Articles Tagged with: k-12

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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Game Reviews are Pouring In For Excavate

Students deliver their game reviews on Excavate! Greece and confirm that game based learning belongs in the classroom.

One of the great things about working at Dig-iT! Games is that we hear from some of the toughest customers: students! As teachers incorporate our Excavate! games into their classes, we have been hearing some insightful and encouraging feedback from their charges. Recently, we received some game reviews from a group of energetic sixth graders in Maryland, after they played Excavate! Greece. When their teachers asked if they should incorporate the game into their classes in the future, the students were highly enthusiastic.

Games in the Classroom are Fun!

“I think you should use it in the future because it was fun for me, so I think that it would be fun for other students too. Also you get to learn a lot, and you are having fun while you’re learning so overall it makes the class really fun.”

 “Fun” is definitely a core component of the game and also very important to this student!

In addition, many other students echoed that Excavate! Greece was not only fun but also somehow different from other learning games…

…You can interact, it’s not boring as other learning games, and it teaches you by doing something fun.

…it is fun learning and not boring. It is not just one part, so you’re not bored. You can learn a lot in a short period.

…I think students would be more eager to learn if they think that they get to do something fun.

Based on these game reviews, it looks like there may have been an underlying expectation that educational video games were boring to play.  We are glad to see that Excavate! Greece breaks that mold, but let’s dig a little deeper to find out what is making this game so fun for students…

“...it is a fun game, you learn about Greece, and you get to participate in the digging of the artifacts.”
“…it was very entertaining. It didn't bore me, in fact I played it multiple times, it was exciting digging up old artifacts and finally, I wasn't just using one tool you had to use multiple tools.”
“...the activities were fun to play and pretend like we were there...the digging activity was fun and interesting to pretend like we actually were digging up the artifacts...they have you act like your digging up artifacts and writing down facts like some people have as a real job.”

It looks like the digging mechanic in Excavate! is a hit!

Learning through Games

Some learning video games are really fun, but educators must evaluate if they meet standards and facilitate valuable learning experiences.  Our Excavate! games are packed with rich curriculum-aligned content. Student performance outcomes are aligned to the C3 Framework of Social Studies State Standards.  However, the real question to ask is whether students recognize they are learning while playing…

…it teaches us about ancient artifacts, it teaches us about how the cultures lived, and it teaches us what they had in their time.

…you learn about ancient artifacts and how [people] used to live.

…it is a really fun way of learning about ancient objects.

But take heed, students will have to do some work in the game to get the biggest benefit.  Take advice from this experienced player.

“You should continue to use this game in the future because it is educational, but you need to make sure that the kids read everything in the analysis questions and the journal. Another reason you should continue is because it teaches kids how to examine artifacts, and lastly what things went on in Greece.

Teachers are always reminding students to read directions and informational text, but it is heartening to see that this student recognized that it was crucial for success in playing Excavate! Greece.

We hope you will take a moment to play Excavate! Greece now and in the future after reading these Excavate! reviews.  But don’t take our word! We think the following student summed it up succinctly when asked whether the game should be incorporated into the class again:

“Yes because the future classes will love it. It’s fun to play. It’s cool!

Try Excavate! Greece for Yourself!

Get the Game


Uncovering Ancient Rome: Did You Know?

Ancient Rome has fascinated and intrigued people for centuries. It’s easy to understand why: tyrannical leaders, wars, gladiators, and the rise of a vast empire. Hollywood has helped to fuel this fascination with interpretations of stories and people from this time period. However, many times movies and TV shows stretch the truth a bit to make things even more interesting. Here are a few great facts you can bet on to be true:

An artifact featured in Excavate! RomeGladiator Recovery Shake

Gladiators might have had a special “recovery” drink. According to this article from NPR, the bones of gladiators were found to have a higher level of calcium. While the cause isn’t totally known, Pliny the Elder was quoted as writing, “Your hearth should be your medicine chest. Drink lye made from its ashes, and you will be cured. One can see how gladiators after a combat are helped by drinking this.” Many believe that the ashes of charred plants were mixed into a drink that helped to boost their calcium to build stronger bones.

An artifact used in Ancient RomeBaths Are for More than Bathing

The baths were for more than just bathing. Public bath houses were a large part of ancient Roman daily life. Romans would progress through a ritual of dipping in pools of differing temperatures. In place of soap, they (or their slaves) would rub oil on their bodies and scrape the dirt away with a tool called a strigil. Other than a way to get clean, the baths offered an opportunity for people to network with each other and relax. This article from LiveScience discusses some of the items found in the drains of Roman Baths. Jewelry, plates and cups, animal bones, and even scalpels have been recovered showing evidence of more than just bathing.

An example of a jug used in Ancient RomeSecond Floor with a View

Who doesn’t love a penthouse view? In modern apartment buildings, the higher the floor you live, the more expensive it becomes. The top floor is supposed to have the best view and the largest space. Take this idea and flip it around when it comes to Roman apartments. These buildings, called Insulae, were built quickly and cheaply to house the ever-growing population of Rome. Though most contained only five levels, some reached up to nine. The fear of collapse and fire was real since it happened often. The top floors were usually the most cramped and did not have running water!

An example of a birdcage from RomeFor the Birds

Wealthy Romans lived in individual houses called Domus. One interesting aspect of daily life of wealthy Romans was that they had pets! Dogs were very popular with Romans. The Greyhound and Maltese were two very popular breeds. Birds were also prized – many Romans domesticated nightingales, magpies, and ravens because they could be taught to speak.  However, many exotic species were imported such as peacocks and parrots and kept is beautifully decorated cages.

 

These facts can all be discovered in Dig-iT! Games’ new Excavate! Rome game, along with many more that reveal the complexities of Roman society. Players take on the role of archaeologist and choose which location to dig in (the Colosseum, Baths, Domus, or Insula). At each site, they will uncover and analyze precious artifacts that tell the interesting and intriguing story of ancient Rome. In addition, we have our Excavate! Card Game for ancient Rome that allows students to put their knowledge of ancient Rome to the test. What facts do your students love to learn about the Romans?

A promotional image for Excavate! Rome

 

 

 


Experience Mesopotamia, Don’t Just Teach It!

Students often ask when they will use what they are learning in school or how a topic actually relates to their own lives.  This can be particularly challenging while teaching about the daily life of Mesopotamia over 5,000 years ago.

An image of a chariot, technology invented in Mesopotamia

We usually start with the contributions of the Sumerians, Assyrians and Babylonians.  They were amazing civilizations since they developed agriculture, invented the wheel, created city-states, organized militaries and laid down the law in the form of Hammurabi’s code.  We can even refer to top 10 lists of inventions that show that these civilizations were great and that they built the foundations of our modern life.  While it is obvious that we owe a debt of gratitude to their inventiveness, we still need to approach teaching these civilizations in a way that engages the modern student.

One approach is to focus on lesser-known aspects of these civilizations like the History Channel’s list of “9 Things You May Not Know About the Ancient Sumerians.”  You can impress students by highlighting that women were rulers, their cities were the size of modern cities and that they loved beer. However, in the end it may still feel like another list of irrelevant facts.

Another approach is to change how the information is taught.  Crash Course has created a great library of quick and informative YouTube videos. These can be used as a great preview at the start of a unit.  Their Mesopotamia video astutely proclaims that “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world monocular.”  You may grab student’s attention with pithy animation videos, but you may want to utilize interactive digital experiences too.

A stone image of Hammurabi, a king in MesopotamiaAlthough the selection of online interactives about Mesopotamia is not very robust, there is a variety in the types of experiences to be had.   There are basic interactives that essentially bring to life maps from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s textbooks.   There are also interactives that put students in the decision maker’s position like Philip Martin’s interactive Hammurabi’s code. In this interactive, students have to choose the appropriate punishment based on the codes.    The British Museum has an extensive interactive Mesopotamia site in which students can explore the geography, religion and technology of Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer.  Finally, students can also try their hand at playing the ancient game of Ur.

As you can see, there are many resources to engage your students online. However, all of these are missing a core component which is key to engaging students deeply.  Our understanding of history is always evolving based on new archaeological findings and the development of new scientific tools.  Why not engage your students in the process of discovering and debating what actually happened?

An image from Dig-iT Games' Excavate! Mesopotamia

History is discovery.  Here at Dig-iT! Games, we are committed to the discovery of history through archaeology.  We have just released Excavate! Mesopotamiaan interactive video game which provides a different way to look at Mesopotamian civilizations. The game challenges students to excavate artifacts, analyze them and then synthesize what they have learned. Students must closely examine artifacts and discover the purpose and significance of each one. This leads to a deeper understanding of the daily life in ancient Babylonia, Assyria and Sumer.

History is contested.  For example, new technologies have afforded insight into the possible role that shepherds played in trade in Mesopotamia. Previously, historians believed that nomadic shepherds were instrumental in facilitating international trade. They would travel widely in search of greener pastures for their sheep and goats.  But, new technologies have afforded new findings that are sparking controversy.  It’s possible shepherds actually stayed closer to cities to supply milk and fur and were out of the trade networks.  This article from Science Magazine highlights the debate. This is a great way to share with students the process of discovering history and the necessity of being critical of sources and processes used to reach conclusions.  Encourage critical thinking skills over the belief that history is a closed case!

We hope you find these resources helpful in engaging your students in the study, exploration and intellectual discussion concerning Mesopotamia.


Guide to Holiday Gifts for Teachers

Gifts for the holidaysAsk a teacher what gifts they want for Christmas and they might smile and say any of the following:

  • A snow day
  • Longer prep period
  • To use the restroom whenever they want
  • To reach that one student that needs help

Obviously, none of these options can be bought or wrapped, so let’s discuss some viable options to show your appreciation for someone who does so much for your child.

Gift Options

  1. Water bottles are useful gifts for teachersGift Cards – I know a lot of people don’t like to give gift cards because it seems a little impersonal. However, gift cards to coffee shops, Target, or Amazon can be used to buy supplies for the classroom (or for themselves).
  2. Reusable water bottles or travel coffee mugs – Nice water bottles and travel mugs can get pricey very quickly. Find ones that are insulated and don’t leak so they can throw it in their bag without fear of soaking students’ papers!
  3. A Donation – Many teachers are turning to crowd-sourcing websites to fund projects and supplies. Check out donorschoose.org, adoptaclassroom.org, or classwish.org.
  4. A personal gift – It’s great to get to know the teacher and their interests. I once received a knot blanket from a student that had my university’s logo on it. It’s one of my favorite gifts to this day.

The holidays can be tough.

Parents have enough to stress about over the holidays and this shouldn’t add to it! Teachers sincerely appreciate any gesture no matter how big or small. If your budget or time doesn’t allow for a gift, IT’S OK! A nicely worded note or email is enough. Not to mention, those notes of thanks are great year-round!

There can also be a big difference between elementary teachers and high school teachers. It’s much easier when your child only has one teacher versus 7 or 8. Don’t feel pressured to buy a gift for EVERY teacher, but do try to be discreet about giving the gifts out.

The perfect gift for the history teacher!

The Excavate! Card Game could be your gifts for teachersHave a history teacher to buy for? Or have a child that loves history? Check out our Excavate! Card Game. It’s a great way for students to make connections with ancient artifacts. Buy a few decks to make sure the entire class can enjoy! Check them out here!


The Women of Dig-It! Games Part 2

This is our second week of celebrating the women who work here at Dig-It! Games. We are enjoying this time to reflect and talk about the accomplishments of our coworkers. This week we have Melanie and Jes!

 

Melanie Stegman

The first thing you should know is I started learning to code in C# when I was 44 years old.  I learned some BASIC coding in high school, but our class spent weeks making a program that printed out a receipt like a cash register. I thought the whole process was stupid and boring. I knew that the Atari games I loved were created by programming, but programming is just memorization of a language written down by someone else. My 17-year-old self wanted to solve important, complicated problems. Real, important problems that required creative thinking were problems like: What causes cancer? What makes us feel stressed out? How does stress affect our immune system? Could we optimize our immune system to fight cancer better?  So I threw myself into biochemistry. I loved it. I worked every single day for 3 years, and then for the next 7 years I decided to always take at least ½ a day off every weekend.

Whenever I interacted with non-scientists, people always said the same two things to me: 1) You don’t look like a scientist and 2) I have no idea what you are talking about. The second statement bothered me more, because what I was talking about were things that effect everyone every single day: cells, receptors, molecules in our bodies. If no one understands what I am talking about, then no one knows what cold medicine, anti-depressants, or sugar does in their bodies. If no one understands what a typical biomedical scientist is doing in the lab, then no one understands that we really need more funding for biomedical research!  So, I decided the big complicated problem I would focus on would be teaching the average person how cells, receptors and molecules work. If everyone had this basic vocabulary then we could talk about health, the environment and funding for research much more clearly.

At the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) as the Director of the Learning Technologies Program, I conducted research on learning and confidence gains in players of the game Immune Attack. I published my research, designed and developed a follow up game called Immune Defense. Then the FAS decided not to work on learning games any longer. I chose to become an indie (independent) game developer because I wanted to focus on making games about cells and getting them onto people’s computers/devices.

So!  Age 44.  Starting a career as indie game developer, I learned repeatedly that game development is difficult and time consuming. I also learned (again) how difficult and time consuming writing grants can be. I started working at Dig-It Games in November 2016. Here at DIG we share similar goals: Make games that teach important concepts that people really enjoy playing. I enjoy it here very much. I am developing an RPG about dinosaurs and helping design playtesting sessions and analyze data about learning in our educational games.  My brain is challenged, my colleagues are a ton of fun, and I am learning new things every minute.

 

Everything I’ve done up to this point in my life allows me to be a valuable contributor to many different conversations in the studio. In my own time, I still work on my own molecular biology games; my work and personal goals synergize with each other. I continue to be a very happy “woman in tech.” And yeah, everyone still says I don’t look like a game developer, just like they used to say I didn’t look like a biochemist. Scientists and engineers on TV and movies still are usually men… the people doing the cool, meaningful things in stories are usually men. (Except for that fantastic Hidden Figures book/move!) The reason appearances matter is simple: tech and science (really anything you dedicate yourself to) will present a challenge sooner or later. Let me just tell you, it is a lot easier to ignore those voices of doubt when you have colleagues around you who treat you with respect. Find a place where people respect you, and don’t try to tough it out in an unfriendly environment. There are many places looking for people who enjoy solving problems, who help their colleagues face new problems. Wherever you are now you are gaining experiences that you can use in the future for solving new problems. Keep learning and keep looking for new jobs.

Just a thought, maybe we female tech people should wear shirts saying “This is what a game developer, graphic artist, QA expert, educational technical researcher, CEO looks like!”

 

Jes Mlyneic

After five years teaching, I sought out a new adventure and added working at Dig-It! Games to my resume, which allowed me to create educational games and help other teachers learn how to incorporate and use games in their classroom. By working at Dig-It! Games, I have had the honor of working with teachers on how to use games in their classroom and have presented at ETIS in Baltimore, Montpelier, and the National Conference for Social Studies. Most recently, I have been accepted to present at ISTE in June on Game-Based Learning. By play-testing Excavate, Loot Pursuit: Early America and ExoTrex: Episode 1 both in-house and at school sites in Maryland and Virginia, I have been able to build relationships with both elementary and middle schools teachers. In my game portfolio, I have worked on Loot Pursuit: Early America and ExoTrex: Episode 1 and 2. Today, I work as a second-grade teacher when I am not working on projects and curricular materials for Dig-It! Games. The world of education is always changing, and most recently, I have been accepted to begin my graduate certificate in Education Leadership from George Washington University!

 

 

 


Explore ExoPlanets With Dr. Oluseyi

Dr. Hakeem talks to students at Roosevelt High School“If you can see it, you can believe you can do it, then you will do it.” This was just one of the many pieces of advice from Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi to students at Roosevelt High School (part of DCPS) in Washington, D.C.. Many of the students had played our game, Exotrex, in class and were excited to find out that Dr. Hakeem is the voice of Dr. Burke from our game! Many of the DC Public Schools (DCPS) do a great job of promoting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers and Roosevelt HS is no different. We were so thrilled that both Dr. Hakeem and our DIG-IT! Games senior artist, Mikel Wellington, were able to speak to these eager students as part of Black History Month.

Dr. Hakeem talks to students at Roosevelt High School


Dr. Hakeem’s resume is long and impressive. He holds a Master’s Degree and PHD in Physics from Stanford. He is an astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor, educator, actor, and humanitarian. Currently he hosts
Outrageous Acts of Science on the Science Channel and is an Space Science Education Manager for NASA. By his list of accomplishments, it may seem that he has little in common with students from an urban school district, but nothing could be further from the truth.

 

Planetary Science Can Change Your Life


During two assemblies in the high school’s auditorium, Dr. Hakeem spoke about his tough upbringing moving around a lot with his single mother. He spoke to the DCPS students about dropping out of college because math was too hard and he didn’t think he could do it. When he finally decided to go back, he worked through every single calculus problem in the textbook to learn it. He emphasized setting goals and being persistent even thought other people may not believe in you. He discussed the stigmas involved in race and physical appearance and urged the students to look past what is expected of them to what they are truly passionate about. 

WormHoles, Time Travel, and Black Holes Can Lead to Career Goals

The teachers then chose a few students to have lunch with Dr. Hakeem and Mikel. One student walked in with a list of questions for the astrophysicist that included discussing wormholes, time travel, and black holes all of which Dr. Hakeem responded to enthusiastically. It was very inspiring to watch the students interact personally with both Dr. Hakeem and Mikel.

This is what Mikel had to say about the experience:

“What an experience to see the future of your craft reflected at you. That was the immediate personal reaction that I had attending Roosevelt HS this past Friday to speak to many of the young scholars there. One of the key aspects that we tried to focus on was the importance of setting goals and the follow through no matter what their passions are. It’s not only important to have a dream and to believe that it is obtainable with undeniable sincerity and drive, but to also move in that direction with the mentality that failure is impossible. One of the most important aspects of any type of artistic production is not just theory, but the actual act of doing that task. I spoke with a young man who had a passion for movies and wanted to get into film. The level of excitement that he had in his eyes and how he spoke to the things he wanted seemed to unlock with encouragement. For that young film maker, encouraging him to make films now with his camera on his phone, and free editing software in his free time was an avenue I don’t believe he had yet considered. This was enough to spark a level of focus and purpose that he hadn’t yet unlocked, and to me that was everything.

One of the things I realized when speaking to this wonderful group of kids was that they weren’t aware that even at this stage in their lives, they have the power to create right now. I’m very thankful for my time there and having the opportunity to share my life experiences with these young scholars. I can’t wait to see what they contribute to the world not only in our future tomorrow, but also today.”

Students at Roosevelt after hearing from Dr. Hakeem

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