Articles Tagged with: student learning
Personalizing Learning with the Excavate! Series of Games

We are back this week with another blog post from a great educator, Samantha McClusky. She is a Special Education teacher in Searcy, Arkansas. Below, she describes how she uses video games to promote personalized learning in her classroom.


The Magic of Interactive Lesson Plans

Teacher uses Excavate! social studies games with special education students

I teach in a self contained special education classroom, for students with behavior and social issues. Students are grades 7-12, with varying levels of academic achievement. I always look for new ways to teach my students, that meet their diverse needs. I love finding interactive materials to use through the use of my Smart projector and computer.

Dig-It! Games has had many interactive learning games that we have used with great success. Just a couple of years ago I utilized the Mayan Mysteries game in my classroom. I use the game from one computer and project it using the Smart Projector. Students gather around the board and get up and take turns during the game, answering questions, discussing scenarios, and reading instructions. They take turns to complete sections of the game and work together as a group to solve puzzles and answer questions.

As I teach students with varying levels of academic achievement, participating in these interactive learning experiences really helps them achieve with a whole group effort and the individual input helps them have pride in the groups successes!

Using Video Games in Special Education

Teacher uses Excavate! social studies games in special education classroom

The Excavate! games are just great! My students take it in turns to excavate with the tools, read the instructions and questions aloud, answer questions, discuss ideas, and complete the journaling. They are learning so much, and ASK for me to teach them MORE! We continue the learning by connecting the Excavate! game to unit lessons based on the same country, time period, and culture. As a class we have explored Ancient Rome for example, continuing our discovery through reading of texts, watching documentary based film, looking at math and science connections, and discovering the world through geography and history.

The Dig-It! games are like a springboard that students stand on and then leap from to WANTING to discover MORE. Learning through the game based format really connects learners of the 21st century to education, and helps them discover things that they may not have been interested in by just reading a text, or writing a research paper! It brings the learning to their level and excites them to take the learning even further.


Want to Learn More About Our Educational Video Games?

If you want to find out how to use our educational video games in your classroom, feel free to reach out! We believe that the engagement and excitement that video games bring to education can open the eyes of even the most reluctant learner. Find our library of games here. Our Excavate! series consists of Rome, Egypt, MesoAmerica, Greece, Mesopotamia, and Byzantium (coming soon). Also check out our other blogs about interactive lesson plans for ancient civilizations.  Email our Education Team if you have any questions!

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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

Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week

Computer Science Education Week was December 4-10 this year. This annual celebration focuses on the importance and promotion of computer science classes in US schools. According to their website, csedweek.org, there are over 400,000 computing jobs available in the country right now and only 42,969 computer science students graduated into the workforce.

Working at a video game studio can definitely make one see the importance of this subject and the wide-ranging effects it has on daily life. Our office ranges in background from computer science majors to philosophy and education majors. Even with this range, computer science makes an impact on all of us.

Here’s what some of our team members had to say:

“Computer science helps me think logically, in life as well as at work. Because a computer only does exactly what it’s told, computer programmers must be very precise in their language, syntax, and style. This analytical mindset is beneficial for a number of real-world skills, including verbal and written communications, long-term planning, and problem-solving. Computer science is powerful because it’s given me the tools to succeed in many aspects of life.” – Reuben, Junior Developer

“Computer science allows me to create anything in the world I want … artistically… imagine that.” – Mikel, Senior 3D Artist

“In the dark pre-Internet days, I fell in love with programming in early high school after finding a book on how to program real time computer graphics on my family’s primitive computer, and went on to earn a BS in Computer Science in college.  Computer Science is a very detail oriented discipline where you create computer programs to instruct the computer on how to improve a complex system or how to efficiently solve a complex problem.  For me, Computer Science is fun because every day I get to create complex systems, solve abstract problems, and design engaging experiences for players in games.  Also, I really enjoy being a part of a team with other talented programmers, designers, artists, and educators that all strive to make really engaging games for our players.” – Jesse, Senior Developer

“Both of my parents were computer science majors and imparted the interest in technology and education on me. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. ” – Elisa, Education Team

Promotion of Computer Science

In an effort to promote computer science, Dig-iT! Games often hosts field trips from student groups who want to see what we do every day. These experiences can really open the eyes of students who think that a career in computer science is boring or out of reach. If you are a teacher and are interested in a field trip (either in-person or virtual) please don’t hesitate to reach out. Check out our about page for more information about what we do and our mission-based philosophy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


More Than They Bargained For…Reflections From Our Summer Interns

“Back to School” signs in stores around town are one indication that the summer is fast coming to an end, but another signal of the changing of the seasons is that we have to say goodbye to our amazing summer interns!

As a mission-based game studio, we not only make games for educational purposes but we also see the process of game design as an educational endeavor.  This summer Matt, honed is coding skills while working with the development team and Haley did a tremendous amount of research while working with the education team.

Here is a recap of their experiences in their own words:

My name is Matt Schneider, and I will be a senior at St John’s College High School in DC in just a couple weeks.  Since I am interested in going into the Computer Science field I decided to look for an internship that would get my foot in the door.  I was a beta tester for Dig-It! Games this past year so I applied for an internship here to get more coding experience.

 

Going into my internship at Dig-it Games, I expected to be helping out in some projects or other small things. I did not expect the amount of responsibility and work that I have had, but I have enjoyed it a lot. I learned a lot about both the developing aspect and the team aspect of game design. I learned about programs, such as Git with Source Tree and Text Mesh Pro, and improved my coding ability within Unity.  My project was to reskin and improve an existing match 3 game. I had to work with the project’s previous code, while also writing new code.  I designed the game with another developer, Reuben, and together we brainstormed new ideas to include in the game.  I also experienced what it is like to be making a game with a team: having meetings about the game, feedback from testers, and a professional and dedicated art team.  I had to create art lists, implement all the new art, and give feedback on it.  My favorite part of my time at Dig-it games was seeing the positive feedback and the excitement from others about the game I created.  I really enjoyed my summer at Dig-it games and am thankful for this opportunity.

 

 

My name is Haley, and I am a rising junior at George Washington University, majoring in Archaeology. I have been working at Dig-It! Games for over a year but this summer I have been working in the office, rather than solely from my computer back at campus. Working in-house has been a great experience that I wish lasted longer than a three-month summer. Dig-It! Games is an exciting workplace that thrives on collaboration and I like being a member of that dynamic. There are three main departments: development, art, and education. I work within the education department.

 

As an intern in the education department, I mainly research the games we are creating, such as Mesopotamia or Egypt. The type of research I do ranges from finding what is being taught in schools to actually looking through different museum databases to find artifacts. Finding artifacts is one of my favorite parts of the job; it is like a big treasure hunt. I am usually given a list of ideas or parameters that we want the list of artifacts to fulfill, but the tricky part is that we don’t know what specifically is out there. There have been many times where I have as many as 12 tabs open all with different types of clay figures trying to find the right one. I probably have looked at hundreds of various artifacts over the summer!

 

 


My Student Blew Me Away!

Developing games to support our mission of bringing the benefits of game based learning to the classroom is often a challenge.  What should be the next game we create?  How do we balance education with fun? How do we help teachers get the professional development they need to use games in the classroom effectively?  The encouragement we get from our users, reviewers and testers give us constant reasons to face these challenges, but it is the personal success stories that remind us why we do what we do.

This article is about Lisa Lewis, an education consultant that only recently decided to explore game-based learning.  She chose our top selling game, Mayan Mysteries™, to use with one of her students.  Mayan Mysteries has been recognized by reviewers as a best-in-class educational product, including a run as the #1 featured product for ages 9-11 on the Apple App store.  Here, Lisa shares how the experience of using Mayan Mysteries was not only eye opening for her, but also such a rewarding way of learning for her student.  If you ever thought the value of game-based learning in the classroom was a myth; this story might make you realize it is time to explore.

From: Lisa Lewis – Education Consultant

To: Dig-It! Games

A student I tutor, who is currently a 5th grader reading on a 3rd grade reading level, and is riddled with all types of learning challenges, showed me a thing or two the other day.  I thought I would try something different with him and I introduced him to Mayan Mysteries on my laptop.  Thinking to myself, there is no way that this student will be able to read, let alone comprehend the detailed information, I was hesitant to give it a try.  But I also thought how would I know if I didn’t give it a try.  The main question in my head was “How is he going to be able to maneuver his way through unfamiliar territory?”  I certainly was not going to be any help, because this was so far from my own comfort zone.

As the student logged into Mayan Mysteries, I could tell he was intrigued by the graphics.  His face lit up, as it has never done with me before.  He is so accustomed to our structured lessons each week.  We practice old and new vocabulary words, we read a text together and talk about it, and then we write using a prompt and a graphic organizer.  I didn’t scaffold anything for the student about Mayan Mysteries.  I merely said, “see what you can do”.

As he entered the Mayan civilization, he clicked through a few things to get to the actual listening and game part.  He listened intently to the voice as it read the very complicated text to him.  He watched with bated breath and totally disregarded anything I said to him.  I was merely giving him encouraging thoughts as he continued to listen.  Once the reading section was completed, the student proceeded to click on things and move them around on the screen according to the directions he was given.  Once he had everything in the places he believed they should be, he clicked something and the words “You Were Successful” came up on the screen.

 

ArtifactID1

He continued on for another two parts of the game and was once again successful with both parts.  I stopped him for a moment to say congratulations.  I also asked him how he knew what to do.  He couldn’t really tell me how he knew what to do.  I was assuming it was merely instinctive for him to know what to do.  I told him I was proud of him for maneuvering his way through the three parts that he had gone through.  I told him I knew it wasn’t easy, but that he did a great job.

DigginPuzzleartifactfound

I asked him what he thought of the game.  He said it was different than most of the games he had played.  I also asked him if he learned anything.  He said yes, but had a difficult time elaborating about what he had learned.  This is pretty typical of this student.  He usually gives one or two word answers and has a very slow processing time, as well as a severe memory issue.  He cannot recall for me what he has done earlier in the day at school, unless it is related to his Chrome book or what he has done during recess.

I consider this to be a big Aha moment for me and for the student.  He realized that he could accomplish something new and different.   He also realized that video games could be both educational and fun.   I learned that after all these years working in large groups, small groups and individually with children, that kids can still blow me away with what they can do when it comes to technology.  Just another teachable moment for me!


Learn more about game-based learning from our FETC 2016 workshop slides


3 Cheers for STEM Night!

You’ve probably heard the acronym STEM used more and more lately in relation to education. You probably also know that it stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. But what do those subject areas really mean for education? Why are they important? How do they help kids learn and grow, in and out of the classroom?

 

A few years ago, Education Week published an article online stating that “STEM is more than just a grouping of subject areas. It is a movement to develop the deep mathematical and scientific underpinnings students need to be competitive in the 21st-century workforce.” That’s also what President Obama said in 2010 when he set a clear goal for STEM education: motivate and inspire American students to excel in STEM subjects so that within the next decade, they will no longer be in the middle of the pack for STEM achievement but leaders of a competitive global community.

 

“This movement goes far beyond preparing students for specific jobs,” the Education Week article goes on to say. “STEM develops a set of thinking, reasoning, teamwork, investigative, and creative skills that students can use in all areas of their lives.”

 

A school STEM Night is a great way to include families, educators, and the community in supporting students’ ability to do just that. On Tuesday, March 22nd, Bethesda Elementary students in grades K-5 get a chance to display their STEM projects at the annual STEM Night celebration. With the help of teachers and parents, students chose topics they were interested in learning more about. They applied the scientific method to a hands-on investigation that produced results. They worked individually and in teams to build creative displays that will communicate their discoveries to the STEM night audience.

 

STEM education is close to our hearts at Dig-It Games. We’re a company that uses technology to produce video games that teach and support these vital subjects. We are deeply invested in the national dialog on STEM, and we believe in the power of game-based learning to promote STEM education in schools and new and fun ways.

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We loved being a part of Bethesda Elementary’s STEM night last year. Dig-It staff members Dayle and Steve ran our exhibit table as well as checking out and admiring students’ STEM-related projects and getting a chance to interact with parents, educators, and especially kids. Their favorite part of the night was seeing how excited students were to play, and meeting parents who were just as excited as the kids! Some kids ditched their parents for the games right away, some kids didn’t want to let go of the games, and some kids competed with their parents! In fact, there was so much interest that we ran out of devices for visitors to play on.

 

This year, we’re honored to be invited back again, along with C3 Cyber Club, KID Museum, Under the Sea‘s mobile aquarium, and Montgomery County Public Library. We’re bringing more devices and more DIG folks. We will also be exhibiting some of our unreleased titles before they are seen by the general public. Students can comment and give feedback on a game-in-progress, which is known in the industry as beta testing, an essential part of product development. This little bit of behind-the-scenes insight fits right in with the STEM movement’s goal of motivating kids to pursue intellectual curiosity, and equipping them for hands-on, innovative problem-solving.

DIG_Bethesda-Elementary_Science-Fair

“We love events like this where we interact with our end users,” says Dig-It Games president Suzi Wilczynski. “Being around students, parents, and teachers helps us to make sure that our games are meeting the needs of those whose opinions we trust and follow. It also supports our belief that game-based learning enriches education by encouraging critical thinking, independent learning, and the joy of intellectual discovery. Bethesda Elementary’s STEM Night is an event we look forward to attending.”

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“We’re thrilled that Dig-It Games has again partnered with us,” says Kenneth Tercyak, a co-organizer of the event. “Bethesda Elementary students enjoy learning about computer science and its application to game design. It’s a great way to help build their interest in STEM and STEM careers.”

 

Follow STEM Night as it happens at https://twitter.com/bethesda_es.


Creative & Talented: Meet Nicolas Baker, Winner of the Roman Town Video Trailer Contest

Last month, the Roman Town™ Video Trailer Contest came to an end when the talented and innovative Nicolas Baker was chosen as Dig-It! Games’ winner. Since then, he’s visited the studio and hung out with the Dig-It! Games team, received the prize of an iPad, and downloaded it with all of Dig-It! Games’ apps. We spoke with Nicolas, 14, about his creative process and what he loves about our games.

Nicolas Baker Win

How did you develop your entry for the Roman Town Video Trailer Contest?

I started to brainstorm story ideas. At first, I had this idea for a spy mission, in which spies are trying to steal the iPad with the game on it. Then I realized that the storyline took too much time, so I decided to focus on screenshots of the game.

I used Final Cut Pro at school in the media lab. The contest was announced after final exams were over, so I spent class time working on the project, as well as after school. I did ask my media teacher for any additional editing software for the iPad, but the iMovie app did not give me as much freedom as I wanted.

I used screenshots of the game itself mixed with A-Roll of my sister and dad playing Roman Town. I wanted to give the audience a clear indication of who was playing the game, so I used an above the shoulder shot with my sister to show it was a young child and which game was being played. Then with my dad, I wanted them to know it was an adult—but they already knew the game, so I could just show him without the iPad screen.

Nicolas Baker Win 2

How much time did it take you to finish the project?

Working one day each week, it took me about a month to complete.

Do you want to be a filmmaker when you grow up?

I’ve spent three years of my middle school experience learning about media production and video editing, but I’m really interested in animation and art. I’d like to be an animator for Disney. After I did this project, it got me more interested in video editing and I’d like to take those skills, along with web and graphic design, to start a freelancing business.

What made you want to enter the contest?

I got the e-mail announcing the contest. I’ve known about Dig-It! Games for a while. I like their apps—they’re cool and fun. I realized I had plenty of experience to make a great trailer; it gave me the chance to take my learning experience and put it into a professional game trailer.

How did you feel when you won?

I was at the pool when I found out. I was checking to see if my parents were in touch, saw the subject line of the e-mail which said Congratulations, and I was really excited. I wasn’t sure if I’d gotten first place or second place at the time, but then I read through the entire e-mail and was ecstatic.

How did your parents react?

I called them and my mom first thought I was joking, but then I read through the whole e-mail with them. They’re proud of me.

What’s your favorite mini-game in Roman Town?

My favorite subject at school is math, so I like the translate Roman Numerals game.

Nicolas Baker Win 3

Would you be interested in becoming an artist at Dig-It! Games someday?

I really like the studio. Winning was the third time I’ve been there. I was able to talk to the artists and game designers, and they got to show me some of their animation software. I’d like to intern at Dig-It! Games or work part-time when I get older.


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