Friday, April 17, 2009

Games for the Six and Under Crowd (iPod Touch/iPhone)

My kids have discovered my iPod Touch.  They're as hooked as I am.  Last night my daughter hid it from me after I told her it was time to go to bed.  (I didn't miss it until she was asleep and found it in the nightstand after a bit of searching).

What's all the fuss?

I've founds some great games that they love.  These are the recent faves:

iWriteWords iWriteWords This is a fun little spelling game.  You trace out letters to spell words.  When you finish the word, a cute drawing appears and then you shake the letters into a little hole to move on. 

Sort of a Montessori style approach, like the sandpaper letters that my daughter does at school.  When she's trying to write a letter she doesn't know, I have to "dot it out" on paper for her so she can trace it herself.   This game matches that experience really well.

$.99 on iTunes

AniMatch AniMatch  A classic memory game with fun animal cards and sounds.  I played it a few times myself before going to bed last night.

$.99 on iTunes


pacifier1 Pacifier1 Marketed for the 1-3 set, although my older kids are mesmerized by it.  Little dots and shapes float around on the screen.  As you touch them, a number is spoken out loud from 1-10.  When you get to 10 it starts all over again.  Soothing background music, smooth movement and lots of colors to pacify and interest your young child.  And get her hooked to electronic games early.

However, if your child is still in an oral phase, probably not the best thing.  My 10 month old thinks the smooth, shininess of the iPod is a perfect thing to chew on.  I think I'll wait until she's a bit older...

$.99 on iTunes

Other Resources

This looks useful:  iPhone and Kids.  I especially liked the section on extending battery life.

Any special games that are hits in your family?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

My Top Ten Tools for 2009

Cammy's Top 10 Tools of 2009

These are my favorite tools in support of my own learning adventures.

  1. Google Reader It's how I stay informed on the latest blog posts and news. Used to be my first stop in the morning after email, although that's recently changed. Now I stop first at Twitter.
  2. Tweetdeck I'm officially hooked to Twitter and use Tweetdeck to organize and group those I follow. My best column: eLearning, of course! Not only is Twitter great for the occasional laugh, but also a great source of information and links. Have a question? Ask your Twitter network! Warning: Tweetdeck does bog my old, creaky laptop down a bit.
  3. Firefox My browser of choice. I usually have between five and ten tabs open -- my rather imperfect way of maintaining my reading list.
  4. Blogger Blogger is what I started with, and I've stayed loyal. My blog is part of my external brain. A place where I process thoughts and ideas, record notes of online sessions, and seek advice.
  5. Evernote I heart Evernote. It's my new notetaking application. So easy to clip from articles online, jot down to do lists, and tag and organize it all. The desktop version synchs to the web which synchs to my iPod Touch. I can take and access my notes anywhere. Very cool!
  6. Delicious Tag articles as you go. Share your lists with your friends and clients. It's delicious. Really.
  7. Google Calendar This is the first year I haven't had a paper-based engagement calendar, which is weird. But Gcal helps me keep myself organized, and now that I've discovered CalenGoo for the iPod I'm all synched up.
  8. My iPod Touch I know that this is a piece of hardware, but it makes learning and recording information on the fly a breeze, at least when there's wireless around. I'm ready for the iPhone...
  9. Flash I don't actually develop a thing with Flash myself, but our designers and programmers do some fabulous stuff with it! As an instructional designer, I feel like I can design just about anything and these really smart people can do something with it in Flash.
  10. PowerPoint Yes, there's lots of groaning about PowerPoint. But I like to use it as a simple wireframe tool. I can't program to save my life, but I can create a course flow mockup using PowerPoint that gets my ideas across to those who can make it look really good.
Check out all the other top ten lists from learning professionals at Jane Hart's Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Building Better Learning Games

Interested in building casual games for your learners?

Read on for notes from a webinar today, April 9, 2009:

Building Better Learning Games: Leveraging Game Design and User Testing for Results

Our hosts today:

Enspire Learning (Ben Katz)

Doorways to Dreams D2D -- financial entertainment. Work with and for consumers how to better manage their money. Focus on casual video games. (Nick Maynard)

Skillpoint Alliance (Kristy Bowden)

Partnership of profit and non-profit organizations.

Games in a variety of shapes and sizes:

  • Console Games (for the Xbox or Wii)
  • MMORPG (Massively Multi-player Online Role Playing Game): World of War Craft, Club Penguins.
  • Simulations (Flight Simulator, The SIMS)
  • ARGS (Alternate Reality Games: World Without Oil)

But there's a whole 'nother genre of games: Casual Games.

Poll: Do you play any of these? (Solitaire 92%, Tetris 75%, Bejeweled 47%, Peggle 7%, Diner Dash 13%)

These are all casual games.

Demographics of Casual Games:

In 2007, 61% of online game play was in the genre of casual games.

  • Gender: 63% of casual gamers are WOMEN
  • Age: 71% are 25-54, 17% are 55+
  • Families: 46% have kids
  • Experience online: 90% have been on Web longer than 3 years

Casual Game Design principles:

  • Low barriers to entry (few instructions)
  • Forgiving (no punishment if wrong)
  • Short play times (10 minute coffee break game)
  • Highly re-playable
  • Non-violent themes

Casual Game Development:

make it easy to

  • build a prototype and iterate quickly
  • Closely match game mechanics to key learning objectives
  • Deploy games online in Flash - which can reach wide population (and eventually via web portals like Kongregate)

Diner Dash actually used by restaurants.

Case Study: Celebrity Calamity (Casual Financial Literacy Game)

Casual game about credit cards.

D2D's vision is financial entertainment. Creating a library of casual games to teach simple lessons (credit cards, personal budgeting, saving, loans, etc.)

Looked at existing games and saw issues...

Celebrity Calamity Game has focus on fun, but explicit learning objectives:

  • Pay more than min on credit card
  • Min credit card finance charges
  • Avoid fees on card
  • Make good APR choices

Check out the game yourself:

Prototype game:

YouTube Trailer

Ben Katz (Developer at Enspire) now shows the game:


  • 3 celebrity characters in the game. Player controls that celebrity's job. (Player is managing a celebrity).
  • Income is collected.
  • Player goes on a shopping mission (the celeb wants to buy something).
  • Player runs around on screen to collect cash, but to avoid the things you don't want (falling watches, laptops, etc.)
  • Player has to pay with credit or debit card (making choices) and sees balances mounting.
  • Finance rules are explained as you read the CC statement.
  • The Celebrity has different emotional states (happy, content, anxious, and something else). As you make decisions, the celebrity rebukes you or praises you.
  • Player goes up a career ladder based on decisions made.
  • Celebrity is onscreen at all times -- creates emotional engagement.

Lessons Learned

  • Know your audience
  • Games are popular form of digital media
  • Listening to people's needs and preferences is important
  • Evaluation is Important.

For this project, target audience was mostly women.

72% of Americans are playing vid games; high rates of play under 35, casual games are fastest growing segment.

Did testing sessions -- with focus groups, observational feedback.

Development Milestones:

First Playable (rough prototype)--> User Test --> Alpha --> Test --> Beta --> Test --> Final

At each development milestone:

  • Fun. How much fun is player having? Do they want to keep playing?
  • Learning Needs. What do players know about the teaching topics.
  • Assessment. Are players engaged? increases in self-confidence?

Community benefits of the testing process.

Evaluation is Important

Engagement of individuals. Built assessment into the process. Pre-test. Play game for 90 minutes. Then do a post-test. (The evaluation is not part of the game).

Preliminary evidence of Efficacy Testing -- increased self confidence in the 5 core teaching points.

Big increase in knowledge in APR and Finance Charges. (People use financial products -- credit cards -- without really understanding them).

Qualitative Feedback: Enthusiasm, Engagement, Education, Empowerment.

Next Steps

  • More rigorous evaluation of Celebrity Calamity
  • Creating additional casual games: Starting to work on a budget game
  • Testing distribution strategies

Looking for national employers and organizations testing distribution of Celebrity Calamity (contact Nick Maynard at D2D).

Lessons Learned:

  • Test early, test often
  • Usability testing first, efficacy testing later on (early prototypes on creating best user experience, focus on knowledge and confidence after usability of game is assured)
  • Collect as much good data as possible (Likert scaled confidence questions, knowledge questions, in-game data collection, avoid focus groups until end of session -- focus groups people can color each others' opinions).

The game doesn't use quizzes, but used knowledge questions as part of user testing.

Education: Lessons Learned

Discipline in the scope of teaching content (fun can be overwhelmed by rush to include teaching points, if teaching points not relevant player will miss)

Repetition, repetition, repetition (APR talked about in many contexts)

Players can learn from failure (can change strategy and try new things)


Where to get data on games?

Independent Game Developers Association -- for data on games (what consoles are people using? what games are people playing?)

Electronic Software Association -- trade org for game developers in the US

Gama Sutra

Game Developer Magazine

Timeline/Team to Develop?

  • About five months
  • Had lots of volunteer support for testing and feedback

Made at Enspire with a team of three people!

[Many of Flash games you'll find on Kongregate are made by one person!)

If you're an ID who wants to create games:

  • play games
  • read up on game design
  • Need to be both an ID and a game designer

Content can be easily updated via XML.

Check out the game yourself:

Prototype game:

YouTube Trailer

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Ellen Wagner: eLearning Roadtrip

Are you an instructional designer or interested in instructional design? Are you reading Ellen Wagner's blog eLearning Roadtrip yet? Well you should be!

The former Senior Director of Worldwide eLearning at Adobe (plus a whole bunch of other impressive sounding gigs), Ellen recently formed Sage Road Solutions.

If I were in charge (but sadly, I'm not), I'd put her in the Who's Who of eLearning.

Start with Ellen's latest post: Prerequisites for IDs in which she eloquently describes all of the OTHER skills one first needs (like writing, presentation skills) before one can even get to the ID work.

Go ahead. Join Ellen on her roadtrip.

Friday, April 03, 2009

On Reflective Learning

I clipped this  a year ago, with the intention (I suppose) of writing more on the subject in order to become more engaged with the content and thus more capable... 

I didn't do it anything with it then and I'm not going to do much with it now, except share it with all of you:

Steve Hargadon Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education

Because it is in the act of our becoming a creator that our relationship with content changes, and we become more engaged and more capable at the same time.

Visuals and Audio in eLearning (Ruth Clark)

Donald Clark posted a link to a lovely little article by Ruth Clark: Give Your Training a Visual Boost in the April 09 edition of ASTD's T&D.

The article contains such gems as:

"Decorative visuals defeat learning."


"The least successful learning resulted from text and audio repetition of that text."

This would be a great article to forward to a client.  You know the one.  They want  audio narrating that long paragraph of text that they think should also appear on the screen in order to appeal to different learning styles...