Siko, J. P., & Barbour, M. K. (2013). Game design as authentic science: Creating low-tech games that “do” science. Learning and Leading with Technology, 41(3), 26-29.

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  Siko, J. P., & Barbour, M. K. (2013). Game design as authentic science: Creating low-tech games that “do” science. Learning and Leading with Technology, 41(3), 26-29.
  Search Learn Event Calendar ResourcesReportsEd Tech MarketplaceProfessional LearningCustom Professional LearningConsulting ServicesGraduate Certificate ProgramPartnershipsPublicationsBooksSubmission GuidelinesLearning & LeadingSubmission GuidelinesJournalsJRTEJDLTEJCTSubmission InformationPermissions & Reprints Advertise With ISTEFor the MediaResearch and EvaluationClientsEvaluation PlanningResourcesTRExICOTComputational ThinkingCT ToolkitCT Operational DefinitionComputational Thinking Animation (Requires Flash)Coaching White Paper  Student hacking: Awesome or awful? Awesome Awful Submit LEARNING CONNECTIONS: Powering Up Homemade PowerPoint Games Oct 24, 2013, 16:46 PM By Jason Siko and Michael Barbour Many students love everything about video games, so teaching them to use technology todesign their own games around content is an assignment that can offer built-in engagement.The problem, however, is that teachers often don’t have the time or expertise to teachcomputer programming, let alone content and process skills. On top of that, installing gamedesign software can create friction between the teaching staff and technology department. That’s where Microsoft PowerPoint comes in. Did you know you can help your studentscreate—from scratch or from a template—a video game using PowerPoint?  Although PowerPoint is not a true programming platform, there are elements of computational thinking in the design of a homemade PowerPoint game. Linking a story toquestions, creating and debugging multiple and nonlinear paths of the slides, and creating alogical flow to a game (checkpoints, increased difficulty, etc.) are all tasks that are complex,open ended, and ambiguous, and that require persistence, especially in the debuggingprocess.  A game design project also meets the ISTE Standards for Students. After all, the game itself is a creative endeavor where groups of students build artifacts that demonstrate contentknowledge in a novel format (Standard 1). This is especially true when designing a gameusing a platform that has limitations, such as PowerPoint. The same justifications for computational thinking are similar to Standard 4 (critical thinking, problem solving, decisionmaking). In most games, players must achieve a goal by correctly answering a series of multiple-choice questions. Each choice is an action button that sends players to a slideindicating whether their answer was correct or incorrect. Action buttons send the players to apredetermined slide rather than the next slide in the deck. Therefore, the novel use of PowerPoint (learning about and applying the action button feature) and troubleshootingaspects of the game design project align with Standard 6 (technology operations andconcepts). Designing games develops many other valuable skills, such as writing in a clear and conciseway. Games have rules and objectives, and students must describe the narrative and rulessuccinctly, just like commercial board games, which usually print the rules on the back of thebox. This type of project also requires students to develop planning and organization skills. Theymust choose whether their games will be completely contained within a PowerPoint file, or whether they will include game boards, scorecards, dice, and game pieces. If an externalgame board is required, students will need to paste images of the game board on slides withdirections to print those slides before the game begins. Leveling Up the Games Over a three-year period, we taught game design to students in grades 10–12 in a scienceclassroom at Clarkston High School in Clarkston, Michigan, USA. The course,Environmental Chemistry, was based on the American Chemical Society’s Chemistry in theCommunity curriculum (often called ChemCom). Over the course of the school year,students created games during two of the seven units in the course. The units lastedapproximately one month each, and we created games for a unit on the earth’s resourcesISTE members receive a freesubscription to L&L  with their annual membership. Become amember  and gain access to thelatest information on emergingtechnologies, best practices, andresources about successfultechnology use and integration.Nonmembers can also purchase asubscription to L&L . Are you searching for specificcontent? Visit the L&L  onlinearchives. Our archives are free for ISTE members and available at alow rate for nonmembers.ISTE’s membership magazine, Learning & Leading with Technology (L&L) , features practical ideas for using today's digital tools toimprove learning and teaching and for appropriately integrating technology into classrooms, curricula, and administration. Take our  online poll Issue: November 2013 Subscribe to L&L Searching for  an article?   ABOUTMEMBERSHIPSTORECONFERENCELEARNSTANDARDSCONNECTNEWS Sign in / Register  Cart Live Chat Translate ! Learning - Leading of 311/2/13 7:32 AM  and the periodic table as well as a unit on the atmosphere and gas laws. We madeimprovements to the implementation of the project each year. Here’s a list of lesson tips andlessons learned to help you implement PowerPoint games to teach content: Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Before you start, check out the University of Georgia’sHomemade PowerPoint Games website, which offers resources, templates, and tips abouthow to pull this off in your classroom. Make it a project. For game design to be aconstructionist activity, it has to be a unit project. A homemade PowerPoint game is not aJeopardy-style review game. Students should learn the content while they work on allaspects of the game. Using a choose-your-own-adventure model rather than a drill-and-practice approach requires more rigor on the part of students and leads to moreauthentic science questioning and problem solving. Limit computer lab time.  Creating games across a longer stretch of time allows for morefeedback and fewer days—both overall and consecutive—in the computer lab. Whenstudents spend multiple consecutive days in the lab, we noticed that “lab fatigue” sets in.Remember, if it can be done outside of the computer lab, do it outside of the computer lab. Theme matters.  Perhaps the most difficult part of designing a content-based game is tyingthe theme directly to the narrative. We’ve seen students spend too much time creatingoutlandish narratives that were unrelated to the content. We’ve also watched students create“save the princess” games, where the players never revisit the narrative once the studentsbegin to play the game. Those games become nothing more than drill-and-practiceexercises after the introductory slides. Emphasize for your students the importance of integrating the theme into the game itself.Students should follow these steps: Plan the narrative using a graphic organizer (see page 63 of this document). 1. Write a first draft of questions. 2. Revise and order the questions (by increasing difficulty) using the organizer to add context. 3.We told students to base their narratives on the themes in ChemCom. For example, onegame focused on the design of a coin. ChemCom’s materials unit covered topics such asphysical and chemical properties, redox reactions, layers of the earth, and factors toconsider when mining for resources. Teach question writing—and answer writing.  Offer question-writing tips and allow time for revision, editing, and teacher feedback on narratives and questions. Also, direct students touse the game to correct errors. We included requirements on the number of knowledge,comprehension, and application questions and made sure students included correctivefeedback in their games. At first, student game designers merely indicated that the incorrectanswer was wrong. Later, we asked students to explain why the answer was wrong. For example, in a question about Boyd’s Law that required a calculation, players might beinformed that instead of multiplying two variables, they should have divided them. By doing this, students begin to create games that contain authentic practices andhigher-order problem solving, rather than digital drill-and-practice exercises. Benefits of Game Design  Although students were generally not excited about the project when it was introduced, theyenjoyed it once they got started. We were surprised by the creativity of some of the students,especially as many of them were traditionally disengaged and considered at risk. Oftenstudents who in the past had not been engaged in class came up with very creative storiesthat nicely integrated science process skills.We saw small increases in performance after each change to the protocol for thegame-design project. Over time, those small gains added up, and at the end of thethree-year research project, students who created games scored significantly higher onend-of-unit assessments than students who did not.Game design projects can incorporate multiple disciplines for the content and writing of thenarrative. For example, an elementary classroom could use elements of science and socialstudies in the games’ content and narrative, with a focus on a particular writing style. Asscience education progresses toward more inquiry-based standards, educators will need todesign a wide variety of experiences for students to express their abilities in authenticscience practices. Designing a game may be one way for students to do so. —Jason Siko is an assistant professor of educational technology at Grand Valley StateUniversity in Allendale, Michigan, USA. His dissertation focused on homemade PowerPoint games. Previously, he was a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Clarkston,Michigan, USA. Learning - Leading of 311/2/13 7:32 AM  —Michael Barbour is director of doctoral studies for the Farrington College of Education and assistant professor of educational leadership at Sacred Heart University in Fairfield,Connecticut. He has been researching homemade PowerPoint games for the past decade. HOME |  ABOUT ISTE |  ADVOCACY | CONTACT US | MEDIA | HELP | SITE MAP | LEGAL NOTICE | PRIVACY POLICY | MEMBER LOGIN © 2012 ISTE, All Rights Reserved. Learning - Leading of 311/2/13 7:32 AM
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