Four Inventive Games That Show Us the Future of Learning

Earth Primer

Designed by Chaim Gingold, a Ph.D. student at UC Santa Cruz, indie developer and designer of Spore’s creature creator, “Earth Primer” is a reinvention of the textbook. Unlike the all-too-familiar “interactive textbooks” that are little more than pictures and animations tacked on to traditional text, “Earth Primer” starts from the ground up. It’s elegantly presented and paced.


Patrick Smith, the designer behind “Metamorphabet,” is like the games equivalent of a toymaker.


Money and time are the two most common barriers to using games in the classroom. “Extrasolar” solves both while also striking pedagogical gold: authentic, self-motivated learning. It’s a free alternate reality game (ARG) that mimics the day-to-day life of a rover driver exploring an alien planet for a mysterious space agency. Rather than placing players in some fantastical world, they interact with what looks like a typical desktop interface, giving their rover commands, and waiting to receive photographs and data from the alien world as well as messages from their employer. Each bit of play requires only a few minutes of activity. The wait builds tension, and when matched with the relatively mundane interface and tasks, it doesn’t feel like a game — which is kind of the point. Best of all: It’s all based in real science and, like with any good ARG, has a healthy dose of mystery to give players a reason to return.

Twine is an open-source tool for telling interactive, nonlinear stories.

You don’t need to write any code to create a simple story with Twine, but you can extend your stories with variables, conditional logic, images, CSS, and JavaScript when you’re ready.

Twine publishes directly to HTML, so you can post your work nearly anywhere. Anything you create with it is completely free to use any way you like, including for commercial purposes.

Twine was originally created by Chris Klimas in 2009 and is now maintained by a whole bunch of people at several differentrepositories. – reviews and ratings for educational materials

The Visualization Gap

The bigger problem, however, is our mental limitations in both teaching and thinking visually. Most classes that “teach” PowerPoint gloss over the narrative changes that it imposes on us through its transition from a linear textual narrative to a nonlinear visual one. They also fail to examine the information transfer capacities of various media. PowerPoint is software that complements a performance and often fails as a container for information. It needs to be augmented by more persistent visual and textual media. I’ve worked around this by creating websites as a mechanism to gloss my presentation; provide background linkages; and to create a persistent, living complement to what happens live. Slideshare fails to do this because it only gives you half of the presentation, the visual part, which may or may not stand on its own. Part of visual literacy is understanding how visual media complements other media, such as audio and text.

Finally, we need to start embedding design thinking into our processes. Design thinking is, by its very nature, closely tied to the visual.

More on presentation design and tools in this blog:

future trends in education

The NMC Horizon Report > 2016 Higher Education Edition Wiki


educational technology and faculty development

Educational Technology and Faculty Development in Higher Education

 The Potential of Mobile Devices for Teaching and Learning

Despite the near ubiquity of student laptops and smartphones, in-class BYOD is still an emerging practice.

immersive journalism, games, and empathy

Virtual reality breathes life into immersive storytelling

Virtual Games Try To Generate Real Empathy For Faraway Conflict

James Delahoussaye

Project Syria, a virtual reality experience built by a team of students at USC.

“I sometimes call virtual reality an empathy generator,” she says. “It’s astonishing to me. People all of a sudden connect to the characters in a way that they don’t when they’ve read about it in the newspaper or watched it on TV.”

What Peña’s doing — using virtual reality in combination with reporting — is part of a wider landscape of video games being created to explore the news. And they’re called, appropriately enough, “newsgames.”

“There’s an argument to be made that games are perfect at getting at the systemic problems and challenges in the world,” says Ian Bogost, a professor at Georgia Tech.

He says games are really good at showing the complex underbelly of stories.

Take a game that he helped make called Oil God. In the game, the player controls an oil-rich region, waging wars and inciting coupes. The player learns that oil prices are contingent on all sorts of factors rarely mentioned in a story about the price of a gallon of gas.

The Sociology of Videogames

creating games to bring awareness to social issues for over a decade.  The game to create the biggest waves was arguably MTV’s “Darfur is Dying” released online in 2006, in which players took up the role of a family displaced by conflict in Darfur.

presentation design and tools for PSY 101

Plan for PSY 101 work with students on alternatives for presentation and design