom. Ogre Academy Math promotes quick thinking and the flexibility to switch between different types for questions. Players have to think strategically and learn when and how to use shortcuts like rounding off since they do not have pen and paper at hand and have to rely on quick thinking. Ogre Academy Math will have special appeal to teachers as they can use it to create unique lesson plans. They can customize the problems for any grade level. The kids will enjoy doing something different and will learn tons in the process. As an added bonus the teachers receive detailed reports on the children’s progress as they go along. Platform: iOS Keep the ogres at bay by feeding them treats Kerbal Space Program The Kerbal Space Program is a PC based game that emulates a space flight simulator. Basically you can build virtual rocket ships and blast them off the planet. Gameplay takes place on a planet called Kerbin, home to little green humanoids called Kerbals. These comical little characters build very good spacecraft parts. It is up to the player to construct and assemble the components into rockets or spacecrafts in the most efficient way possible. There is a lot of physics involved in building the rocket ship. If not constructed properly it could fall off the launch pad while taking off or explode mid flight. After building a good spacecraft you have to learn to achieve orbit and then finally land your spacecraft on other planets. There are three game modes – Sandbox Mode, Science Mode and Career mode. As you can imagine the difficulty increases with each of them. In the Sandbox Mode players learn the basics. Players can pick any of inventory and building mistakes are forgiven. In the science mode part picking is restricted. You have to complete scientific experiments on Kerbin and other parts of the solar system before you can unlock them. Career mode adds funds reputation and contracts. Players have to complete contracts so that they can earn money to pay for the parts. Contracts can include tasks like testing rocket parts under certain conditions or exploring places and reporting back. Historical spacecrafts like the Apollo Program or the Mars Rover can be recreated. Children with an aptitude for physics and an interest in aerospace will find this a very enriching learning experience. Platform: PC Build and launch rockets using the kerbal space program Amazing Alex Amazing Alex was created by the developers of angry birds Rovio Entertainment, and is a physics-based puzzle game. Alex is a curious boy who likes to build things with household objects. Players are given goals to complete and supplies they can use to achieve these goals. Players have to create chain reactions which are simply sequences of events that achieve the goals. For example you can set off a line of dominoes which will push a ball off a ledge into a basket below. Stars are scattered all over the place and your event sequence should try and pass through them for a higher score. The nice thing about the game is that it uses household and play objects that children are already familiar with. These objects react realistically with one another. Kids learn short term planning by adjusting to changing conditions and requirements. It puts their planning, flexibility and focus skills to work. They can even create and share their own puzzles for others to solve. There are over a hundred levels spread across four locations. You start off in ‘The Classroom’, and then move onto ‘The Backyard’, ‘Alex’s Bedroom’ and finally ‘The Tree House’ depending on the stars collected in the previous levels. The graphics are high quality, fun and engaging. Kids can try recreating the challenges in the real world using Legos and building kits. They can then compare how actual physics works as compared to the gameplay and what additional factors contribute to making things tick. Amazing Alex is often used to help children with ADHD gain focus. Following directions and planning ahead are tasks that these kids have difficulty with. Amazing Alex helps them focus and plan strategies in a fun way which they respond to much better than regular classroom activities. They get a hands-on introduction into physics concepts like inertia, gravity and friction. Platform: Android,iOS Help Alex create chain reactions with these objects QuizUp QuizUp is for the slightly older kids. It is a fun filled trivia game based on the popular board game Trivial Pursuit. It has over 250 categories and is highly competitive. Players are matched with other players from across the world. Each quiz is exactly 7 questions long, each lasting 10 seconds. This is long enough and short enough so that no one gets bored, and those with sketchy internet connections don’t have to forfeit midway. You can play as many categories as you like and the more you play the higher your skill level in that category goes. QuizUp is fantastic for learning time management and general knowledge. Sometimes questions repeat which helps you commit them to memory. Children can opt for challenging categories such as Math and English and then take a break and do a fun quiz like a Harry Potter themed one. It is also very exciting because you are playing with real people rather than just a computer interface. Quiz up is not only informative but also highly addictive. Kids can spend hours playing and come away with lots of new trivia facts learned and math skills mastered. Platform: Android, iOS Spoilt for choice with Quiz Up Google Art Project The Google Art Project is a collection of over 30000 works of art from collections all over the world. From Impressionist Artworks at the Art Institute of Chicago to modern artwork from the Tate at London, the Google Art Project amasses all periods of art. The high resolution images allow kids to get closer to the images and examine every detail. Each museum has nominated one piece as a ‘Gigapixel Artwork’ which means that Google has captured it using gigapixel photo capturing technology. It produces an image containing 7 billion pixels, so viewers can view the piece in microscopic detail. Be advised, kids could see violence or nudity in these pictures so it is necessary for guidance of some sort while perusing. Browsing the artwork can be done either on the webpage or by browsing through the museum in the form of a map. Some international museums that are included in the project are The National Gallery in London, The Met in New York, the Uffizi in Florence and The Hermitage in St Petersburg. Such a vast collection might be daunting at first but kids will soon enjoy exploring the museums from all over the world. It forms a kind of virtual meta-museum with many thoughtfully designed features by Google as always. The FAQ section has a video Visitor’s Guide for first time users and the site can be translated in to as many as 19 languages. There are lessons, quizzes and project ideas. Users can create their own collections and share them with friends. The Google Art Project allows children interested in art to take their first steps in art appreciation and history. They can explore museums at their own pace, stop and ask questions, compare works from museums across the world and develop their creative abilities. Platform: PC Google Art Project World of Goo World of Goo is a game kids will take an instant interest in simply because of the name. The game revolves around building large structures using balls of goo. The game is divided into multiple chapters each containing several levels. Levels come with their individual music and graphic theme keeping things interesting. To play the game the little balls of goo provided to you have to be stretched out into structures forming ladders, bridges or buildings toward strategically positioned pipes. These pipes then suck the goo and take it to the World of Goo Corporation where it is made into various products. These structures have to be built well enough to overcome gravity and some physical terrain difficulties like hills, cliffs, spikes and windmills. Different goo balls have different properties that make them unique. There is also a bonus meta-game called the ‘World of Goo Corporation’ where the challenge is to build the highest Goo Tower. The game subtly draws parallels between the World of Goo Corporation and real world companies that make similar products in an attempt to get kids thinking on modern world consumerism. Teachers can use World of Goo as a fun way of explaining geometry. There is an open sandbox mode in which teachers can set challenges and competitions. Platforms: PC, iOS, Android, WiiWare, BlackBerry, OnLive Get creative at the World of Goo SpaceChem SpaceChem is a puzzle game based on the principles of chemistry and chemical bonding. In the game you play the role of a Reactor Engineer working for a company called SpaceChem. As a Reactor Engineer you have to create circuits through which atoms and molecules flow. You do this with the help of waldos which are remote manipulators. While you don’t have to have any prior chemistry knowledge to play the game, all the reactions and chemical constructions are based on real chemical and atomic science so you will definitely learn something each time you play. Each level provides you with elements that need to be assembled and disassembled to create new chemical molecules. There are pairs of circuits along which your elements need to travel to the target output areas. Unnecessary collision of the waldos must be prevented. Initially the puzzle consists of only a single reactor but in larger puzzles the player can guide the chemicals through multiple reactors to get the final product. SpaceChem is a mental workout and an excellent puzzle game. It forces you to look at the bigger picture and get multiple tasks working at once. Platforms: PC, Android, iOS Create new elements with Space Chem Fantastic Contraption Fantastic Contraption is a Flash based game played in a web browser. The object of each level is to move the red objects into a rectangular shaped goal area. You are given different materials and a blue ‘building area’ to help you build your ‘fantastic’ contraption. You must be able to move the red objects past certain obstacles into the goal area. It takes a while to get used to the game but there is a very helpful tutorial at the beginning that smoothens out the process. There is no one correct solution. Each player can come up with his or her unique solution to the level. By creating an account the developers allow you to design your own levels or share your solutions with others. There are over 40 different built in puzzles and 16000 downloadable ones. You can play for free on the Fantastic Contraptions website or download the app for $1.99. All you need is an active imagination and some basic problem solving skills. There was a Fantastic Contraptions 2 released in 2010. Platforms: PC, iOS Build fun things with Fantastic Contraption Minecraft Minecraft is a computer, tablet and Xbox video game that has been around for ages and is still very popular by both educators and hard core gamers. It allows you to build your own world from scratch. Gameplay is mostly building and destroying structures using blocks – 3D cubes. There are different kinds of materials to be put to use like various ores, stone, dirt, water, tree trunks. Some of these materials have to be mined others are freely available. The game has three modes – survival, educational and adventure. You can play at different difficulty modes with or without the hostile creatures that threaten your creations. Minecraft has numerous educational benefits. It teaches about various subjects with or without parent/teacher involvement. While playing Minecraft players have to figure out how to best use their resources. For example for paper you require 3 units of sugarcane. This way the game also improves basic math and manipulation skills. Minecraft only uses cubes to build structures. But these structures take on different geometrical shapes like cuboids, tesseracts, square based pyramids. In this way kids get a quick lesson in 3D geometry. Setting up circuits teaches kids the basics of logic circuits. Feed back is immediate and safe. You can build switches without electrocuting yourself. You can even construct weapons to guard against attacks. By contributing to the Minecraft wiki children can learn how to write informative articles for multimedia. Most of all Minecraft promotes out of the box thinking and will give children the freedom to express themselves creatively. Setting up a server allows parents to give their children a safe environment to develop social skills and teamwork. Platforms: PC, iOS, Android, Xbox, Playstation Build 3D cities with Minecraft NASA’s Space Place NASA’s Space Place is a website developed by NASA in 1998 and is complete with interactive games, projects and facts about Earth and Space. The collection of games offered is complex and interesting each teaching you something new. The games each offer a new topic to be learnt like for example how a black hole works. The activities have detailed information on the solar system and other science topics. Kids can freely ask questions and get audio responses in return. There are instructions for at-home experiments. Space Place Prime is a spin off from NASA’s Space Place. This contains most of the educational content like articles and imagery as well as educational movies. The Space Place program has also released several mobile games mostly for iOS. These include Comet Quest and Satellite Insight. Comet Quest is a game about the Rosetta Mission. You are given a spacecraft and learn how scientists use Rosetta to explore comets. Satellite Insight has a more complex background story. You have to save the GOES-R satellite from losing any of the data it is collecting by safe guarding the data grid. Platorm: PC (web) Apps available on Android and iOS The Specatular Space Place by NASA Scribblenauts Scribblenauts is an action and puzzle video game. The objective of the game is to help the game’s hero, Maxwell collect little yellow stars called ‘Starites’. The player can summon anything just by writing its name on the screen. Scribble nauts is an example of ‘Emergent Gameplay’ which means that the difficulty changes according to the choices you make in the game. You can have infinite gaming experiences with this dynamic methodology. Kids are at their creative best using logic, language and problem solving. The tasks can be as simply as collecting a Starite from a tree or difficult like rescuing it from a bunch of bears in the forest. All you have to do is write out the tools you need. For example to get the ‘Starite’ out of the tree, write the word rope and a rope will appear. You can write the craziest things you can think of. If you think a dinosaur is going to help you write dinosaur and the game will present you with one. It’s almost like magic. Summoned objects can be weapons, animals, forces of nature or even famous people.This is because the Scribblenauts Dictionary contains over 22,000 words. As you play more your imagination grows and the solutions get more and more inventive. There are 220 levels over 10 areas each of a different theme. Scribblenauts has won two Parent’s Choice Awards and is suitable for children ages 8 and above. Scibblenauts Remix is available for iOS. Platforms: Nintendo DS Scribblenauts- Let your imagination go wild The Professor Layton Series The Professor Layton Series consists of 6 puzzle games plus a film. It is built around the adventures of two characters Professor Layton and Luke Trinton and is based in contemporary London. Each game is a series of puzzles and mysteries in towns Professor Layton and Luke visit. As part of the game you go along with them on their eventful journeys and help them solve mysteries. The puzzle solving teaches math, logic, spatial orientation and math. The storyline keeps kids thoroughly entertained and engrossed. It is aimed at kids eleven years and above. The games are divided into two trilogies. One set tells you of the Professor and Trinton’s many adventures together. The other is more about how they met and began their journey. The third part of the series, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future won a Parent’s Choice Silver Honors Award from the Parents Choice Foundation. Join Prof. Layton and Trinton on their captivating adventures

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