Games and Simulations Network

Old Games? New Game?... Gamification Wins Student Attention and How!


Games and Education  

 No one minds when you as a teacher are wandering around during a rainy day, with games most of the pieces lost. Few people object to certain games in the classroom. Teaching chess to sixth graders is fun because as they learn, if you are a face reader you can pretty much win most of the games. It is when in education we use the new games that people think you are not doing your job if you use games. My favorite way of using games is to take the subject, do theme based teaching with use of media, books, and a classroom setting that is reflective of what the subject is that I am teaching and to involve the art, music and PE teachers when possible.


Make a traditional teacher angry..say games and wait for the push back. Most of the time you will wish you never said a word.  But I discovered many students who learn when there is a challenge, and they don't stop at the first error. I learned that the students who volunteer, and who can memorize may not always be my best students. Games are another way to help students progress through a lot of data.

National Geographic has a lot of games on their beta site, and there are wonderful learning games at My wonderful world, which is a geography initiative. I linked you to the teacher initiative.

The Department of Commerse has games for students too. Here is the site of their games. It is a part of their Ocean Initiative for Educators. BUT...

If you want to get a dressing down in education, all you have to do is to talk about games.
So people have begun to use the term Serious Games. There is a Serious Games Conference.
This is like the Olympics of Games.

New Games

Nine Games Earn Gold in the 2017 International Serious Play Awards

LOS ANGELES – June 19, 2017 – Nine commercial serious game and academic institution led studios won gold in the International Serious Play Awards this year, a competition honoring outstanding digital games designed for education or training.  Entry categories included Corporate, Government/Military, Healthcare, K-6 Education, 7-12 Education, Higher Education and Museums.
“The winning games were high quality and very innovative this year. We had many close categories,” Sue Bohle, executive director, Serious Play Conference, award sponsor, said.
Winners this year are:
  • Business Battle from Wrainbo (Corporate)
  • Child Witness Interview Simulator for UK Police developed by HighSkillz with The Open University UK (Corporate)
  • Strike Group Defender from the Office of Naval Research, MIT Lincoln Laboratory, Pipeworks Studio and Metateq (Government/Military)
  • DragonBox BIG Numbers, from WeWantToKnow AS (K-6 Ed)
  • Sim Cell created by Strange Loop Games for Touch Press Games (7-12 Ed)
  • Future Smart from EverFi (7-12 Ed)
  • Variant: Limits from Triseum (Higher Ed)
  • Delirium Experience, a game to create efficiency in elder care, created by IJsfontein and the Academic Medical Centre in Amsterdam (Healthcare)
  • Ace Academy: Black Flight from Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (Museum)
  • Cloud Defense: a Cyber Security Game created by the Gronstedt Group for Intuit (Corporate)
  • Zero Threat from Euklela and Preloaded (Corporate)
  • TD Digital Service Hero from TD Bank (Corporate)
  • Therapeutic Communication and Mental Health Assessment; a Learning Modules and Simulation Game created by a collaboration between Centennial College, George Brown College and the Digital Education Strategies Team within the Chang School of Continuing Education at Ryerson University (Healthcare)
  • Crash Cart created for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Simulation Learning Education and Research Network by Engineering & Computer Simulations (Healthcare)
  • Morbus Delirium from Montreal Science Center and Affordance Studio (Museum)
  • TVO mPower from TVO (K-6 Ed)
  • Summer Slugger from EverFi  (K-6 Ed)
  • Mission US: Up from the Dust created by THIRTEEN/WNET New York Public Media (7-12 Ed)
  • Advance U: The Talent Machine created by the K20 Center at The University of Oklahoma (7-12 Ed)
  • ARTé:Mecenas from Triseum (Higher Ed)
  • The Next Big Thing- Small Business and Entrepreneurshipfrom Toolwire (Higher Ed)
  • Elevator Game, designed for information security awareness, created by IJsfontein and CIO Platform Nederland (Corporate)
  • Financial Statements from the Practising Law Institute  (Corporate)
  • Crime Scene Investigation (CSI) created by the Virtual Technology Center for the Dubai Police (Government)
  • The Primary Care Office Visit: Antibiotics from Kognito for The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (Healthcare)
  • Regnatales created by Immersive Play Pte Ltd, and the Institute of Mental Health, Singapore (Healthcare)
  • License to Krill: A Whale Feeding Adventure Game created by the Royal Ontario Museum (Museum)
  • Nancy Drew: Codes & Clues from HeR Interactive (K-6 Ed)
  • Garfield vs. Hot Dog from Catventures and Grendel Games(7-12 Ed)
  • Future Goals from EverFi (7-12 Ed)
  • Paper Trailcreated by the K20 Center at The University of Oklahoma (Higher Ed)
  • Appraise: The Organizational Assessment Game created by Ei Games for Arizona State University (Higher Ed)
Winning games will be demonstrated at the 2017 Serious Play Conference in July at George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus.  For more information,, visit


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. MECC helped to sponsor innovation in education in conferences. I owned just about every game that MECC created. The power that MECC gave was that you could have a copy in the classroom of the games if a site license had been purchased, so we had access to the games of our choice from MECC if the school system purchased the games.

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.II 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 and access the games.. 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, This lemonade stand is a little different than the one I used but I share it . If was fairly simple to use and to teach. Something to make math interesting, I thought. 

Odell Lake  and Odell Woods were some ecology, nature games long before ecology and climate change became the fashion,) Hot Dog Stand was fun because in this game the variables , games, use of the  Hot Dog Stand.  You had to weigh lots of decisions based on changing information. You would - 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. In one of the Road Ahead Schools this game was used as a real project to allow students to be vendors. It was a fun activity. The thing was that it was a hotdog stand, but the events in the stadium changed by the seaon, by the time, and you could upgrade your stand .. lots of interesting little problems would come up , and you had a budget. You needed to keep a cash reserve.Weather and the temperature were sometimes indicators to watch.

Of course we did the turtle games and we learned turtle language.It was expected. Logo was fun to teach but trying to explain why and what the kids were doing was the problem. I will in the next post go to that concern about students and programming and the ideational scaffolding toward visualization.

 Whoa Lewis and Clark, the Fifth Graders are coming to follow in your footsteps!

. Once when this game was new I taught it to seventy five students with parents helping. My very favorite game through a number of iterations. It was Oregon Trail.  Each 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 culture of the covered wagons, the songs, I could use my National Geographic resources to expand the knowledge of the kids by inserting the lessons that geographers created on the educator pages .. I see that there is an Oregon Trail game in various online sites, but the game as I played it with students seems not to be the one we used.

Parents got involved. Some shared family history, recipes and we also made quilts. The first quilts we made of paper with  the art teacher. Then there was a mother who knew quilting and each child did their own square. Yes the boys did too. We even made corn husks dolls, and toys from the era.

Mothers made us poke bonnets, we shared stack cakes and we had pioneer picnic baskets . We made maps of the trails and cut offs as well.

I studied with geographers who knew lots of interesting stories about trail life and the authentic songs. the life on the trail.We used the library of congress resources to learn more. the songs that the people sang were really funny, and you should research the real songs of the people moving west. 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.. So much to learn, so little time. One mother and father helped us learn to take cuttings for the plants we would need when we got there, and their proper care.

First I used Oregon Trail 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.

Pause for the Cause in Education. New Ideas and Gating Factors

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. I had friends who helped in the research for games in education. Still, all of that was CUT..

Arlington Career Center / Informal Education and Games

Special Initiatives of Choice

Another serving of games...across the digital divide

 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. The art teacher worked with us. We made fake Amber, and some parent brought us a dinosaur footprint from Saltville Virginia. . Who knew that there were places around us to find treasures.I should admit that I had NOT any interest at first in studying dinosaurs. But I wanted to be competitive with the kids. So I learned all of the games.

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, Dyno-Tycoon, 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 zoo tycoon.I have only experience with the original Dyno Tycoon.

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.

Amazon Trail

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,

We did murals using old National Geographic Magazines, and created a jungle theme in the classroom. We had trailing vines, and tropical flowers, books of all kinds and access to the resources of the National Zoo.

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 park. I never reached excellence. I will use the excuse that I got distracted.

Games are learning