“Judge & Justify” Games for the University Classroom

On Monday, October 22, 2018, Anthropology professor Krista Harper and I hosted a gathering of University of Massachusetts Amherst instructors: Game-Based Learning Community of Practice: Make a Game for your Class.

The session was built on the premise that games emerging out of the loose heritage of the popular card game Apples to Apples (we chose to label this category of games “Judge & Justify”) had many features that could be adapted into productive and engaging in-class learning activities.

Session Outline

  • The participants played a few hands of Cards Against Anthropology, a game about assessing appropriate (or wildly inappropriate) responses to issues that can arise in anthropological fieldwork.
  • Krista and I presented on the heritage of Judge & Justify games, the affordances & constraints of this family of games, and ways to assess students who engage with games like this. See our presentation (pdf).
  • Participants split into 5 groups of 2-4 and spent about 30 minutes developing game prototypes based on their own instructional goals. See the game design handout we provided (pdf).
  • The groups presented their game prototypes, along with the game materials (card examples, rules text, etc.) that they had produced.

Session Outcomes

  • The 14 participants, split into 5 groups, produced 5 solid game prototypes: sample game components, assessment plans, and all.
  • In the anonymous evaluations filled out by participants, all expressed that they were “extremely satisfied” with the experience.

The Games and their Instructional Goals

  • Assessing symptoms and patient history to diagnose conditions.
  • Deciding on appropriate behaviors in the context of service learning and cross-cultural group communication.
  • Curing “monstrous” varieties of cancer.
  • Improving student critiques of their peers’ animation work.
  • Examining modern artifacts and well-known heritage sites through an “objective” descriptive lens.

What’s Next and What Could Be Improved?

  • There is an opportunity for a longer-form (half-day?) game design workshop focused on helping instructors build out near-complete game designs for their classes.
  • We briefly discussed how Judge & Justify game activities like this could be adapted for online and remote learning spaces, but I felt like I gave it short shrift.
  • We could have given more explicit prompts for what participants could do next after the workshop ended: offers for individual consultations, future events, etc.

Session Materials

If you have trouble accessing these documents, email me at sam dot anderson at umass dot edu.

Visiting with Game Designers in Budapest

Virtual class session with CEU

I (virtually) visited a Political Ecology and Environmental Justice graduate class in Budapest to help them with their game design projects a few weeks back. I thought it was a great session, and I hope the students got useful feedback from me and my co-panelists.

My full write-up and recording of the visit are on my department’s site: Designing Games for Political Ecology and Environmental Justice

A few personal notes:

The best/worst part about visiting a class in Budapest from Massachusetts:

  • We thought we had figured out the time zone scheduling, but were nearly undone by only realizing at the last minute that the daylight saving switch happens weeks apart for our two countries.

What I could have done better:

  • Tell the students up front how hard I find it to present creative work for critique, and that I would have been considerably more anxious in their shoes.
  • Used less design jargon.
  • Couched my suggestions in less declarative terms.

Teaching Anthropology of/Through Games at UMass Amherst

Teaching Anthropology of/Through Games collects UMass Amherst professor Krista Harper’s reports on developing and teaching a class in Fall 2014 on anthropology, games, and how the two interact. I helped Krista develop the game design activities for her students, focused on having students explore models from seminal anthropology journal articles with game structures. The students did phenomenal work!

Two recent studies on games and gamification in undergraduate classrooms.

The articles linked and abstracted below are both have many significant implications for using games and game-like designs for learning, but the key takeaway is that we can’t just say certain implementations of gameful learning work because they look and feel “right.” I’m so glad to see more assessment start rolling out, so we have more legitimate foundations to work from as we design gameful learning environments and activities.
Valerie J. Shute, Matthew Ventura, Fengfeng Ke, The power of play: The effects of Portal 2 and Lumosity on cognitive and noncognitive skills, Computers & Education, Volume 80, January 2015, Pages 58-67, ISSN 0360-1315, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.08.013.
In this study, we tested 77 undergraduates who were randomly assigned to play either a popular video game (Portal 2) or a popular brain training game (Lumosity) for 8 h. Before and after gameplay, participants completed a set of online tests related to problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Results revealed that participants who were assigned to play Portal 2 showed a statistically significant advantage over Lumosity on each of the three composite measures: problem solving, spatial skill, and persistence. Portal 2 players also showed significant increases from pretest to posttest on specific small- and large-scale spatial tests while those in the Lumosity condition did not show any pretest to posttest differences on any measure. Results are discussed in terms of the positive impact video games can have on cognitive and noncognitive skills.
 Michael D. Hanus, Jesse Fox, Assessing the effects of gamification in the classroom: A longitudinal study on intrinsic motivation, social comparison, satisfaction, effort, and academic performance, Computers & Education, Volume 80, January 2015, Pages 152-161, ISSN 0360-1315, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2014.08.019.
Gamification, the application of game elements to non-game settings, continues to grow in popularity as a method to increase student engagement in the classroom. We tested students across two courses, measuring their motivation, social comparison, effort, satisfaction, learner empowerment, and academic performance at four points during a 16-week semester. One course received a gamified curriculum, featuring a leaderboard and badges, whereas the other course received the same curriculum without the gamified elements. Our results found that students in the gamified course showed less motivation, satisfaction, and empowerment over time than those in the non-gamified class. The effect of course type on students’ final exam scores was mediated by students’ levels of intrinsic motivation, with students in the gamified course showing less motivation and lower final exam scores than the non-gamified class. This suggests that some care should be taken when applying certain gamification mechanics to educational settings.

Serious Games for Education

From Karl Kapp’s post: Abstracts of Three Meta-Analysis Studies of Serious Games:

  • Serious games were found to be more effective in terms of learning and retention than conventional instruction methods.
  • Mixed results concerning if learning games are more motivating or not than traditional instruction.
  • Games should be supplemented with other instruction methods.
  • Games should be played in multiple training sessions.
  • Games should be played in group.
  • Games appear to increase learner confidence (self-efficacy).
  • Games help increase declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge and retention over traditional non-interactive training.
  • There is strong evidence of publication bias in games research.
  • Trainees learned more, relative to a comparison group, when simulation games conveyed course material actively rather than passively.
  • Learning occurred when learners could access the game as many times as desired.
  • As above, the game was more effective when it was a supplement to other instructional methods rather than stand-alone instruction.
  • Learners learned less from simulation games than comparison instructional methods when the instruction the comparison group received as a substitute for the game actively engaged them in the learning experience.(so activity, not game elements seems to increase the learning).
  • The most frequently occurring outcomes and impacts of games for learning were knowledge acquisition/content understanding and affective and motivational outcomes.