Games? Has Education Got Games? Yes and No

Make a traditional teacher angy..say games and wait for the push back. Sometimes just to be tech savvy and interested can make you lose a friendship. I lost a friend of ten years like that. We traveled India together and met often. But we taught together and I found that she despised the use of technology. “Cut that OFF.!!” She had no ability to see the learning factor in games.

 If you want to get a dressing down in education, all you have to do is to talk about games, interactive media or any infographic.


ARE You Kidding Me?

Some people will look at you cross-eyed as if you have NO earthly idea about what goes on in a classroom. Some will hiss ” school time is too important for” games.”. I started using technology when MECC created games for education , and got to demonstrate and work on games. I also at that time was able to create games and to teach student simple game making. The power of taking the information to others in game format was good.In the early days of technology we could make our own games.

 Stopping Transformation

I used to work in a school where the assistant principal hated games so much that when the principal was away she would march to my room, confiscate the games I used in my learning landscape and I would have to wait until the “real‘ principal came back to get them.I learned to make copies of the game and to just endure the charade. My real principal liked my work( but you may know the politics of schools , she knew that I was being harassed by the lady, so we agreed on a strategy.

.Parents understood that I was creating a learning landscape. The kids who had to be in the afterschool program would thry to sneak back into the classroom where I was correcting papers to use the computers. Parents would send me supper and sometims come in and go through the games themselves. This was back in the day of simple games, like Lemonade Stand,  ( The Lemonade stand game that I used was devoid of commercials) in fact the web versions are often not the original games.

Odell Lake
Odell_Lake_(computer_game)Hot Dog StandHot Dog Stand – Serve up burgers, fries, drinks and of course hot dogs with ketchup and onions on top. Hot Dog Stand is a well made and fun restaurant game. This was early food chain, and ecology. There are much better games available now. We call them serious games.

We used some reading games and stories that I had from a publisher in New Zealand for reading instruction. The reading games are now a part of a cuirriculum that can be cloud based. We were on the right track.

Of course we did the turtle games and we learned turtle language.

I even got to work with my very favorite game through a number of iterations. It was Oregon Trail. Eacn new Oregon Trail got more and more complicated .. I loved the transitions, but most of all I loved creating learning around the game. The geography, the history of trails.

The recipes, the museum trips to look at the kinds of wagons that people traveled in and the posters and information about the various stops along the trail. It was an interesting way to weave in some new kinds of learning. Stack cake, learning not to shoot too many animals because they could not be carried. Researching the tribes that people met along the way.

First I used it with a whole class. Then I learned to borrow computers so the whole class could play and then we wrote grants to get more computers. Five computers worked well for the most part.

Margaret Spelling was not enamored of games. So the initiative within the Dept of Education died on her watch. Funding was cut All of a sudden as a science teacher and a person who believed in games I was suspect.

Arlington Career Center/ Special Initiatives of Choice

 I worked in an after school and Saturday initiative that was wonderful. We linked kids to their interests. We let them learn using computers and games. There are still children who do not have a computer of their own at home. There are children who line up in libraries to use computers, or who work in community centers on their digital skills. In West Virginia there are ways to get digital using volunteer fire stations. The funny part is that we at first had a mish mosh of computers so the games were different on various computers. That was not a problem.

In Arlington County, I also had a wonderful high school principal who was running a career center. He let me work with games, robotics, and innovation. Our classes were always over subscribed, We did a summer program those classes were always oversubscribed. We wove into the offering, some rudimentary knowledge of computers, a side class was to let kids build their own computer, there was the hard core games, and by that there were the kids who accessed games , educational games or games of my choice or access, and then the spinoff for robotics and NASA space science, We used a lot of Lego physics, and built small robots.

Build Knowledge, Build a Dinosaur Park, Meet a Dinosaur Scientist.. we did all of that.

What did the game do?

You had to focus on the information about the Dyno Park to run the scenario. You had to know the details of the various animals you kept. But wait, those are old games. I learned a lot about how children learn watching them choose the book, the game, and build their own dinosaurs. It was more than I knew and I had to work with them

We never have enough spaces for the children who were being in the courses. We changed it up and made it so that the games was the center or part of the learning landscape. Dinosaur, DynoTycoon, Here you will find a free download of the original Dinopark Tycoon from 1993. The classic Dino Park Tycoon includes of the ideas of new tycoon games, like zootycoon.

Smithsonian visits, Visits from an amber collector and we had a real Smithsonian scientist Dr. Embry, who let us come visit and watch him work in this magnificent setting. In the summer we would pick a topic and weave activities, hands on learning , books and field trips into a learning adventure. I got to practice this skill recently at a summer camp at the Smithsonian. It is one of my Tpak Skills. And I admit that when I can I put food into the matrix. Or plants or gardening. We worked hard in school to learn. We combined many ways in which to learn. Tpack is one of the ways that diagrams the ways of using intersecting ways of learning.

I will confess I was never any good at keeping the park going. You can download it free online, What the games did for me, was to destroy the ranking of who was the best learner in the classroom. What the games did for me was to give me an invitation to special education students, to limited English speaking children to learn. The game might be what they wanted to do, but the rest of the learning came along with the package.

I never found the resources in Amazon Trail. The students loved the game so much that I rarly got to play, but I watched them play, and saw their skills and they shared the levels of their play. More than that with the games often I could merger a Jason lesson or initiative, once during my time in the classroom, I was teaching a Jason project on jungles, using games,

Dinopark Tycoon is an excellent game which makes one remember the wonderful times of our youth. This game is great because you get to open your own dino park, and do all of the things, such as manage employees, buy inventory items, choose dinosaurs, and other exciting things to run the dinosaur park. The goal in this game is to create the ultimate dinopark and to become a real Dinopark Tycoon. People come from far and wide to visit your park, so you need to make it the best park that it can be.  My little relatives and I challenged

each other to build the best pak. I never reached excellente. I will use the excue that I got distracted.

You start by buying land, fence, and dinosaurs. The game really gives you quite a variety of dinosaurs to buy. Get a lot of money, and you can get the ultimate dinosaur, careful though, it doesn’t last long and proves to be a waste of your money!
You need to make sure you keep your dinosaurs fed or they may get restless and break out of their pens. That results in having to buy new fencing and new dinosaurs. Who knows where the dinosaurs go after they leave, but it doesn’t matter to you! After you have enough money being a dinopark tycoon, you can buy concession stands and other items to make your park even better for the guests.


game is really easy to use. Help is easily found, in all menus of the game. If you are running low on funds, get a loan from the bank to keep you going. You need to make sure you keep your prices in check so that you are getting some sort of profit, otherwise, you’ll lose money and your dino park ends up bankrupt.
This is a great game for younger children and older children alike. Children as young as 7 or 8 and older would enjoy Dinopark Tycoon because of its easy to use interface and its real world game style. It is both a fun game to play and a fun way to learn. Through playing this game, children are learning money sense and business sense. They are learning what a dollar is worth and that they cannot just buy everything, they need to think wisely before they make a purchase because if they just buy, they will end up with no money and the game will be over.
This is a great game for public schools to have on their 
computers because kids really love to play it and they are also learning at the same time. Anyone can have a wonderful time playing Dino Park Tycoon!

Download Dinopark Tycoon



I had a mentor who was George Lucas. During that time he had games in education. The games were as Seymour Papert said, hard fun. I was able to use those games in my classroom and in my game work. George Lucas was all about innovative learning

He says in his recent blog that it is time to have a conversation about what is going on in our schools.

 Here is the blog.

Lucas writes:

” It’s time to have a conversation about what’s right in our schools, what’s working. And as we debate what to do to fix the problems, let’s remember that there are successes in education every day we can emulate. In districts of every stripe and demographic make-up, educators are dedicating themselves to providing their students with a high quality 21st century education and using new technologies to make it happen. They are showing kids how to find and analyze information and how to creatively deploy their analyses to solve problems.”

“These educators are beginning to reinvent the learning process, guiding students through rigorous, real-life projects that integrate core academic topics and personalize the learning experience based on a child’s strengths and weaknesses. They are building confidence and ambition in children, by supporting them emotionally and providing a safe, engaging environment to learn. Most importantly, these innovative educators are creating a next generation of citizens with academic knowledge and problem solving abilities that will serve our country for years to come.”

One Christmas, there was a meeting at the ranch and I got four of the Lucas Games as a present. I have used those games in media expositions all over the world. I mixed fantasy and fiction in the study of space and we were on. In the classroom we had the various resources from the Challenger Center, and youth oriented initiatives that had their own scenarios and simulations.

In my schools I became a problem to other teachers because everyone wanted to be in my classes. I was a hard teacher in that we had to do whatever it was that the school system asked, but then there were the extras.. the MECC games and the projects t would get funding for , computers for, and resources for. The parents and children and I learned a lot about creating a learning environment, one part of it being games. The principal allowed parents to access the games and to be a part of the learning journay. We learned that hands on, minds on, brains on were exciting, we wove books, pictures and resources in to the mix and there were always games as a part of the learning scenario.

We the children, the parents and I were a network for learning. And there was a teacher on my grade level who asked me to teach these games and the Jason Project to her kids. We

became a team for those activities. My children did a lot of the teaching. But we were able to influence that teacher andf her group of kids.

There are other more interesting ways to enter the use of games , some of which I will cite.

I will confess to use of games in education from when I was learning basic. That was a long time ago. We were constructing knowledge and making our own games. Iin the after school program, we had students from all over Arlington County who came to play and who learned a lot more than they did in the regular classroom. One child would not even leave the classroom for popcorn and for a bathroom break. As much as I could I tried to be flexible  one child just would not leave the room. I ended up calling his mother. She said, I have been waiting for your call. He is acting out isn’t he. He has always been a problem in school. I said, „ Excuse me, do I have the wrong numbet? This child was the best of all of my students. He was Egyptian , who knew/ He did not speak English well, Who knew. Games were his passport to learning. I never bothered him again. I figured out a way to let him learn and then the mother and I found a community place where he could use the computer. I loved teaching him a game that a friend of mine constructed about a little Egyptian boy, Little Horus. That game seems to have disappeated, but it was good for socio cultural work.

Games have gotten more complex now. Once at Supercomputing the conference a game maker who created games for sports altered the bodies of the players as he was teaching us game design. It was fun, it was hard fun because he let us do a few alterations.

Dr, Kevin Clark at George Mason University also used games and had a couple of conferences that I went to that gave me more knowledge about the ways in which the armed forces uses games and simulations to attract recruits.

Dr, Chris Dede uses embedded assessements to help teachers evaluate knowledge.

Of course , he has always been far ahead of the pack. Well he was the person who mentored me in the uses of technology. See his latest work here.
dede_presentation.pdf · PDF file

You may not know Idit Harel. She has the program MaMaMedia ,

kind of an interactive game involvement for kids.It is loud, she says kids like it that way.

She has a new project in games that I have been priviledged to work with , Globaloria.

There is a community of teachers, who learn technology skills, and then teach students to build their own games using Flash.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Globaloria is a social network for learning web-game design and simulation production. Invented by the World Wide Workshop Foundation in the spring of 2006, it seeks to create technology-based educational opportunities through a flexible set of virtual learning networks for students in developing nations, and economically disadvantaged and technologically underserved communities. Using a network of educational web 2.0 platforms, students develop 21st-century digital literacy, master social media technology, and gain a deeper understanding of curricular areas, such as sciencemathematics and health. Its activities help students sharpen their communication and critical-thinking skills for leadership online and offline, bringing them closer to the participatory and collaborative nature of work in the 21st century.[1]

[Globaloria]… aims to teach youth how to take control of their new-media world.

Idit Harel Caperton[2]


What are games?Some are serious At the Federation of American Scientists, Melanie Stegman invites teachers to try out her game, Immune Attack. It is a serious game.

You must navigate a nanobot through a 3D environment of blood vessels and connective tissue in an attempt to save an ailing patient by retraining her non-functional immune,

But wait there is more at the Federation of American Scientists Learning Technology site. According to the web site,
The Learning Technologies Program (LTP) studies ways to use technology to improve how people teach and learn.  Well-paid, rewarding jobs in the U.S. depend on a workforce prepared to operate in a fast-paced, technologically sophisticated global economy.  Doing this in an affordable way for a highly diverse population demands new approaches. Since the LTP was founded in 2001, a lot of progress has been made in how educational leaders approach technology in and out of the classroom.  In 2005 when we published our
Summit on Educational Games in 2006, we were one of the few voices.  In 2010, however, the President and Ms. Obama have spoken in favor of video games as a tool for education and for fitness

Source :


Evaluate Immune Attack

Learn More About Immune Attack

Immune Attack is a supplemental teaching tool, designed to be used in addition to middle school and high school biology textbooks.  Immune Attack introduces molecular biology and cellular biology in detail that is usually reserved for college students.  However, it uses the familiar and motivational video game format to introduce the strange and new world of cells and molecules.

Please consider EVALUATING IMMUNE ATTACK in your classroom.  It requires 3 class periods in a computer lab over 2 weeks time.  Register here and we’ll send you the details.

Here is a modern way of using games in the classroom. This iS Dr. Bob’s Blog on games and  assessment.

Here is one of my favorites,.

I love the Why Power Game,.

It kept me fascinated trying to run a city.

I love the embedded assessment and standards that are completed by playing this game.
What does it take to build a sustainable, green energy community? 8th Graders are showing us how using WhyPower, an interactive learning game within the largest interactive learning world, WhyVille.

Here is a serious use of a serious game.

Using war games to treat post-traumatic stress disorder…

Soldiers may benefit from virtual reality applications for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A new study reviews how virtual reality applications are being designed and implemented across various points in the military deployment cycle, to prevent, identify and treat combat-related injuries.

and all the ways that I talked about that come together to help students learn.Dr. Bob Plants has this excellent blog to take the subject further.