Great Post by David Warlick

via 2¢ Worth

Today’s infographic is simple and to the point. A big part of grade school and even college and onward, is writing papers. Some professions write more papers than others, but it is still an important skill in order to get your point across. This infographic uses venn diagrams to convey the importance of different parts of papers, and to show how they interact with one another. It also shows how much of your paper should include each part.

Of course every paper should begin with an introduction and end with a conclusion. It should also include several point in the middle, that are introduced and concluded in the introduction and conclusion. But how should the middle be laid out? That is up to the author, but it should there is a bit of a formula.

This infographic does a great job of showing that there should be pros and cons. You should always share how your paper may be argued against, and go ahead and prove some of these points wrong. In addition, a good paper should show why the information is important. Why should someone read your paper?

Show this to your students whenever a paper is assigned. Make sure your students are ready to write a good paper, and know what is involved in writing such a paper.



Should Schools Implement Social Media Policies?

via Mashable

Facebook wasn’t a topic of conversation in high schools 10 years ago — it hadn’t even been invented yet.

One decade and a billion users later, and with the introduction of TwitterInstagram and other social networking platforms, it’s become an unavoidable cultural commodity. If you’re a teacher, your students most likely have profiles, and vice versa.

There are plenty of examples of Facebooking-gone-wrong in the education field so far. There’s the teacher in Pittsburgh, Pa., whose colleagues discovered her photo with a stripper online, and the Boston-area teen who was arrested for alleged “terrorist threats” in a rap video he posted to Facebook.

But the logistics of what is and isn’t acceptable between students and teachers online are still being figured out — and it largely varies by school.

Mashable reached out to a few schools across the U.S. to ask about how they’ve adjusted to the digital era. Our primary question: Should there be an overall policy for social media use?

Hans Mundahl is the director of technology and integration at the New Hampton School, a private boarding high school in New Hampton, N.H. The school is a “one-to-one iPad” institution, meaning every student and teacher is provided with a tablet.

“We have three levels of policies, loosely phrased, when it comes to social media,” Mundahl tells Mashable. “The first is a pretty straightforward policy that teachers are not to friend or follow any of their students on any social media channel. We, teachers and staff, are sort of the ‘parents-plus.’ It’s important to establish great relationships with students offline that are not necessarily ‘friend’ relationships online.”

“I strongly believe this can be used positively. By allowing our teachers to connect through social media with students, we both understand the risks that come with it.”

The second policy has to do with Facebook groups. Mundahl said it’s common for the school to create groups for their sports teams and update them with photos, game schedules and rosters.

“The only policy here is that the coaches work with me, and the rest of the social media team, to set up the right privacy controls,” he says. “It’s a great way for someone — say, an eighth-grader thinking about joining the lacrosse team in high school — to ‘meet’ the current team and get a glimpse at what it’s like to be a part of it. But, even though they’re loosely interacting, the actual players and coaches are not to be Facebook friends.”

The final policy is about respecting students’ personal social media presences. In other words: No online “sting” operations.

“We do [conduct] some passive monitoring for our school’s name using TweetDeck. Usually, the results are about the new Hampton Inn hotel or something else unrelated,” Mundahl says.

“But sometimes we’ll find a student, whose profile is public, who’s raising a bit of a red flag with their posts or tweets. We’ll normally update the student’s adviser, and sometimes send the student an email saying, ‘Hey, by the way, we came across this post where you weren’t representing yourself or the school well — just want to let you know.’ But no punishments are issued,” he says.

Other schools have looser regulations regarding student-teacher relationships online.

Robert Dill, who teaches government, psychology and sociology at the public Forest Hills High School in Sidman, Pa., says it’s not uncommon for students and teachers to be connected on social media.

“We don’t have a ‘policy’ in place, necessarily, but it’s definitely an evolving process,” he says. “Initially, when Facebook and everything started exploding, the school district frowned on teachers using it, fearing there would be a miscommunication or improper use with students.

“Over the years, though, it’s changed. Teachers are still cautioned to not discuss a student’s grades or performance over social media — but really, that’s the only rule of thumb. I know several teachers who are Facebook friends with their students.”

Dill’s not one of them — instead, he interacts with students on Twitter. If someone has a question about an assignment due date, or needs clarification on a subject matter, they’ll tweet at Dill. He’ll respond, usually through email.

“If it’s a quick ‘yes or no’ question, like, ‘Is this due tomorrow?’, I’ll just tweet back at them,” he says. “But for longer answers, I’ll switch over to email.”

Dill follows his students back on Twitter, and occasionally comes across some not-so-great-for-a-teacher-to-see tweets. But, similar to Mundahl, he said he’s not out to play detective on anyone.

“There have been some situations in which a student has tweeted something disparaging, usually about a coach or a teacher — but I don’t comment,” he says. “I strongly believe this can be used positively. By allowing our teachers to connect through social media with students, we both understand the risks that come with it. I strongly believe in the First Amendment, and that this is a good forum for communication, but you just need to be cautious with it — especially with pictures.”

A rule that should also apply to teachers, he adds.

The logistics of what is and isn’t acceptable between students and teachers online are still being figured out — and it largely varies by school.

New York-based business attorney Pedram Tabibi believes social media policies are integral for both businesses and schools to implement — so long as they’re tailored to each individual institution.

“It’s a lot more common in corporations — you know, places saying what’s OK to post, things to avoid,” he says. “But I think you’re starting to see it can be applied to schools as well. Each one is different, of course, so for it to work best they need to be adjusted for each individual school and its activities.”

But there are right and wrong ways of doing so. A handful of employers, he says, have asked their employees and job applicants for their social media passwords: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram — the whole nine yards. Ten states have outlawed the practice, and the SNOPA bill (Social Networking Online Protection Act), introduced in April, is being pushed at the federal level to make asking employees for their social media passwords illegal in every state.

“This is obviously an extreme example, and it’s certainly not the right way to do it,” Tabibi says. “Social media policies are not meant to be some sort of restrictive or privacy-violating blanket. But if you take your community’s culture and values into consideration, you can nail down some sort of structure that will prevent both the staff and students from getting into trouble down the road. You just need to address it from all sides of the coin.”

Does your school have a social media policy? If not, do you believe there should be one in place? Or is it unnecessary? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Jeff Piontek commentary about the article, there needs to be a social media policy for our students and to protect them from the “dark side” of the web.

The Differences between “PBL Versus Project Based Learning”

via Edudemic

There’s a big difference between using projects in the classroom versus project-based learning in the classroom. What are those differences, you ask? Lucky for you, friEdTechnology (great name) whipped up this snazzy side-by-side comparison outlining the biggest differences.

In the visual, they describe what ‘projects’ are and how they work in the classroom. For example, projects can be done at home without teacher guidance or team collaboration. They are based upon directions and the folks from friEd say they’re “done like last year” (curious if you agree with that or not!)

On the flip side, Project-Based Learning is a fluid technique to enhance learning that really looks nothing like projects as they’re described below. For example, in a PBL scenario, the teacher’s work is typically done prior to the start of the project, it’s graded on a clearly defined rubric, and has driving questions that keep the learning going.

As you can see, this is quite a slanted look at how projects are different from project-based learning but it’s interesting nonetheless. What do you think of this chart? Is it accurate? Are the descriptions correct? What would you change?



Jeff Piontek commentary on this is that either way these are engaging ways to get our students to look at school/classes in a very different manner. 

Report: BYOD Has the Potential to Expand Greatly in Five Years

via eSchool News

Results from a new survey presented during ISTE 2013 indicate that U.S. schools and universities still strive to expand their technology use, and postsecondary institutions often lead the way in technology integration.

On June 26, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) released the full report from its 2013 Vision K-20 Survey, the sixth annual national survey to measure U.S. educational institutions’ self-reported progress toward building a framework that embraces ed-tech and eLearning.

For the first time, the 2013 survey asks about “bring your own device” (BYOD) policies in the classroom. The responses varied by education level, with only 20 percent of the elementary segment currently allowing devices in the classroom compared to close to half of the secondary and K-12 district segments. However, this gap may narrow in the next five years if participant expectations are accurate.

A majority of K-12 and close to half of postsecondary participants who report devices are allowed in the classroom also mention that their institutions currently restrict their use. At the K-12 level, restrictions on use can be expected to stay the norm in the near (five-year) future. However, at the postsecondary level, responses indicate two different paths for BYOD: people at institutions that currently allow devices but restrict their use anticipate restrictions are likely to continue in the future, while those who report BYOD with no current restrictions anticipate no restrictions in the future.

Among institutions that currently allow BYOD, more than three-quarters of K-12 educators report current restrictions on their use in the classroom. Among respondents at institutions which currently allow BYOD or expect their institution will allow BYOD within the next five years, a majority anticipate future restrictions on use, although a notable proportion in each segment say they don’t know.

Other notable findings include:

  • Levels of ed-tech integration at schools are holding steady despite budget challenges, while interest in ed-tech integration continues to remain high.
  • Schools and universities continue to rate the importance of ed-tech integration as very important.
  • Postsecondary continues to lead the way in ed-tech integration compared to K-12.

The final 2013 report is available here.

The 2013 Vision K-20 Survey was developed to provide benchmarks against which educators and administrators can measure their institutional progress in using technology to provide 21st century tools, anytime/anywhere access, differentiated learning, assessment tools, and enterprise support.

“Jeff Piontek” as an administrator and as a teacher this is interesting. Being the former Director of Instructional and Informational Technology I have implemented a 1:1 program and it is daunting. This is the way of our students in our schools today.

Become a Teacher (Infographic)

via Certification Map

Teacher certification requirements vary greatly from state to state. Most states have various levels of certification for teachers based on the age group or subject area they wish to teach. Please see our state-by-state breakdown to determine the specific requirements needed to get certified in your state.




This is pretty amazing as a teacher (Jeff Piontek) I remember going through the process and it was daunting.

The World According to Google

via New Zealand Herald



Jeff Piontek comments: I believe this is a great conversation about “Google” as I have been fortunate enough to be at the “googleplex” in Mountain View and have friends who have been there from the early 2000’s.

It is Monday morning, and 150 “Nooglers” are gathered in a large room on Google’s campus in Mountain View, California.

Jennifer, a woman in her early thirties wearing a pair of hi-tech “Google Glass” spectacles, bounces around the stage welcoming the new starters. She is a compelling mix of preppy California girl and science fiction-obsessed geek that is de rigueur in Silicon Valley.

“I’m a little bit nerd. I love Star Trek. But I also love reading,” she says. “This summer, in fact, I’m reading all of Shakespeare’s works in chronological order.”

Her presentation is interspersed with science fiction jokes and slides of the Starship Enterprise as she tells the assembled audience they are now part of a company with the ability to turn “super-cool” sci-fi ideas into reality.

In the past few months Google has launched Google Glass, which allows users to photograph whatever they can see, or pull up information in their peripheral vision. Then there is Project Loon, which will use giant balloons to connect a billion people in sub-Saharan Africa to broadband.

Outside, self-driving cars navigate the campus. In the next-door buildings engineers are hard at work improving Google’s voice-activated search and translation tools, so that soon even people who cannot read or write will be able to request information in any language and find exactly what they are looking for.

Over the next few days the new starters – or “Nooglers” (for “new Googlers”) – will be drilled in the company’s mission to “organise the world’s information”, its history, and how, as “part of the Google family”, they must keep everything they are working on a secret.

“You can’t even tell your mom,” says Jennifer. At the end of the course they will attend a staff meeting hosted by Google’s founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. The glasses and the broadband balloons are examples of what Page, now chief executive, calls “moonshot” ideas, adding glamour and the promise of new growth opportunities to what is, at its heart, a hyper-efficient advertising business.

Google’s slick web search engine helped to pull in US$50.2 billion ($64.4 billion) in revenue last year, more than US$40 billion of which came from display advertising. Its profit stood at US$10.7 billion.

Its shares may have slipped from their May peak of US$920.60, but at US$887.88 they have still climbed more than 50 per cent in the past 12 months, making the entire company worth US$295 billion. More than one technology analyst has bet their reputation on Google stock topping US$1000 within the next year.

But as Google’s near neighbours, Facebook and Apple, can attest, investors grow nervous at the hint of a slowdown or absence of a new growth story, never mind that the main machine is going full throttle.

Last year Google investors took fright at a 20 per cent dip in profit and a decline in the revenue it receives each time a user clicks on one of its ads. The balloon project might be inspirational, but it is also there to do the basic job of stimulating demand and keeping the foot on Google’s gas.

Shareholders are also concerned about the company’s outgoings – not least the cost of its enormous appetite for Nooglers. Google had nearly 39,000 staff at the end of the last quarter, a figure which is steadily growing.

Much has been written about the free food and the zany decor of Google’s HQ – the slide in reception, the treadmill desks, the sleep pods and the colourful bikes on which employees get around campus. Less well documented are the free dry-cleaning services, the complimentary buses to work, the on-site doctors, dentists and hairdressers.

The pay is also considerable. According to the jobs website Glassdoor, the average Googler – the company’s favourite term for its staff – receives US$110,000 a year, before share awards or bonuses. Even Google interns reportedly receive the equivalent of US$69,000 a year. And if an employee dies, his or her partner can collect half their salary for the following decade.

Just like on a university campus, staff are invited to join groups that reflect their interests. There are the “Gayglers” for gay employees, and “Jewglers” for Jewish staff.

Google and its staff are almost relentlessly upbeat, which can make some people uneasy. As the first British journalist to be allowed into the Noogler session, I couldn’t help but recall Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

The company, as Jennifer tells the Nooglers, goes to some lengths to hire “the smartest people on the planet”.

Google’s prowess in search technology depends entirely on the quality of its engineers, many hired from Stanford University where Page and Brin met. The company’s entire campus is designed to make them want to stay.

“It’s the revenge of the nerds,” says one analyst who has followed Google since it started. “These were not the guys who were popular at high school. They don’t have a girlfriend waiting for them at home. They don’t have a life outside work. This is it. But life is so easy for them, they feel they have the last laugh.”

That stereotype may be a little extreme. There are certainly enough charismatic characters to balance the geeks. JOB CANDIDATES sit through four interviews with executives they may never work with, who are looking for four things. The individual’s skills are the least significant. The most important, says Lazlo Bock, Google’s senior vice-president of “people operations”, are the candidates’ cognitive ability; evidence of “at least a tiny, tiny bit of humility”; and their “Googliness”.

Humility is not a trait many people would associate with this company but Googliness is a word used often at the Mountain View campus. Some employees say they found it cringeworthy at first, but have now adopted it to describe a certain mindset. It means “comfort with ambiguity”, says Bock.

Sunil Chandra, who, as vice-president of “people technology” and operations, heads Google’s recruitment machine, defines it as people who are 100 per cent themselves at work. “They are people who are really inquisitive and want to do what’s right by others. You’ll find that they’re unbelievably down to earth,” he says.

Whatever it is, Page must be personally convinced that new recruits have it. He signs off on every single hire – upwards of 200 staff, week in, week out.

There is an argument to say that this focus on hiring people in a certain image can distance Google from public feeling, particularly over issues such as its tax bill in Britain or the privacy of its users.

But Chandra argues that the obsession with how staff “fit in” has been key to preserving its innovative start-up culture, even as it has developed into a multibillion-dollar machine.

Managing this evolution has been difficult. Page has made it a priority to slash the number of projects on which Google spends time and money. It has shut down – or “sunsetted” – at least a dozen operations in the past three years.

“We want more wood behind fewer arrows,” says Bock, borrowing his boss’ favoured metaphor. “Instead of launching 1000 arrows at our enemies, we launch one or two big ones.

“You used to very much have a system where anyone could work on anything on the technical side. You got a lot of creativity and innovation, but what you also got was a lot of pet projects which didn’t have a big impact on the world. Or, quite frankly, you got things where we were trying to do something and someone else was doing a better job.”

One of these was Knol, a crowd-sourced encyclopedia launched in 2007, six years after Wikipedia, a similar and superior service. Knol was shut down just over a year ago.

In recent weeks reports have emerged of a Google smartwatch and a Google videogame console. It also has plans to expand its Streetview project to include hiking and biking trails, as part of its ambition to create a detailed 3D map of the entire world. But all these are accessories to search, which remains its core.

Google already has an iron grip on the search market, but the way it views things, there is still huge change ahead.

“Google search is not done. It is far from done, in fact. I’d say it’s maybe 20 per cent, 25 per cent done,” says Jon Wiley, head of user experience for the search operation.

Users have become used to modifying their search criteria so they extract the best results from Google, he says. The company wants them to be able to ask questions using normal speech, to have discussions with Google’s technology and to use it to find answers to subjective issues.

If you asked an interior designer what color to paint your bedroom, they would not shoot back “red” or “green”, Wiley explains. The first thing they would do is ask questions back, about the size of the room, its aspect, what colors the person happened to like.

“When we look at that class of problem, we say here is an opportunity for innovation for the types of problems we could try to solve. What kind of artificial intelligence could we create that could help people actually have a dialogue about what colur to paint their bedroom?”

Wiley also hints at how the new technology will help Google harness enormous new markets in the developing world. Voice-activated search, coupled with sub-Saharan broadband, could transform education and economic growth in those regions.

“People can ask a question, get a response, and ask again, and go back and forth and have a dialogue of information, in their native language,” he says. “I look at that as a goal, to be able to have that kind of experience.”

But Google is not relying on organic growth. Its appetite for acquisition has steadily increased over the past few years.

In 2011 Google paid US$12.5 billion for Motorola Mobility, to get its hands on valuable patents. Last month it signed a US$1.3 billion deal for Waze, a traffic-mapping tool set to transform Google’s maps service, widening its lead over Apple’s rival product.

Against this backdrop, Google’s “Googliness” can cause problems. The company has had to tread a fine line as it has expanded overseas, coming up against cultures which take a dim view of the amount of data it collects about users.

Users in Europe, in particular, have been riled by projects such as Streetview, Google’s mission to photograph and map every street in the world by driving down it with a camera, or Google Glass, which enables people to discreetly take photographs without James Bond-style hidden cameras.

Last month Google was one of nine technology giants accused of routinely handing information over to the US Government as part of the Prism surveillance project. Google claims it has done no such thing, and asked the authorities to be allowed to publish statistics about the number of information requests it has pushed back on.

But even with the categorical denial, the episode remains incendiary for staff as well as the public. Google employees demanded answers from Brin and Page at their routine meeting that week. In Britain, anger has also rumbled around the company’s tax contributions. Google paid just over £10 million in corporation tax to the Treasury in the past five years, on revenue of £11.5 billion.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s executive chairman, has argued that the company has a moral duty to shareholders to pay the tax that the laws of each country say it owes, and no one has accused it of breaking any laws.

Many would agree, but the row over Google’s financial contribution has tarnished its reputation. Last year Britons identified Google as the fifth most desirable brand in the world. In the same survey this year it had tumbled out of the top 20. Senior Google staff privately admit the episode has taken a toll on morale.

It remains in Google’s nature to constantly push the envelope. Its modus operandi is to experiment, get products out fast and fix any problems on the fly. “Launch and iterate” is a phrase used often.

Allied to Google’s fearless ambition, and its increasingly strategic approach to investment, is also the fleet-of-foot behavior that will underpin its future growth. Google might shoot past the US$1000-a-share mark before the year is out.

Being that I have also visited New Zealand and I am amazed at how things have changed for the better in New Zealand and how fast Google is pushing.

The Future of Gamification


by: Janna Anderson, Lee Rainie

via Pew Internet


Tech stakeholders and analysts generally believe the use of game mechanics, feedback loops, and rewards will become more embedded in daily life by 2020, but they are split about how widely the trend will extend. Some say the move to implement more game elements in networked communications will be mostly positive, aiding education, health, business, and training. Some warn it can take the form of invisible, insidious behavioral manipulation.

“The development of ‘Serious Games’ applied productively to a wide scope of human activities will accelerate simply because playing is more fun than working,” observed Mike Liebhold, senior researcher and distinguished fellow at The Institute for the Future.

Click here to view credited survey participants’ contributions to the discussion of the future of the Internet and gamification by 2020

Click here to view anonymous survey participants’ contributions to the discussion of the future of the Internet and gamification by 2020M


About the Survey

The survey results are based on a non-random, opt-in, online sample of 1,021 Internet experts and other Internet users, recruited via email invitation, Twitter or Facebook from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and the Imagining the Internet Center at Elon University. Since the data are based on a non-random sample, a margin of error cannot be computed, and the results are not projectable to any population other than the experts in this sample.

Click here for full report


Money, Time, and Tactics: Can Games Be Effective in Schools?

There are so many people out there in education who truly don’t understand the power of games and gaming in education. I have been fortunate enough to work with a few people who are experts in the field, Henk Rogers (Tetris) and Mark Loughridge (F9 Entertainment) in the development of games, animations and simulations we have used SUCCESSFULLY in education. You can see some of our work on our website  and if you are interested in collaborating then contact us.

via Mindshift

If it’s true that 97 percent of teens in the U.S. are playing digital games, then the focus on how games can fit into the shifting education system becomes that much more important. Schools, districts, and individual educators are trying to figure out how games and learning can fit into the current complicated landscape.

The newly released report Games for a Digital Age: K-12 Market Map and Investment Analysis,released by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Games and Learning Publishing Council,describes the many different criteria in play in detail, including obstacles from the policy standpoint, lack of teacher development, as well as how the Bring Your Own Device movement is influencing the push towards games and learning.

“Games are more popular than ever with youth today with many students spending hours a day playing them,” said Michael H. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. “What we don’t know yet is whether and how they can be a key ally in driving pathways to academic success.”

Though it’s well worth reading the report in its entirety, below are excerpts pulled from the report, conducted and written by Dr. John Richards, Leslie Stebbins and Dr. Kurt Moellering.


The school day is divided into class periods, and this division limits lesson length. Furthermore, the combination of standards and the scope and sequence tied to core curriculum create “coverage” requirements that place practical limits on the number of lessons that can be devoted to a single topic.

Nearly all games fall clearly along a continuum ranging from short-form to long-form with a critical distinction and a bi-modal distribution pattern based on fitting in a class period. As noted by Rob Lippincott, Sr. Vice President of Education, PBS, “Games don’t fit the time box of a class period; a game succeeds when it is sticky and gobbles up more time. You want games in school to finish quickly and speed up learning.” (CS4Ed interview, April 2012).

We placed games into these two time-based categories, short-form and long-form. Within these broad areas fall dozens of different kinds of games, ranging from three-minute apps to open, immersive Multi-User Virtual Environments (MUVEs) that involve lengthy game playing. In addition to the length of play, the mechanics of a gaming experience varies broadly, with simple “add-on” gamification-type reward systems falling typically at the short end of the time continuum, and more complex, multiple-path, role playing games falling at the long end. In longer-form games, the game mechanics are typically intrinsic to the learning experience rather than placed at the end of or external to the game play itself.

“Games don’t fit the time box of a class period; a game succeeds when it is sticky and gobbles up more time. You want games in school to finish quickly and speed up learning.”

1. Short-Form Learning Games

In most K-12 schools the day is organized in blocks of time that average 40 minutes or less. Transition time and time for instruction or discussion connected to curricular material frequently leaves only 20 to 30 minutes for actually using a learning game. Short-form games are interactive digital activities that fit within a single class period and have some components common to all learning games. They focus on a particular concept or on skill refinement, skills practice, memorization, or performing specific drills.

Successful short-form games meet an important and defined market need, whether it is by demonstrating a concept to the whole class on an interactive white board, or by providing individual students with practice on a specific concept or skill. Short-form games include drill and practice, brief simulations, visualizations, or simulated training tools, and different types of “game-like” interactive learning objects. These types of games have the potential to be embedded in personalized learning environments or adaptive engines that combine data and feedback loops that are becoming increasingly popular in schools.

This type of game product is starting to gain traction in the K-12 market, due in part to its alignment to standards and to extensive product lines that cover many topics within the curriculum or meet an important, albeit narrow, market need. Teachers find such games easy to access and understand, and the games fit neatly into the short blocks of time available in the structured school day.

2. Long-Form Learning Games

Long-form learning games extend beyond a single class period. Typically game-playing is spread over multiple sessions or even several weeks. Long-form games lend themselves to the development of 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, creativity, and communication. Kurt Squire, [co-founder and current director of the Games, Learning, & Society Initiative] underlines the distinction between the sophisticated learning skills developed through immersive experiences versus games where students are rewarded for memorizing vocabulary words or performing math drills. Squire views games such as Civilization III as having the potential to push students to engage actively in problem solving, reflection, and decision making related to historical and political situations (Squire as quoted in Klopfer, Osterweil, Groff, & Haas, 2009). Other researchers concur, and view long-form, immersive game play as a critical factor supporting a broad arena of social and cognitive learning (Shaffer, 2006; Bogost, 2007).

A number of individual studies have demonstrated that specific long-form games perform better when compared to typical lectures. Examples from research studies include Supercharged!, an electrostatics game that showed a 28% increase in learning (Squire, Barnett, Grant, & Higginbotham, 2004); Geography Explorer, a geology game that showed a 15 to 40% increase in learning (McClean, Saini-Eidukat, Schwert, Slator, & White, 2001); Virtual Cell, a cell biology game that showed a 30–63% increase in learning (McClean et al., 2001); and River City, a game that showed a 370% increase in learning for D students and 14% increase for B students (Ketelhut, 2007).

Recent research also points to the significance of the engagement factor produced by long-form learning games. Engagement fosters motivation and keeps students involved in the learning experience. While many educational software products have focused on extrinsic rewards for skills practice, longer form games where game play and learning are closely connected have been proven to be even more engaging than following a learning task with an external reward (Habgood & Ainsworth, 2011).

The authors of a report issued by the Committee on Science Learning at the National Research Council concluded that simulations and games have great potential to improve science learning in the classroom because they can “individualize learning to match the pace, interests, and capabilities of each particular student and contextualize learning in engaging virtual environments” (Honey & Hilton, 2011). The authors also echoed previous research demonstrating the appeal and engagement of learning games, and indicate that games can help support new inquiry-based approaches to science instruction by providing virtual laboratories or field learning experiences that overcome practical constraints.

The time required for playing long-form games has proven to be a significant barrier
to their widespread adoption. As Dave McCool, co-founder, President and CEO of Muzzy
Lane Software explains, “For us, with Making History3, it was a matter of having a product that was deep and narrow and was only needed for content that was covered for one week of the curriculum” (CS4Ed interview, February 2012).

In our interview, Scott Traylor, CEO and founder of 360KID, argued that long-form games can more easily fit into the homework side of the equation and that class time can be reserved for discussing results of the homework activities, strategies, and content learned (CS4Ed interview, March 2012). This “flipped classroom” model addresses the classroom time factor in that teachers can control how much time is spent on discussion sessions. However, there remain challenges with connectivity for students from lower-income households. As more schools experiment with various forms of online and blended learning, a better fit between available class time and long-form games may emerge.


The language of gaming and learning games is still in flux, and there has been little agreement between experts in the field about what falls under the category of “learning game” and what is not a game, but has “game-like” elements. Not surprisingly, the literature of games contains no agreed upon definition of a learning game. When we asked our interviewees what they considered a game, we found no consensus. One extreme cited any “formative assessment based on an adaptive engine,” while the other cited products with aspects of game mechanics such as badges, rewards, and points. Although the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA) Codie awards category is for “Games and Simulations” (and researchers are sometimes careful to distinguish between simulations and games), for the purposes of this report we have included simulations in our broad definition of learning games.

… longer form games where game play and learning are closely connected have been proven to be even more engaging than following a learning task with an external reward.

Such a wide range of products is confusing to the K-12 audience, because “games” can vary from products that are prototypical to ones that only leverage somewhat extraneous game mechanics to engage and to motivate. Confusion among types of games is of particular concern when examining the research evidence of the effectiveness of games in learning. Most university-based research evaluates learning games in environments that engage students for several weeks with immersive, challenging experiences. Thus, when researchers argue that learning games are efficacious, promote critical thinking, and engage 21st century skills, it is not necessarily clear that these conclusions apply to many shorter forms of learning games.

All games have game mechanics that are the central element of the game and, to some degree, are integrated with the learning content. As James Gee argues in his keynote at the 2012 Games for Change conference, the extent to which the mechanics of creating motivation and directing attention is intrinsic to the content of the game can greatly influence learning outcomes.

Gamification is the use of game-based elements or game mechanics to drive user engagement and actions in non-game contexts. In gamification, the game mechanics are divorced from the content being taught and are instead added in the form of some sort of reward element after completion of an activity. For example, a short-form math game that involves answering math questions where correct answers are followed by a badge or the reward of playing a “dunk the clown” game would be called gamification. David Dockterman, Ed.D., Chief Architect, Learning Sciences with Tom Snyder Productions/Scholastic is concerned about this use of game mechanics, stating “Gamification can begin to undermine a kid’s desire to learn” (CS4Ed interview, March, 2012).


The systemic barriers to entry include:

  • the dominance of a few multi-billion dollar players;
  • a long buying cycle, byzantine decision-making process, and narrow sales window;
  • locally controlled decision making that creates a fragmented marketplace of individual districts, schools, and teachers;
  • frequently changing federal and state government policies and cyclical district resource constraints that impact the availability of funding;
  • the demand for curriculum and standards alignment and research-based proof of effectiveness; and
  • the requirement for locally delivered professional development.

However, recent trends provide an increasingly positive arena for learning games and other digital products, including:

  • the move to one-to-one computing in schools and the rise of a “Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) infrastructure for learning;
  • the widespread acceptance and purchase of interactive white boards;
  • the improvement of school IT infrastructure and access to the Internet;
  • the 2010 National Education Technology Plan;
  •  a strong focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) skills, and more broadly, on higher-order thinking skills;
  • an increasing move in schools from print to digital materials and from a highly structured to a somewhat flexible textbook adoption process;
  • the increasing interest in Personalized Learning Environments (PLEs) and adaptive engines; and
  • an expanding base of research that shows the effectiveness of long-form games in learning.