I use this blog to reflect and distill my thinking about simulations and games for learning. I look for ready to use resources to quickly create active learning experiences that engage and inform. I also share, news, ideas, and just for fun.


How much class time should be spent playing games?

Last week I was was aked the question. "What percentage of time in a course should be spent playing games?" My response was, "Let me answer that in reverse, how much time should you spend giving lectures?" Today, I happened on Sharon Boller's blog post on Td.org Suggesting another refinement.
In it she distiguishes games for review and recall and games where the learning is central to the game as in a simulation game. Worth a read. She has good research backing her work.


Active Learning Design for Webinars.

Training webinars have replaced Death by PowerPoint as the most B-O-R-I-N-G instructional technique.
In this one hour session Thiagi shared an interactive approach called LOLAs (Live Online Learning Activities) for improving and increasing the level of engagement and effectiveness of virtual classrooms. LOLAs have been field tested in a variety of webinars.
This was a walk the talk session. Thiagi used a number of LOLA's to demontrate how to use LOLA's. Participants came away with templates they can adopt and adapt to suit their training needs and objectives.
About the Presenter
Dr. Sivasailam “Thiagi” Thiagarajan is the founder and Resident Mad Scientist atThe Thiagi Group, an organization with the mission of helping people improve their performance effectively and enjoyably.
Thiagi served as the editor of ISPI's Performance & Instruction for more than 10 years. He has written a monthly GameLetter for 15 years; it currently appears as the GameBlog on this website.
Thiagi has twice been elected the president of the International Society for Performance Improvement (ISPI), 27 years apart (in 1979 and 2006). He has also been the five-time president of the North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA). He is the co-host of the 2016 conference in Bloomington IN.


Action Mapping and Game Based Learning or Gamification

Game based learning and the #gamification of learning are all the rage but pointless games and leaderboards are no solution for increasing performance. Here are two items, One from Cathy Moore on Action Mapping and one from Clarke Quinn on "Engagification" These sum up my view on the design of relevant learning. Practicing meaningful skills in an engaging ways.
First Cathy Moore on Action Mapping
And "Engagification" by Clarke Quinn.


Augmenting Reality

While at the North American Simulation and Gaming Conference this past October we saw several examples of augmented reality games. We were particularly intrigued by the aurasma app. The application and service allows you to create videos or other content that is revealed by pointing your smartphone or iphone camera at an image. You can see how it works in this demo of the app for teaching.

We thought it had good possibilities for learning development and were dying to try it. To test it out we created a team building session for a work team that combined informational updates with a scavenger hunt through the building with a secret agent theme. Participants had to find signs and posters around the building. When they pointed a smartphone at the sign a short video would play on their device with an update on a team project. The briefing also contained a clue for the accomplishment of the "agents" mission. Teams had an engaging time while getting briefed on the various projects that were underway in the organiztion.

Developing and using the app does have its challenges. Taking pictures of the images you want to use and making associated videos does take some time. he images need to be distinct for the app to recognize them. One sign that we used was too similar to some other signs in the building, all of them would trigger the app.  In conjuection with the app there is a web based service called Aurasma Studio. This is where you upload the images you want to use to start the videos as well as the videos themselves.

In terms of play, the first phone we used was a bit underpowered and the app did not run well. We then switched to an iphone and Samsung galaxy S4 and it worked nicely. Participants need to download and install the app and (at least for the free version) find the channel you have created.

Overall we felt that aurasma had lots of potential for new employee or student orientation. You could create a self guided tour of the building or campus and provide information at the place where it would be applied.

In the course of learning to use the app we found this helpful tutorial page from The Teaching Palette you can get a step by step on the site. Let us know if you give it a try.


Three Game Changers

These are games that changed changed how I view the world. I played all of them years ago for the first time. The insights from the games allow me to see examples of their lessons every day.

The MIT Beer Distribution Game--Not a drinking game, this game reveals the system dynamics of everything from a supply chain to the economy as a whole. In person it is a totalling involving experience. There are computer based versions but their impact pales by comparison. Playing and facilitating this game I have seen the same results time after time (boom and bust cycles) because as in life, structure drives behavior. Here is a short news story that demonstrates both the game and the impact. The recent super-typhoon in the Philippines is an example of how a disrupted supply chain impacts society.

Fishbanks--This game by Dennis Meadows demonstrates the phenomenon known as the tragedy of the commons. It is a computer supported board game. There are also simple classroom versions that don’t require a computer. The game has profound implications for the ecosystems of the planet. Here is a short video demo.  The challenge of meeting global climate change is an example.

StarPower by Gary Shirts--This one may be the most profound for me.  Here is a brief desciption from the simulation Training Systems Site. “Participants have a chance to progress from one level of society to another by acquiring wealth through trading with other participants. Once the society is established, the group with the most wealth is given the right to make the rules for the game. The power group generally makes rules which maintain or increase its power and which those being governed consider to be unfair. This generally results in some sort of rebellion by the other members of the society”. I have played and facilitated the game on many occasions (mostly with US and Canadian participants) and the results are just as described above. The 99 percent movement is an example of the game in action in the world.


Free Board Games - Simultaneous Movement

Something for your weekend enjoyment. Take a look at this collection of Free Board Games for two or more players, all with the theme of simultaneous movement -- both players move at the same time. Play can be fast and furious.


Hot Shot Business

Hot Shot Business  The entrepreneurship experts at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the creative team of Disney Online have joined forces on Hot Shot Business, an Internet simulation that allows kids to experience the adventure of starting and running their own businesses. A great basic introduction for everyone.


WebSight Simulation Games

WebSight Simulation Game (pdf) Talking about global economic injustice can seem like "heady" stuff. It’s hard to understand how the global economy works, and it’s even harder to see how it all relates to us  personally. This Simulation game can  help to both understand and make the connection. It will also provoke emotions that help participants to  begin to see how they are part of the worldwide web of the global economy.


The Game is the Medium

In case you thought that games always means something electronic, take a look at this exhibition called Pastimes and Paradigms : GAMES WE PLAY ll Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections:

From the site:
"The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections investigates the evolution of games since 1800...Although they (the games) differ in design and presentation, they share a single message: the game is the medium."

What lessons do you see for designing games for learning?