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This session featured two speakers: Dr. Rober Appelman, faculty member for Indiana University’s Instructional Systems Technology department, and Dr. Sonny Kirkley, CEO and researcher at Information in Place, Inc. and adjunct professor in IU’s School of Infomatics.

In this session, there was a call for converging language and approaches to design for game designers and instructional designers. Pure game (entertainment only) designers find adding the instruction/assessment pieces to games challenging and pure instructional designers find challenges in making content fun.

Dr. Kirkley reviewed several projects his company has developed. In all, the challenges of managing stakeholders (who want to have a say in the project’s direction) as well as the external vendors/developers is greater than the challenges of actually making the game.

One example he discussed was the Virtual Astronaut project which is a 10-year project and they have completed the first year (it’ll be multiple modules added to the core game over time).

It is designed for middle school students and is based on problem-based learning using a first person explorer of STEM curricula. They collaborated with Virtual Heroes on this project.

What I took away from this presentation are the following:

  1. The struggles we have right now for simple instructional multimedia are likely to only increase with games (bring it on!). One reason is that funding (especially iterative funding) can force problematic processes. We’ve already seen this one…
  2. A well-defined process (including detailed game design documents) are essential once the project officially begins. See Gamasutra’s article on this topic.
  3. Authentic assessment within the game is the goal. If we can be smart about assessment up front, we will have a good chance of being successful.
  4. The design team needs to articulate their own theories of learning and ideas about what makes games fun — at the outset — in order to minimize conflict later and better communicate from the start.

In this session, three different paper authors shared an overview of their work. Debra Lieberman conducted research on video games designed specifically to help kids manage asthma (Bronkie) and diabetes (Packy and Marlon). The research used an experimental design with clinical trials and found that children’s visits to the emergency room to treat these problems decreased while their self-efficacy increased.

I couldn’t help but think of the book Persuasive Technology which is really at the core of all of these gaming sessions. I’m a bit surprised that no one has mentioned it or cited it…?

In any case, her site will soon send out a RFP (January 2009) that we should check out.

The next paper was given by John Richardson, a college senior and video game designer/researcher who has a form of cerebral palsy. He made a strong case for the need to ensure all of our games are accessible for people with disabilities: it serves as a means for empowerment — for gaining control over one’s body. This is complex and challenging because a disability for one person may change over time (congenital disabilities) and the discussion about disabilities tends to focus on inputs rather than a standard platform.

Is there an organization dedicated to accessibility in games? We need to do more testing; seek out feedback from our current designs…

The last presenter was Moses Silbiger whose paper and research focused on using games to help people move through the human development/self-actualization process. (I didn’t really understand this one…?)

Wow! How fun does this game look? Made by two former students (see 2D Boy) in Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Center — on a shoestring budget with smart marketing.  I’ll buy it!

Drew Davidson, the Director of the ETC walked us through parts of this game showing us how the attention to detail in this physics puzzle game including graphic style, sound effects, and smart, satiric writing all combine to make a great gameplay experience.

The Tower of Goo came out of the Experimental Gameplay Project in which each game must be made in less than 7 days by 1 person, and show off something never seen before. Another game from this project is Crayon Physics.

The World of Goo should be available on Wii Ware and PC on 10.13.08. It is available for pre-order at Amazon.

In preparation for our ELI presentation, here are a few thoughts and resources to share with anyone interested in this topic. We will demo a section of an online module designed to present foundational concepts in Pharmakokinetics to first year PharmD students.


  • Students log in to the module outside normal class time with their unique ID
  • The module supports and enhances in-class interactions between students and with the instructor
  • Only students’ behavior inside the instructional module is tracked

Why use clickstream data? What are the drivers?

  • Accountability (accreditation; institutional accountability efforts)
  • Affordances of the technology (easy to implement, unobtrusive)
  • Research (scholarship of teaching and learning)

What factors raise concerns?

  • Privacy issues. Do students know that their behavior online is tracked (similar to Blackboard page tracking)?
  • The overall weight given to clickstream data as an assessment form
  • How the resulting data will be used (high-stakes decision-making regarding individual students v. assessing overall class progress at a point in time)

What opportunities are presented?

  • Improving individual and group learning outcomes by immediately identifying misconceptions and problems, and addressing them in class
  • Modifying in-class instruction and activities to meet individual and class needs at the point in time in which they arise
  • Discovering how students actually use interactive content (research)
  • Improving the instructional impact of interactive content & online learning environments based on students’ behavior, feedback, and other assessments
  • Mapping content, activities, and assessments into a connected whole rather than disparate parts
  • Co-opting a method typically used by advertising/marketing to predict who will buy something and instead using it to better understand learners’ behavior and potentially, predict how people with different learning styles will use online environments (research)
  • Providing students’ own clickstream data to help them reflect on their learning, progress, and strategies


  • Can a student turn off tracking or is it “always on”? Can a student choose to have his or her tracking be anonymous?
  • How long is data stored? Where? What trends can reasonably be deduced over time?
  • What is the best that tracking can tell us about learning? Where are the boundaries and what are the limits?

Next steps:

  • Reports (sense-making from raw data to inform instructors, students, and designers)
  • Visualization (graphs, charts, the elusive “dashboard” of learning outcomes)