Category: Blog

Back to School: Advice for Teachers

Back to school season is here in full force! There’s a lot that teachers need to get ready, even before students start entering the building. The checklist can include everything from setting up the classroom, to finalizing the year’s overall curriculum, to making sure that each student and their particular needs are accommodated. On this post, we’ve collected many resources that will help you start the school year right.

Preparing the Classroom

back to school classroom

Making sure that the classroom provides both a welcoming space and is optimized to help students learn is a difficult balancing act. Of course, some teachers deal with keeping their class on a cart and going from room to room. But if you happen to be lucky enough to get your own space, there are plenty of tips for making sure it’s the best space it can be.

Edutopia recently published an article on flexible classrooms. While research on their impact on learning remains scarce, what research exists shows promising results. Flexibility and ownership of the room are important tools to help academic progress, right up there with basics like air quality and temperature. 

If you can’t change the space itself, you can at least give the room a bit of decoration. Not only does it make the room more interesting for students, it makes the room a more welcoming environment for you too! You might consider posters with good inspirational quotes or famous historical figures from your subject. If you’re feeling crafty, decorate your classroom with some DIY tips to make the room all your own. 

Getting Ready for Students

students back to school

The best offense is a good defense. To put that another way, the best way to be prepared later down the line is to be ready to go from the start. Know what students you have coming in and prepare for any special accommodations they require. Know your general classroom policies ahead of time too and remember to communicate these rules to the students. How will you deal with absences, late work, or snow days? Have answers to these questions before they come up!

These may seem basic, particularly if you’ve taught before, but take some time to reflect on how your policies worked last year. If they seemed to work, great! However, if they could improve, give some thought on how to change them up to be best for you and the students. Taking the time to reflect on the previous year during the summer can be incredibly useful.

The First Day Back to School

back to school advice for teachers

The first day is a teacher’s chance to make a good first impression and also set students on the right path towards collaboration and respect. Icebreakers can be a great way to, well, break the ice! Depending on the age, students might respond differently to this strategy, but it’s all a matter of offering an icebreaker that fits their maturity level. Check out Icebreaker Ideas to find one that’s right for you.

If you have trouble learning names, making nametags can be an easy, relaxing activity for the first day back to school. Try to keep quizzing yourself to get the names down pat. No matter the age and no matter the size of the class, students appreciate it when instructors know their name.

Think About GBL

Summer Gaming List 7: Dig-It! Games

If you’ve yet to jump on the game-based learning train, there’s no better time to find out more about it than back to school time! We have a whole host of game-based learning products. Consider switching up your lesson plans to incorporate active learning and foster engagement in students.

Social studies teachers, take a look at our Excavate series and Roman Town 2. Science teachers, head over to the ExoTrex series. Even Spanish teachers can hop on board with our Spanish translation of Excavate! MesoAmerica.

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Here’s a very thorough checklist that goes over even more ways to be prepared for the school year and save yourself time down the line.


Game Development Blog: What Inspired Roterra?

Welcome to the first of many Roterra-specific game development blogs coming up! Currently, we plan to release a series of blogs on the world, the characters, and the process of making the game itself. Tell us what you want to know about by sending us a message or finding us on social media.

Roterra did not spring from nowhere. When conceptualizing and refining ideas for our next game, our design team took inspiration from many sources. While Roterra has evolved into its own beast, we wanted to look back down the line to see where some of its now-core concepts sprung from.

Inspiration 1:  MC Escher & Beautiful Puzzles

Balcony MC EscherOur discussions around creating a game environment where the ground literally moved under a character’s feet brought immediate connections to M.C. Escher’s work. Among his many drawings, we especially looked to “House of Stairs.” Recent games have popularized this aesthetic in mobile gaming, applying his unique and mind-boggling landscapes to puzzle designs and more.

However, do “beautiful” puzzles, mean great user experiences? Some puzzles in games aren’t very difficult. In our game, we plan to allow the player to feel awe but also to be challenged. We want players to have to think about how to get their characters where they need to go. Soon you will know if we have found the right balance.

Inspiration 2: Orlando Furioso and Fractured Fairytales

Orlando Furioso by Gustave DoreRoterra’s story sprung from a confluence of art and literature. From the Odyssey to Shakespeare, folk tales from throughout history showcase the hero’s journey to control the chaos around him. 

For Roterra, the most influential of these classic stories was “Orlando Furioso,” the epic poem from Ludovico Ariosto. In the story, stereotypes are turned on their heads as wizards and magical creatures share the scene with knights and princesses. The journey matters, not the destination. Angelica, in particular, draws inspiration from the protagonist of Furioso who takes fate into her own hands.  

Roterra’s continual perspective shifts reflect Furioso as well. Themes are woven throughout Furioso that repeatedly force the reader to question what they believe to be true. A story told from one perspective turns out to be remarkably different when seen from another character’s point of view. The line between hero and villain is constantly in flux. Our designers internalized these forced shifts of perception as they created a world where orientation changes at the push of a switch, things are rarely as they seem, and the correct path is not the obvious one. 

Inspiration 3: Our History with Game Development

Get your students into archaeology with Excavate! Our experience with educational game development informed our work on Roterra

Prior to beginning work on Roterra, Dig-It! Games was primarily an educational game developer. We still dedicate most of our time to working on educational games and tools and enjoy it immensely. However, our experience with these educational games have given us understanding of how player learn through games. In games like Excavate!, we want players to learn facts and make connections. In Roterra, we want players to learn mechanics and apply them to puzzles. This is the same basic process, with one being applied to getting better at school and one being applied to getting better at the game.

Through working so much with education, we know how to challenge players without frustrating them. Communicating mechanics is hugely important, and we’ve taken that in consideration in our level designs for Roterra.

Don’t forget to follow Roterra on Twitter and sign up for updates on the game page to keep up with all the development.

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Fractured Fairytales: Twisting Up Familiar Stories

We all love fairy tales. The sheer number of beloved Disney movies based off these ancient stories can attest to that. We love to see the heroic prince slaying dragons or the plucky princess pursuing true love. Sometimes though, we wonder what if. What if Cinderella had been more rebellious or Red Riding Hood more observant? Because of that curiousity, we make fractured fairytales.

What is a Fractured Fairytale?

At its most basic, it’s a rewritten fairytale. Simply put, a fractured fairytale takes an existing story and, literally, fractures it. Instead of following the plot to the letter, the rewritten story changes point of view, certain events, time period, or even the ending. Fracturing the fairytale provides new perspectives on the story through considering how else the story could have gone.

Examples of Fractured Fairytales

The video above comes from a segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (19959-1964) dedicated to fractured fairytales. On the show, everything from Rapunzel to Little “Fred” Riding Hood to every pun on Sleeping Beauty you can think of is covered. Despite its age, the charm and comedy remain timeless. Collections can still be found online or single episodes can be found on YouTube.

For more literary examples, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs transforms the Big Bad Wolf’s story into a true crime drama (for kids). However, all it takes is a quick web search to find a copious amount of other delightful examples.

Fractured fairy tales fit well into many language arts curriculums, particularly in elementary school. Read Write Think has several great ones, including this resource which walks groups through analyzing the common elements of a fairytale. Then, groups use that information to make their own fractured stories. Education World and Teachers Pay Teachers also offer a selection of different ideas for teaching these offbeat stories. These include both reading and writing exercises.

Roterra: A Fractured Fairytale Puzzle

Roterra is inspired by fractured fairytales among other influences

Roterra eschews the traditional structure of the fairytale. Princess Angelica takes destiny into her own hands instead of waiting for a huntsman or fairy godmother to give her a hand. While it’s not a true fractured fairytale, since it doesn’t retell any particular story, it retains the ethos of giving more agency to the heroine. A better term might be “flipped” or “upside-down” fairytale. It gives Princess Angelica a role she might not usually fill in other fairytale stories.

You’ll be able to step into the role of Princess Angelica this year when Roterra releases. Until then, keep yourself up to date with the development by signing up to the newsletter on the game page or giving the teaser trailer a watch. We’re very excited to be giving you an awesome female protagonist in a fairytale setting. If you want to know more about the development of Roterra, keep an eye on the blog! We’ve got some inside looks into the world, characters, and development process coming up!

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Summer Advice for Teachers!

One of the perks of being a K-12 teacher is that long break over the summer! But it can also be a lot to handle at the same time. Not sure what to do with yourself over the summer? We’ve got some advice for teachers on what to do in terms of professional development and having fun over the break. 

Get Reading

Summer advice for teachers 1: get reading

Summer is the best time for reading, whether at home, at the beach, or anywhere else. Also, reading is one of the easiest ways to keep learning over the summer whether you’re reading about new educational strategies or just curling up with a good novel. Summer learning is as important for teachers as it is for students! Maybe you picked up a book already, but the internet offers tons of teacher suggestions if you haven’t. 

While it’s an older list, Teach for America suggests several books from classroom management tips (Like See Me After Class and Real Talk for Real Teachers) to simple beach reads. The Washington Post also offers a list based on teacher recommendations for books in many different categories. However, if you want to grab a few newer titles, join Education Closet’s 2018 summer reading challenge for teachers. They list a good variety of genres from the fictional drama of Little Fires Everywhere to the step-by-step guides of The Design Thinking Playbook.

Your reading doesn’t have to just come from books either. Educational blogs feature new ideas and research on a regular basis. Some of our personal favorites include Edutopia, Mindshift, and, of course, our own blog right here!

Learn from Others

Teacher advice for the summer 2: learn from others at conferences and workshops

Summer is full of small workshops and conferences with educational organizations and thought leaders in the community, both in-person and online. For instance, PBS TeacherLine hosts a lot of workshops for teachers at all grade-levels. Some have the added benefit of being self-paced, meaning you can break up your learning across the summer as it works for you.

Going out to learn from others can be as simple as a trip to a museum! Find an interesting museum in your area and make a day of it. This directory should be helpful when it comes to finding something interesting that’s within a reasonable distance.

Dig-It! attended the Games for Change Festival back in June and will be attending the Serious Play Conference. Come see us at the latter conference if you happen to be in the area!

Take a Break

Teacher advice 3- make sure to relax during the summer break

After a long school year, you’ve earned it! Make sure to take a few days to spend time with family or enjoy some precious alone time. Plan a vacation or a staycation, if you’d rather stay at home. Try cooking more or exploring nearby cities. Summer gives you plenty of time to plan and do whatever you want. Take advantage of it!

If you happen to be a gamer, make sure to check out our summer gaming list for suggestions or just click over to our games page for tons of educational products to test out. Have fun and plan for next year- that’s two birds with one stone!

Mostly, however, our advice for teachers is this: make sure you’re doing stuff you enjoy while you’ve got the time! That’s the important thing.

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Games for Change: GBLxAPI & More

Games for Change Festival 2018

Games for Change seeks to discover how games can impact education, healthcare, research, civics, social issues, and more! We attended the 15th annual Games for Change Festival this year. During the conference, we saw the best of the industry! 

Also, we presented during the conference! Therefore, we wanted to share our experience at the Festival. Anyone who missed our presentation on GBLxAPI can get information here, along with info on the projects presented alongside us.

GBLxAPI

Our COO Stuart Claggett spoke about our revolutionary new learning analytics program at Games for Change. GBLxAPI has been in the works for years, funded in part by the National Science Foundation. Based off the xAPI standard, it recently positioned itself as the new community standard for K-12 learning analytics within the educational games and apps space.

Factuality

Factuality at Games for Change

Natalie Gillard came to speak about her board game Factuality at the conference. Factuality is a 90 minute crash course on structural inequality via game. Through its board game structure, it seeks to make its players comfortable with being uncomfortable. Also, in combination with facilitated dialogue, it gives them deeper understanding of how structured inequality works.

Queen Rania Foundation

Queen rania foundation at Games for Change

Aya Saket, Research and Program Development Officer at the Queen Rania Foundation for Education and Development, spoke about using games to teach math in Jordinian schools. According to its mission statement, QRF seeks to be the “premier resource on educational issues, in Jordan and around the Arab world, and to act as an incubator for new ideas and initiatives.”

Curiscope

Curiscope at Games for Change

Finally, Ed Barton spoke about his company Curiscope. At Curiscope, they focus on using VR and AR technology to inspire a love of science in students. Virtuali-Tee combines wearable tech with AR to create a deep lesson into the workings of the human body.

Future of Games for Change

Thanks to anyone who came out to see us talk GBLxAPI in person! Hopefully we’ll be back at the Games for Change Festival next year. We had a blast both presenting and listening to the other presentations during the three days in NYC. However, the talented people who presented alongside us are only the tip of the iceberg. So many energetic and passionate people have entered this field. If you didn’t attend this year, consider buying a ticket for the 16th annual festival!

Meanwhile, we continue to work on the analytics system and look forward to seeing how it will change the landscape of game-based learning.

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Our Summer Gaming List 2018

Summer is a great time to get gaming. Libraries are always handing out summer reading lists, so we assume that you’re already covered when it comes to setting yourself and your family up with great books (but if you’re not, here are a few recommendations). But do you know what games to set yourself up with? Look no further than this list, where we give you a few recommendations for what to tackle when you’re trying to avoid the heat.

Younger Players

When picking games for younger players, it’s important to keep a few considerations in mind. Games must be appropriate for the age group in content and difficulty but they still have to be fun too. Check out our recommendations.

Grow Home

Summer Gaming List 1: Grow Home from Ubisoft

Ubisoft

Grow Home is a short and sweet little adventure from Ubisoft. Play as B.U.D. (Botanical Utility Droid) as he attempts to grow a plant which will oxygenate its home planet. The open world offers many opportunities for exploration as B.U.D.’s actions and movements adapt to the environment. Controls can be a bit difficult, but that’s just a way for parents to play along. Overall, it tells a sweet story with an adorable art style and a fun sense of discovery.

Grow Home is available on Windows, Linux, and PlayStation 4.

Super Mario Odyssey

Summer Gaming List 2: Super Mario Odyssey from Nintendo

Nintendo

The Switch is the big new thing for good reason. While the amount of games remains small, the game available are stellar. Like Grow Home, Super Mario Odyssey offers a great sense of discovery. Take Mario and his friend Cappy on an adventure through the many lands the game has to offer. From urban to jungle, Mario explores all kinds of places in his journey. Controls, particularly the motion controls, can also be finicky, but they’re not bad.

Super Mario Odyssey is available on the Nintendo Switch.

Older Players

As gamers get older, they want more complicated games to play. Fast-paced, thoughtful gameplay or narrative heft are both considerations when picking a gamer for bigger kids (or even for parents!) to play. Here’s a few suggestions.

Fortnite

Summer Gaming List 3: Fortnite from Epic Games

Epic Games

Battle Royale is the big craze and Fortnite is the king among them. Like Overwatch, Fortnite offers player vs. player gameplay without an excess of gore. The game features a building mechanic where players can craft walls or ramps for themselves with material they collect in the environment. Just watch out for the online interactions to make sure your players are not harassing others or being harassed themselves. Best way to prevent this? Make sure they’re playing with known friends or keep the voice chat off.

Fortnite is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Shadow of the Colossus

Summer Gaming List 4: Shadow of the Colossus from Bluepoint Games and Team Ico

Bluepoint Games

Shadow of the Colossus is one of the classics of video games, and it’s more accessible than ever with the remake that came to PlayStation 4 this year. Experience a great example of storytelling through games. An added bonus- if you’re not quite caught up to the current generation of systems, a remaster of the original version of the game can be played on the PlayStation 3. For gamers who enjoy narrative, Shadow of the Colossus is definitely a can’t-miss.

Shadow of the Colossus is available on PlayStation 2, 3, and 4.

Summer Gaming for the Whole Family

Gaming doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Make a night of it and bring the whole family together to play games. While local co-op can be hard to find, we’ve got you covered with these two awesome possibilities.

Overcooked

Summer Gaming List 5: Overcooked from Ghost Town Games

Ghost Town Games

Test your family’s ability to cooperate with Overcooked where your group of chefs must work together to save the world from a ravenous beast. First, however, you must train in an increasingly complex set of kitchens. Deal with cooking on top of two trucks, on a sailing ship, and in the middle of a busy crosswalk. Overcooked supports up to four players in both cooperative and competitive modes.

Overcooked is available for Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Human Fall Flat

Summer Gaming List 6: Human Fall Flat from No Brakes Games

No Brakes Games

Human Fall Flat challenges you to take control of the most awkward, clumsy humanoid creature there is and solve physics-based puzzles with nothing but your genius and a bit of nonsense. While Human Fall Flat only supports two players locally, it’s easy to pass the controllers back and forth if your family expands beyond that. The game offers a lot of fun and a lot of laughs as you try desperately to clear challenges in the most awkward way possible.

Human Fall Flat is available on Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.

Dig-It! Games’ Gaming Catalogue

Summer Gaming List 7: Dig-It! Games

Of course, we have our own catalog of games! While our focus has always been on education, we’ve been applying those experiences to puzzle games recently. For fans of match 3, there’s not a better fit than Silk Road! Head on down the famous trade route with Matthias, the friendly but sassy camel who serves as your companion. Also, coming this year is Roterra, our map traversal game where players take on the role of Angelica. Help guide Angelica home through the twisting, turning world of Roterra. Both of these games will challenge your mind in different ways.

If you’d like to beta test for Roterra or just stay up-to-date on the development, make sure to sign up for updates on the game page.

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Filament Games also has their own reading and gaming list for the summer with even more recommendations, once you get through these.


Roman Town 2 Updates the Classic Social Studies Game

Return to Pompeii in Roman Town 2!

Roman Town 2- a history game for kids and students

Dig-It! Games announces the return of its highly-acclaimed, debut product Roman Town in the form of Roman Town 2. This modern, revitalized version of the award-winning social studies game keeps all the charm of the original while featuring updated graphics and gameplay. While it is only currently available for iOS and HTML5, Roman Town 2 also comes to Android soon.

Join Team Q on their quest to stop the devious Ladrone from stealing the artifacts of Pompeii. In the game, play as the precocious duo Fiona and Charlie to gather information and solve puzzles that will lead them to the master thief. In order to defeat her, They will need to learn all they can about life in ancient Rome.

Interactive History

Roman Town 2 history game- stop the thief Ladrone!

Roman Town 2 makes history come alive for students. With its basis in accurate and detailed historical information, the game encourages players to become immersed in Roman culture. However, the challenging puzzles also keep students entertained. Through conversations with characters in several locations around Pompeii, players learn all about the Roman Empire.  

In order to reach the end of the game, players take on the role of both members of Team Q. Both team members tackle their own unique mini-games. Adventurous and fearless, Fiona always hurries on to the next challenge. Her favorite hobbies include catching looters and beating them at their own game. Therefore, it’s no wonder that the games Fiona plays are timed—she’s impatient and ready for what’s coming next. On the other hand, Charlie is thoughtful and meticulous. He likes to take his time and think things through. When playing as Charlie, you need to beat puzzle- and logic-based games. By playing both, students challenge their strategic thinking, spatial reasoning, memory, logic, mathematics, and more.

Critical Acclaim and Standards Alignment

Roman Town 2 features a lot of history games based on real Roman games

The original Roman Town released in 2010 on CD-ROM and then in 2015 for iOS. It was met with wide critical praise and several awards from prominent sources in educational technology. Among many honors, Roman Town won the 2010 Creative Child Magazine’s Game of the Year, a 2015 Silver Award from the National Parenting Publication Awards, and an On for Learning Award from Common Sense Media. 

“Roman Town does a fantastic job of presenting world history in a fun and entertaining context for kids,” said Christopher Healy on Common Sense Media. “Part simulation game, part puzzle game, part mystery — and with a great variety of mini-game material thrown in — this is an educational game that shouldn’t bore kids for even a second.” 

Roman Town 2’s completely authentic content aligns to several standards. Among these standards, the game meets the National Council for the Social Studies Curriculum Standards, World History Standards, and Common Core State Standards for Language Arts and Mathematics. For educators planning a unit on Romans, this game is perfect for students. It can be played through in just a few hours- perfect for homework, an in-class activity, or a combination of the two!

Read the full press release on PRWeb.

Download from our website here.

Get it from the App Store here.

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Stop Summer Learning Loss…While Having Fun!

As the school year rolls into the summer, we are all looking forward to warm weather and vacations. However, just because school is out doesn’t mean learning should come to a stop. Without any sort of academic practice, kids can experience summer learning loss which puts them at a disadvantage when the school year starts again. To combat this summer learning loss, fun activities, games, and events centered around learning are hugely necessary. On this post, we feature several ways to keep kids thinking hard during the long summer months.

Summer Learning Activities

summertime learning to stop summer learning loss

Summer learning doesn’t necessarily need to be traditional classroom learning. Activities that kids might not have had time for during the year can keep their minds active while providing something fun and different. Teach kids how to cook or set them to learning new arts and crafts that keep them creative.

Bringing them outside for science experiments or adventures can keep them active and soaking up the good weather while learning. After a good day outside, make your own ice cream to cool down or chill out in the AC for some reading time.

Essentially, it’s not neccesary to concoct whole lesson plans to stop summer learning loss. Simply make sure that activities get planned and resources are available to keep kids’ minds working and thinking creatively. For a full list of suggestions, We Are Teachers and Education World have specific resources for families in the summer. All of these are easy plans for a weekend excursion depending on parents’ work schedules.

Educational Shows & Videos

educational shows and programs can help stop summer learning loss

One of the benefits of modern technology is the sheer amount of educational programming you can find out there. However, not every source teaches effectively or impartially. Finding the right sources can be hard, especially if you rely on streaming services. We recommend a few unconventional services for various ages below. 

CrashCourse offers a literal “crash course” on almost every topic you could imagine. It began with a focus on history but expanded into science, literature, and more. The lessons are presented in comic form with cute figures and animations providing context for the actual facts being presented.

Khan Academy is a pretty well-known resource now, but it is still worth mentioning. The free service has everything you could possibly need, taught by experts in the field. It even includes test prep for students who want to start getting ready for SAT and other big tests over the summer.

As we’re a game company, we have a fondness for Extra Credits, a channel that not only covers topics in game design but also in history and science fiction. Like CrashCourse, they offer their lessons in animated form, but their videos focus on more specific topics rather than providing wider overviews. For kids who are fond of games, their main Extra Credits series offers a great way to learn about the industry and the inner workings of their favorite games. Speaking of which, games themselves offer ways to learn during the summer!

Game-Based Learning

Our educational games work well in classrooms, but they also can be used to keep learning going outside of it. Not only are educational games fun, they sneak learning in almost before you can realize it. Excavate! offers a fun way to delve into ancient cultures while ExoTrex literally rockets you into the future of space. 

Our games aren’t the only educational games out there and a quick web search will open up a whole host of games for kids of different ages to play. From TeacherGaming (whose Odyssey game we reviewed) to iCivics, our fellow game-based learning companies offer great products for combating summer learning loss.

Learn More About Summer Learning Loss

combat summer learning loss

The organization Summer Learning dedicates itself to combating summer learning loss in communities across America. Their website includes information on why summer learning matters and how summer learning loss can be harmful. For a summary of what exactly summer learning loss can entail, check out the statistics from Oxford Learning.

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Educational Escape Rooms: Benefits, Examples, & More!

What is an Escape Room?

It’s pretty likely that you’ve at least heard of escape rooms. Companies that run escape room puzzles have begun to crop up everywhere across the country. Nowadays, nearly 2,000 escape rooms exist, compared to twenty-two at the end of 2014, according to Room Escape Artist. Generally, these puzzles limit themselves within physical spaces where players must work together to escape from the locked enclosure. Players find pieces, move contraptions, solve riddles and more to make it out.

However, all the fancy mechanisms simply make up the aesthetic flair. Actually, creating an escape room or escape room-style puzzle is easy. All you need is something to unlock and some puzzles that players must solve that will help them unlock that something. While it may not end up as fancy, anyone can make an escape room around any topic. Including teachers! And including you!

Educational Escape Room Benefits

educational escape rooms are great in classrooms

Escape rooms teach valuable life skills that are highly applicable to education. A student needs to practice teamwork, time management, problem solving, focus under pressure, and respect. Escape rooms encourage all these valuable traits. Additionally, the puzzles that make up an escape room can be created around a theme which correlates to the class it’s presented in.

Of course, the implementation itself proves challenging sometimes as teachers must grapple with standards, classroom size, and class period length. Yet, there are a number of ways to combat this through using boxes instead of the room itself or using pre-made escape rooms from educational escape room companies.

“The concept of meaningful gamification is not to provide external rewards, but rather to help participants find a deeper connection to the underlying topic,” writes Scott Nicholson, a professor of game design and development at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada. Escape rooms provide motivation and give students a reason to try and understand and connect with the material.

Find Resources for Your Classroom

For making your own escape room, try out this advice from Classcraft. It has tips about how to use the physical space, how to make puzzles, how to order puzzles and more. Some subjects are harder to design than others since math has a lot of opportunities for puzzles and social studies less. However, it is possible to design for any subject.

Many companies also offer pre-made escape rooms that can be easily implemented into classrooms. Breakout EDU (which we talked about on a blog post before) is a great resource for finding games that can be brought to any subject, complete with provided locks and boxes for students to work with. The Escape Classroom is another option (they also have a mystery-style workshop!) and Lock Paper Scissors has simpler printable guides to use for easier set-up.

Educational Games Are Great Too!

Escape the room or catch a thief

Our educational games were designed with C3 standards in mind for math, social studies, and STEM classes. While not as physical as escape rooms, bringing game-based learning in to the classroom is also a great way to give students motivation and engage them with learning. Our upcoming game Roman Town 2 casts the player as Team Q. They collect clues and solve puzzles to track down a thief rather than escape. However, the concept of solving problems remains the same!

If you’d rather get something for yourself, make sure to keep an eye on Roterra, our upcoming map-traversal puzzle game. Roterra will challenge your own mind and keep your brain working. Follow along with its development by signing up to be a beta tester on the game by going to the game page.

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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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