Category: Game-Based Learning

Game Review: Odyssey, Available on TeacherGaming Desk

Odyssey- A Science Puzzle Game

Recently, our fellow educational gaming company TeacherGaming provided us access to one of the many games they support through their Desk (more on that later). Odyssey, a science puzzle adventure game from the Young Socratics, teaches scientific reasoning in astronomy, physics, and more. However, lessons take the shape of puzzles as players embark on a journey through the “Wretched Islands” to rescue a girl and her family. By reading engaging journal entries and solving challenging puzzles, the player reconstructs, proves, and disproves the ideas and arguments of history’s most famous scientists and philosophers.

The game leads players across the several islands through a series of puzzles. As more advanced concepts are introduced, puzzles escalate in difficulty. Hints appear in journal entries left behind by the family in need of rescue. Puzzles range from demonstrating that the Earth is a sphere to proving a heliocentric model of the universe. However, the game balances demanding puzzles with the immediate satisfaction of being able to smash boxes, ride on ziplines, and knock down walls.

Fun, Motivational, and Educational

The game remains enjoyable throughout the 2-4 hour experience, despite a large amount of reading and high demand for careful thinking. Even though I played most of it in one long stretch, I never felt burnt out. For students who would likely play the game over a series of classes, it shouldn’t be a concern.

Reading the journals in Odyssey never got tedious simply because it felt like someone had actually written them. Thirteen-year-old Kai, a clumsy but precocious girl, with a deep interest in her father’s work and a desire to understand the world around her, held the game together. Even the most technical parts of the journal are imbued with a clear, charming voice. The player gets a purpose through these journals. They aren’t learning just because- they must learn all this in order to help Kai escape. That motivation provides a drive to get through the more difficult puzzles. I can imagine that Kai could provide a point of inspiration for young students, as well. Her enthusiasm for learning can be contagious.

Students want educational games because they’re fun and motivational, not just because they’re games. At the same time, teachers want educational games because they serve as good reinforcement. Odyssey sits among that good group of learning games that delivers an experience that teaches while it entertains.

The game is available with our without the TeacherGaming desk option.  Educators looking to include this in their lesson planning will want to consider using lesson options from eight lesson plans available from the TeacherGaming Desk (more information below) 

TeacherGaming

In 2011, two university students from Finland founded TeacherGaming. Initially, the project focused on working Minecraft into an educational game with clear direction for classroom use. Their MinecraftEdu project formed the basis for Microsoft’s Minecraft: Education Edition. Since then, they grew and expanded their range but, as they say on their website, their focus remains on enabling educators to use games for learning with their students, “no matter the skill level.”

TeacherGaming Desk for teachers and students in game based learning

This drive manifested the TeacherGaming Desk. The Desk can be accessed through subscription to a catalog of 30+ games or through the purchase of just one of these wide array of learning games. Also, it offers a way to keep track of student progress for teachers. With a team of educators at the helm, TeacherGaming helps easily connect its catalog to curriculum, with the help of lesson plans and analytics.

Teacher Scaffolding through the Desk

TeacherGaming learning games help students practice critical thinking and teachers bring new ideas into the classroom

To really bring an educational game into the classroom, however, the teacher needs to know how to use it effectively. There needs to be some measure of scaffolding. TeacherGaming provides this with an interface that makes it easy to see how far students have progressed in the game. Additionally, each game comes with lesson plans written by their team of teachers. Lesson plans split the games up based on their content, and the teacher is provided with ways to integrate the game into their curriculum.

The lessons walk students through the required theory as well as actual gameplay. Additionally, they suggest topics to guide discussion at the end of each session. By providing this reinforcement, students gain more from their time playing the game. Additionally, teachers see just how much their students were able to gain from playing the game.

We look forward to seeing what TeacherGaming works on next (hint: it’s Cities: Skylines). Find out more about their games and mission on their website. If you’re all caught up on this blog, make sure to check out theirs! Plenty of awesome content is up there.

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Game-Based Learning in the Classroom: What’s the Point?

Game-Based Learning in the Classroom

We think game-based learning pushes students to get more invested in learning. By utilizing games, teachers motivate students to try harder through competition and interactivity. However, the tools understandably intimidate many teachers new to using technology in the classroom. On this post, discover how game-based learning works in the classroom and how it benefits students. Also, find sources to discover more about the subject.

What is Game-Based Learning?

Game-Based Learning in the classroom- what is it?

Game-based learning grows in popularity with each passing year. With an increasingly digital society, more and more teachers look for new ways to engage their technologically-minded students. Games provide a method for students to connect with their learning materials. Also, they offer a safe space for students to fail and learn from failure.

However, not all game-based learning experiences work for everyone. The definitions above help in understanding the basic concept, but an effective experience comes from a capable teacher. Rather than replacing teachers, educational games partner with good teachers to create an awesome lesson both fun and helpful. Games teach not only facts but skills. By virtue of being digital, games bring opportunities to have unique experiences that would be hard to replicate in physical form. Additionally, games provide a framework for assessing student performance in applying lessons. More diverse than straight tests, games gather impartial data on student performance that can be fed back to the teacher.

Bear in mind, different games work for different classes.

How Can I Use Game-Based Learning in the Classroom?

Game-based learning in the classroom - how to use it?

Flexible and varied, teachers use game-based learning in the classroom to achieve many goals. Games help teachers provide new material in an interesting way, conduct assessments, or motivate students to work harder. Clearly, the goal depends on the kind of class and the subject taught. By identifying the goal first, teachers tailor game choice towards these goals. That way, game-based learning offers the most benefit. Additionally, students enjoy it more when it feels purposeful in their education.

However, more importantly, games show success in meeting these educational goals.

What’s Good About Game-Based Learning?

Game-based learning in the classroom - what's good about it?

Game-based learning meets a variety of needs from teachers. More than half of teachers agree that game-based learning motivates low-performing and special education students. They get more involved in lessons and become more interested in learning. Read a teacher’s thoughts on how our Excavate! games gets her special-ed classroom interested in learning here. The review also touches on how game-based learning personalizes education. Other reasons cited above for using game-based learning include promotion of collaboration, independent learning, and the ability to deliver content from a distance.

Many games fall under national standards like Common Core. For example, our Excavate! games follow C3 standards for world history education. However, not every game works for standardized curriculum, so make sure the game works for your class.

What Do Other Teachers Say?

Game-based learning in the classroom - what do others think?

Many teachers welcome the tools into their classroom and find their students love it. Good educational learning developers provide frameworks for teachers to work with. For our Excavate! games and ExoTrex games, we offer free teacher’s guides and lesson plans to help use the games with students. Always make sure that you feel comfortable with a game before giving it to students. Game-based learning in the classroom starts with a good teacher. No matter how good the game, it needs a teacher to guide students through learning.

How to Find Out More?

The statistics quoted in this blog come from Level Up Learning, a national survey about teaching with games in K-8. We highly recommend giving the whole report a read. Also, we offer this report on digital game-based learning in secondary education as another sources of information. Just a quick search on the web brings up tons of information and options for learning more about educational games.

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2017 | A Year of Digital Learning

The 2017 Year in Review – Education Highlights

At this time of year, we reflect on the major events that have influenced our New Earth Planetlives and industry. Our news outlets will share their highlights of 2017 from weather to politics but there were also lesser known discoveries and events that should be remembered. NASA reported that there was a new planet that could support life and then there was the exciting finding of a new chamber inside the pyramids of Giza for example. There were also significant developments in the intersecting worlds of technology and education.

E-Learning Recap 2017

  • The hottest development was the expansion of Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) apps for the education marketplace. Students were transported to other worlds or dropped into the human body to explore its complex systems. There was also an increase in capacity for students to create in the AR and VR spaces with sites like Co.Spaces. Check out these 20 VR apps that had a big impact in 2017.

Virtual Reality in Education Games

  • Chromebook is now King and Queen! Cheap hardware with a suite of online, collaborative digital tools attracted schools to adopt Google as the #1 supplier of educational technology in 2017. This was not without critics who point to the fact that students are being shepherded into becoming lifelong Google customers as they transfer their school accounts to private ones upon graduation. Read More: “How Google Took Over the Classroom.”

Educational Games and chromebooks

  • Siri, Alexa and “Ok Google” have become common ways of interacting with technology and much of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) that makes these on-command applications work also has the potential to improve teaching and learning. Follow this link to read about 5 examples of how AI is being used in grading and tutoring applications to free up valuable time for teachers and improve the speed of services for students. We are incorporating AI into our new educational applications platform.

blockchain education technology

  • Blockchain (n0t to be confused with Bitcoins) made waves in 2017 with its use in the financial sector but it has great potential with credentialing and securing student records in academia. If you are not familiar with blockchain software, check out this great blog and video that IBM has created to explain it. While blockchain has not made its way into the K-12 classroom (yet), universities and online learning platforms are piloting its use and it has the potential to help bring digital badging and online diplomas to a universally recognized position in academia. Familiarize yourself with it now because it may have an impact on education very soon!

 

  • Dig-It Games made waves by building a revolutionary platform for data reporting from digital learning games. The platform is called Game-Based Learning Experience API or GBLxAPI for short. This National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project aims to build a reporting language for all video games to use to report student data as well as create a protocol for collecting and reading the data. It aims to streamline all data from various online-learning games and platforms so that schools and teachers can analyze data in a single dashboard owned by the school district (not the edtech companies). We made great progress this year and partnered with other game companies to implement it in 2018. Stay tuned!

Game-Based Learning

In 2017, many students had a lot of energy around getting a Nintendo switch and their parents expended a lot of energy expressing disappointment that Nintendo stopped selling the classic NES system. There was also major gaming news in the classroom. Kahoot released a great year-end review of the trends that they witnessed with their customers such as a surge of search requests for Math content, an increase in adoption of Google Chromebooks and a rise in the use of BYOD (bring your own devices) in many classes. Increases in BYOD is exciting news because it opens new venues of interactivity such as incorporating social media and virtual reality into the classroom. But an important aspect of bringing more hardware into the classroom is finding high quality games to play!

World History Game Excavate EgyptWe are proud to announce that Dig-iT! Games released 5 games in 2017 which will prove to be a valuable experience and resource for all World History classes. The Excavate! video game series extends our innovation approach to incorporating the STEM field of Archaeology into Social Studies and History courses by challenging students to dig up ancient artifacts and then analyze them for key concepts about ancient civilizations. We released Excavate! Mesopotamia, Excavate! Egypt, Excavate! Greece, Excavate! Rome, and Excavate! Mesoamerica. Each game is accompanied by high quality supporting curricular materials help facilitate each game’s use in the classroom. We also released ExoTrex 2 challenging students to search for a new planet like the one NASA found this year.

Exotrex 2 Science Education Game

Game-based learning and Gamification are both listed as trends in education for 2017 and beyond.  We are proud to be a part of this exciting development by offering a high quality and engaging game series. Contact us today to review any of our newest games!

Have a great 2018!


Games to Prepare for Testing

April is a busy time of the year, and it also signifies that the school year will soon end. The end of the school year means one thing in the education field, review of all content material cover in the curriculum to help students prepare for their end-of-year projects and assessments. What is the best way to prepare students? Some teachers use review packets and drill practice worksheets. However, the best way to review the content and prepare for testing is to have students play games! 

At Dig-It! Games, we have numerous games that help students review standards in the intermediate and middle school grade levels.

 

Loot Pursuit: Early America is a great game for 4th, 5th, and 6th-grade students to practice math computation and U.S. History standards on Jamestown. 

 

 

Exotrex Episode 1 allows students to review concepts taught in Physical Science and Earth Science standards. 

 

 

Excavate! is a series of ancient civilization games on the social, cultural and economic standards of the cultures of Maya, Egypt, and Mesopotamia through ancient artifacts.

 

Games allow students multiple attempts where a state assessment/end-of-year test only gives the student one chance with the material. Games enable students to play with concepts and materials taught during the year in a quick, safe and easy way to help students practice and cement the information they are reviewing. For all students no matter the grade, there is a lot of curriculum covered in a school year, and a subject specific game can allow students to fail at concepts while practicing over and over again until the student and the teacher feel that they have mastered the concepts needed to pass the yearly assessments.

As the end of the school year nears to a close and those state tests draw closer, make sure your students are ready! Check out our games as well as others to help your students prepare for their final assessments!

 


The Power of Experiential Learning in Social Studies Class

Oregon Trail and Games Photo Credit: SomedayTrips.com

Gather a group of folks of a certain age and mention the word “dysentery” and an interesting thing happens: eyes light up and people talk animatedly about wagons overturning in the river, sacks of beans and bad choices that led to everyone starving. An odd response for such a horrible disease, but of course it’s the reference to the game Oregon Trail that evokes such a deep seated, emotional response. What is it about Oregon Trail that had such a profound impact on so many of us that we clearly remember the experience years later?

Oregon Trail stemmed from the realization that kids learn more when they are learning about real people doing real things. Although we as teachers all know that deeper learning happens when students see and experience life and culture, time and curriculum constraints often limit social studies classes to focusing on major events, dates and important people. With the recent focus on STEM (and STEAM), social studies has taken a back seat, further limiting teaching resources. At Dig-iT! Games, we believe this is a dangerous oversight: STEM is absolutely vital to our kids’ success, but kids desperately need the tools that social studies courses provide. Our students need to learn to analyze, categorize, process and communicate, and evaluate the motivation behind an action. These skills have become even more critical in our current environment, where opinions are often mistaken for facts.

Captured at High Desert Museum Bend Oregon Photo Credit: Somedaytrips.com

It’s All About Experiences

Part of what made Oregon Trail such an effective teaching tool was that it was structured as a game. Playing wasn’t about passing a test, it was about finding a way to get little Mary and her family to the end without a catastrophe. Embedded in that experience was a variety of important information: certain foods are more nutritious or more durable than others; wagons are complicated machines that needed as
much upkeep as a car does today; diseases were far more deadly in the past than they are now due to a lack of effective medication, etc. Learning was seamlessly blended with gameplay. Certainly, students learned about the dates the Oregon Trail was used, its geography and its significance, but they also had a first-hand look into the very real hardships of the people who used it. That emotional connection to historic events is extremely powerful, as evidenced by the number of people who remember what they learned from a short game they played as children decades ago.

The evidence shows that when one makes an implicit connection between information and themself, it is more likely the information is remembered later. Immersive games like Oregon Trail ask players, “What would you have done in that situation?” This is more powerful than just physically reading a textbook and absorbing the facts because of its emotional connection and cumulative learning effect. It forces students to draw on what they know and requires them to think differently about the information they’re receiving. They are able to see history as a story made up of patterns and repeating trends, not just a list of facts to memorize. That helps make the topic relevant to students and encourages them to apply those analytical skills to the world around them. When history becomes immediate instead of theoretical, it turns into an adventure instead of a chore. History taught in an immersive way helps students become engaged, excited and eager to learn more.

Why Use Digital Games?

As Oregon Trail illustrates, the value of a game is in what we take away from it, not in the game itself. It is in that individual engagement where electronic games win out over traditional games in a classroom setting. Digital games combine graphics, audio and movement into a coherent whole. These games are interactive and immersive, forcing the player to be truly invested in the outcome. Players are encouraged to strengthen weaker skills, while simultaneously taking advantage of their proficiencies. Electronic games level the playing field, allowing all learners to engage deeply and internalize ideas in the way that suits them best. So regardless of how a student best processes information, she/he will be able to learn the same thing as someone who operates differently.

Our educational system is, unfortunately, not designed for individualized teaching. The cycle of lectures, mass-produced textbooks and standardized tests emphasizes consistency and conformity. Digital gaming can change that.

Digital games provide an environment where kids can learn at their own pace and in their own way. It’s much easier to admit strengths and weaknesses when no one is watching. Games are inherently flexible; they encourage experimentation, trial and error and failure. In no other learning environment are kids encouraged to fail and learn from their mistakes, even though every teacher knows the best way to learn something is by doing it (and failing a few times). The immediate feedback in games lets players determine for themselves what they need to do differently, allowing them to internalize the lesson. Students can practice skills they feel uncertain about, or move ahead to new things while the teacher focuses on students who are struggling with a topic. When students are put in an environment in which they can learn their way without fear of judgment or penalty, they become what every teacher strives for: independent learners.

What to Look For in a Game

Effective educational games bear certain hallmarks that should be known and considered. Here are a few key elements to look for in a solid learning game experience:

Purpose-aligned learning. Learning games that clearly show a student that they can use what they learn for a future purpose instill a level of confidence and willingness in that student that makes teaching and learning look effortless. Such games are carefully developed; look for those clearly aligned to a future purpose for the student and never again hear ‘But when am I ever going to need to know this?’

Content area knowledge. The gaming industry is crowded with games of every variety. While zombies and guns are popular, what you are looking for are those games that actually help a student along an academic course in science, social studies, music, art, etc., because ‘Zombie Hunter’ is not a real job listing. Scientist, educator, project manager, curator, artist are all real-world possibilities and while standards are a great guideline, more importantly, the future is what we make it.

Opportunities to explore. In educating a child, their self-determinism, the opportunity for them to look in wonder and to make a choice, one that they feel may be correct or interesting or one that merely satisfies their curiosity, is precious. Games provide a unique opportunity for children to explore and investigate things that are specifically of interest to them. There is a certain pleasure in learning new things, and even in going over the familiar, especially when one is in control of that learning. Look for games that provide the student situations in which they can choose a path forward and in which they control the level and pace of exposure to new information.

Multiple cognitive skills to problem solve. Even simple games engage multiple skills. Shooting zombies involves coordination, strategic thinking, and often collaboration with other players. Those skills are important, but literacy, mathematical knowledge, and comprehensive understanding of particular content are more useful in the long run. Good games are cross-curricular; they combine two or more curriculum areas into an engaging whole. These games put students in situations where they must draw on information and skills learned in multiple classes, an ability that will serve them well in college and the job market.

We Need Your Help!

Oregon Trail was groundbreaking when it was first introduced and continues to be the gold standard against which all history games are measured, but digital games have improved dramatically since its first introduction in the 80s. Certainly, graphics are much better quality now, but the biggest shifts have come on the data side: games track progress and some games allow teachers to see the student’s progress so they can tailor lessons or extra work to specific needs. Games are also easier to make and to distribute, both a positive and negative change: more games does not inherently mean better quality games and it is still a challenge to find games that align to a specific curriculum. We need your help to continue improving the quality and variety of games.

First, we want to know what you are teaching and where the gaps are. Do you have particular content areas you wish you had more resources for? For example, we know there is a lot of coverage for the Revolutionary War, but not so many resources for teaching Mesopotamia or ancient irrigation. We want to make high-quality games that help you engage your students better and follow your curriculum. If you have ideas for games or would like to be part of a discussion about key areas of curriculum you think games would be useful for, please email our Education Team (elisab@dig-itgames.com).

Secondly, we know Game-Based Learning (GBL) can be useful in the classroom but measuring the success is often challenging. Some games provide no learning outcomes and those that do are typically in proprietary systems requiring educators to log-into and learn separate learning management systems. Learning outcomes from one vendor cannot be easily compared with other games as there is no core standard. We believe that there is a need for a unified dashboard that standardizes the collection, reporting and analysis of learning outcomes across the GBL industry. We have received a grant from The National Science Foundation to develop this standard and build a unified dashboard. We want to know how data collection in games (or lack thereof) affects your thinking about GBL and your purchasing decisions. Additionally, we need your help developing a universal dashboard that reports data from multiple products in a useful way for your needs. If you would like to be part of this exciting project, please contact us (info@dig-itgames.com).

We hope you will participate in one or both of these initiatives. With your help we can move the game industry forward and create better products that match with your curricula and meet your data reporting needs.

A former archaeologist and middle school teacher, Suzi Wilczynski is the founder and CEO of Dig-iT! Games®, an independent developer of interactive educational games for kids. Through a seamless blend of fun and learning, Dig-iT! Games seeks to foster the joy of intellectual discovery and inspire kids to think differently about learning.

 

 


Snow Days, Game Days

Snow is in the forecast, and you don’t want your students to lose pace with the curriculum. What to do? Educational digital games are the solution. An easy way to make sure that your students review and practice material, so they do not become rusty with concepts covered in class. This can also be a great solution to help front load students for new concepts that will be taught once the abominable snow recedes.

By taking the time to set up a digital classroom, you can ensure that your students (and their parents) will be able to access any materials, resources or information you wish them to have available to them on their “snowcation.” Google Classroom has been a great tool to fulfill this need for teachers. Here a teacher can create assignments, announcements, insert links to games and monitor their student’s activity. If you don’t have access to Google Classroom, it could be a separate section on your school web page.

By creating the digital classroom, a teacher has taken steps to ensure that some form of learning is taking place at home by creating a digital platform for communication. Here as a teacher, I can give students dialog and directions to play certain educational games that will supplement our previous instruction, cover instruction missed, and utilize games as digital instruction to prepare students for material they are going to see in the near future. Teacher’s directions can be as simple as; play this game, play this game to a specified level, or play this game and achieve a certain score. Most educational games are also including a reporting system, so depending on the game assigned, it is up to the teacher how they will collect the student’s progress by either looking at the game’s report or having students record their progress in the Google Classroom assignment feature.

The old snow days of sitting around and just watching television are over. With the easy accessibility of the internet, teachers can now reach out to students to make sure students do not lose out on precious instructional time! It’s also not a bad deal for the students who get assigned to play games, and the byproduct just happens to be learning!


Memorize the Solar System!

What is the best way to teach students about the solar system? As an instructor, what instructional methods might you choose to present the content? The traditional method chosen is to have students read about the solar system from their science textbook or do you choose to utilize Game-Based Learning? The first method can be dry, impersonal, and depending on the year it was published, inaccurate. Some instructors will infuse text readings with primary sources, such as articles, videos, and photos from or about space to help students visualize and understand the content better. These additions will supplement and heighten instruction to encompass visual, spatial, linguistic and auditory modes of learning.

After teaching about the solar system, many students are required to show proficiency on an assessment or project. To prepare for this, one method chosen by students is to make flashcards. This form of learning or memorization only works for some students; one such proficient example of this form of learning is the brilliant four-year-old Brielle. Watch her here on the Ellen Show!

But as all seasoned teachers know, flashcards are not a tool that works for all students. What all students need are hands-on experiences that allow students to explore and apply the new information found in their schema. Now, this can be hard to do while learning about the solar system, being that the closest planet, Venus, can vary from 38 million to 261 million kilometers away. This presents a problem if we want students to apply new understanding of concepts learned to real life examples.

One solution is virtual reality. Pairing traditional methods of instruction with game-based learning can lead to amazing results. Games are digital learning tools that allow a student to apply their knowledge while playing and analyze the outcomes to determine if concepts need to be revisited and reviewed in a non-threatening environment. Losing a game does not hold the same negative stigma that a bad grade on an exam holds. A student can play and replay a game until mastery of the concept or level is achieved!

Within this format, a teacher will be able to gather and determine their student’s performance and therefore determine areas that need to be reviewed and which areas show mastery. This method of instruction is called Game-Based Learning and it is proving to be a great way to blend curriculum standards with interactive learning fun.

To learn more about Game-Based Learning check out the infographic below from www.online-education-degrees.net.

To explore the solar system, check out our new educational digital game; ExoTrex Episode 1 and begin the journey incorporating Game-Based Learning into your classroom!


Summer Learning Loss Campaign #gogolearn

Summer Learning Loss

Fighting Summer Learning Loss with Games

Note: This is an early preview of our Summer Learning Loss Campaign – On July 14th all the details will be updated here.

At Dig-It! Games®, we are committed to improving education. As our corporate mission states, “we believe in the power of games to change how kids learn by promoting critical thinking, independent learning, and cultural understanding. Our games incorporate age-appropriate content in math, science, social studies and language arts into fun, interactive and engaging learning experiences. Through our seamless blend of fun and learning, we seek to foster the joy of intellectual discovery and inspire kids to think differently about learning.”

The education community has recently come to understand the true value of game-based learning and games are being regularly integrated into curricula. Currently, half of all K-12 teachers are using games in their classrooms in a meaningful way. These educators recognize the value of games in their students’ learning experiences and the potential of using the data collected by digital games to improve students’ learning and create personalized learning environments. Teachers are finding that games are effective in improving executive function skills, 21st century skills, technology skills, Literacy and Math skills, and more.

Unfortunately, those most in need of our products are often least able to use them. Teachers report that digital games help low-performing students catch up and motivate them to learn more. Digital games not only improve student performance, but positively impact student behavior and attendance. But the digital divide remains, making it a challenge for the students who could benefit the most from game-based learning to gain access to digital learning products.

At Dig-It! Games®, we recognize this challenge and are working to help close the achievement gap. We have spent the past several months rebuilding our infrastructure to provide access to our products from any device on any platform. This device-agnostic approach meets kids where they are: on their phones and other mobile devices. Although bandwidth and data access remain a problem for many students in America, we are happy to be taking steps in the right direction. Our games are also now available on Chromebooks, a more affordable option for schools and parents both.

But we can do more. Every summer, low-income students lose 2-3 months of academic skills compared to their higher-income peers. These gaps in math, reading and other skills add up: by 5th grade, students can be as much as 3 years behind! Summer Learning Loss is real, and affects low-income students disproportionately. Dig-It! Games is joining a national movement to eradicate Summer Learning Loss. Led by the National Summer Learning Association, partners around the country are hosting Summer Learning Day events on July 14, 2016 to raise awareness for this vital educational initiative. To learn more about Summer Learning Day or to find an event near you, visit http://www.summerlearning.org/summer-learning-day/. Dig-It! Games will be hosting an event to raise awareness in our community. We hope you will join us at on July 14, 2016 at Veterans Park in Bethesda.

It’s a great start, but we believe we can do even more. Games are a perfect tool to prevent Summer Learning Loss and keep kids engaged in learning throughout the summer months. Games build content knowledge, problem solving skills, critical thinking skills, and so much more. Plus, they’re just fun! Who doesn’t want to be an archaeologist, or search through Maya pyramids or explore space in an engaging game? However, we realize that the students who are most affected by Summer Learning Loss can’t afford these fun experiences. So we are proud to announce our new “Get One, Give One” initiative.

Through “Get One, Give One,” for every game purchased or downloaded this summer we will give a game to a low-income student. Download a Dig-It! game from the iOS App Store or download or buy a game on our website  and we will donate a game to one of our partner organizations to distribute to a child in need. Any game. Free or paid. Big or small. We’re serious about fighting Summer Learning Loss, but we need your help.

If you are or know an organization that can benefit from this campaign you can submit an application here.

As an added incentive, the initial donated game will be our brand new science game ExoTrex™, which with a pre-release retail price of $5.99. So, buy ExoTrex™ for yourself and know that a child is receiving access to a high-quality science game they couldn’t otherwise afford. Or play Excavate!™ for free and that child will still get ExoTrex™ to improve his/her chemistry skills before school starts back up in the fall.

The more you Get, the more we Give. So spend your summer building your vocabulary, exploring the Maya jungle and excavating artifacts! With 10 games to choose from (and more coming this summer), there’s something for everyone. Why not try them all? The kids suffering from Summer Learning Loss will thank you.

EXOTREX Summer Learning

Excavate

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Summer Learning Loss. Don’t let your kids slip down the “Summer Slide”

Summer is here and you know what that means: summer break for your kids. No more waking up at the break of dawn to sluggishly get dressed for school, no more rushing out of the house in hopes of making it to the bus stop on time and no more eight-hour school days. Summer vacation to many kids include sleeping in, watching television, playing games and spending a bulk of their time on social media. Now, while we completely understand the excitement for this lackadaisical lifestyle, this can lead to a more serious issue: summer learning loss.

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Summer learning loss, also known as the “summer slide,” has been a topic of discussion amongst parents and educators for a while now. This term describes the loss of academic knowledge throughout the span of your child’s summer break. Studies show that the problem is particularly acute among low-income students who lose an average of more than two months in reading achievement in the summer, which slows their progress toward third grade reading proficiency.

 

Aside from idle time aiding in summer learning loss, many view video games as a contributing factor. The vision of kids laying on the couch with their eyes glued to videos game for hours at a time, is enough to make some cringe. But contrary to popular belief, video games can actually assist in the learning and developmental process of children. Recent research has proven that gaming can increase brain function, problem solving skills, spatial reasoning, memory, attention span, strategic planning, and even social skills.

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We believe in the power of game-based learning and its ability to enhance education through promoting critical thinking, independent learning and fun with intellectual discovery. Our games and those from other developers can fill part of the learning gap this summer while blending fun and education together.  However, we realize that the students who are most affected by Summer Learning Loss can’t afford these fun experiences.  So we will soon be announcing our new “Get One, Give One” initiative (#gogolearn) to help those most affected.  Stay tuned for more on this program and how to be a partner next week.

Explore our game on the Apple App store and our game store library to explore summer learning with games.  Our newest game ExoTrex!, designed for students ages 12 to 15, takes players on a space mission that promotes learning and fun through the subjects of Chemistry, Astrophysics and Space Science. Exotrex! is a perfect game to reinforce these topics covered throughout the school year or for parents to expose their kids to these subjects prior to starting school. We are excited to announce this game will be available in mid-July. In the meantime, slide over to our library of educational games, ranging from archaeological excavation games to challenging vocabulary games, so you can be the first to know when ExoTrex! becomes available.

 


Middle Level Educators + Games = Fun

As many middle school teachers can agree, students in grades 5-9 require a very different approach for instruction compared to upper elementary or high school levels. Middle level educators know that kids at that age need something different in the classroom to keep them engaged and excited about learning.

That’s why game-based learning (GBL) can improve student academic success when incorporated correctly into the classroom. Earlier this month, we headed to Columbus, OH for AMLE 2015, a gathering where middle level educators from all over the country can talk about best practices in the classroom. Suzi led a Speed Learning session with three rotations to talk to teachers about why GBL works, how they can use games in the classroom, and where to find well-built games that keeps the student experience in mind during development.

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Here are five important takeaways from that presentation:

  • Games should have defined learning outcomes in order to create a meaningful learning experience for the student. In other words, teachers should be able to ask, “What is my student working towards in this game?” and get a detailed response. For example, in Loot Pursuit: Pompeii, the goal of the game is to provide review of Common Core-aligned math problems, but also to give exposure to the ancient Roman culture through artifact collection.
  • Electronic games combine visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning at all times. Through the combination of graphics, audio and movement into a coherent whole, players are encouraged to strengthen weaker skills, while taking advantage of their proficiencies.

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  • Story-based games are immersive and interactive, helping to “hide” the learning. It’s invisible to the students, but they are practicing higher-order thinking and building critical thinking skills during gameplay. These games are valuable because they pull the learner into the game and motivate them to continue to reach the story’s conclusion.
  • Many games that provide built-in, instantaneous feedback offer students progressive learning and require players to master a topic before moving forward. This places an emphasis on character traits like persistence and ownership of the learning material. Because this feedback is not communicated to a student’s peers, it acts as a form of self-assessment and encourages experimentation, trial and error, and failure.
  • Look for educational games on websites like Graphite, which provide detailed reviews and alignment to standards. Teachers are even able to search by standard on these sites and incorporate a short mini-game into their lessons. Alternatively, teachers may find long-form games for use (like Mayan Mysteries), which can stand on their own rather than being supplemental.

We’ll be participating in the Game-Based Learning Summit at FETC 2016 on January 12! Be sure to save the date and stop by in Orlando, or follow along on our Twitter account (@DigItGames) for more tips and tricks involving GBL.

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