The Education Arcade

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


The Massachusetts Institute of Technology and University of Wisconsin-Madison have joined forces to catalyze new, creative, teaching and learning innovations around the next generation of commercially available educational electronic games. The Education Arcade, a two-year-old research and educational initiative established by leading scholars of computer and video games and education at both universities, plans to focus efforts by partnering with educational publishers, media companies and game developers to produce new educational electronic games and make them available to a larger audience of students and their teachers and parents.

The Education Arcade’s mission has been to demonstrate the social, cultural, and educational potentials of videogames by initiating new game development projects, coordinating interdisciplinary research efforts and informing public conversations about the broader and sometimes unexpected uses of this emerging art form in education. Having sponsored several annual conferences with the Entertainment Software Association at its E3Expo in Los Angeles, and with a series of landmark research projects in the field now complete, the Education Arcade looks ahead to help drive new innovations with commercial partners.

Previously, researchers at MIT have explored key issues in the use of a wide variety of media in teaching and learning through the Games-to-Teach Project, a Microsoft-funded initiative with MIT Comparative Media Studies that ran between 2001 and 2003. The project resulted in a suite of conceptual frameworks designed to support learning across math, science, engineering, and humanities curricula. Working with top game designers from industry and with faculty across MIT’s five schools, researchers produced 15 game concepts with supporting pedagogy that showed how advanced math, science and humanities content could be uniquely blended with state-of-the-art game play.

Several challenges have severely limited broader development and availability of educational games in the market, including the collapse of the CD-ROM software market, the failure of educational media in retail spaces, strict state adoption requirements, expensive production costs, and limited collaboration across the variety of disciplines needed to create compelling and educationally viable interactive media. By working with leading textbook publishers, media companies and game developers, the Education Arcade aims to help overcome these formidable challenges by focusing on an initial set of strategically-targeted, educationally-proven and expertly developed and produced on-line computer games that will be distributed through desktop computers and mobile devices.

By serving as the glue between university-based research and commercial product development, the Education Arcade is uniquely poised to make a profound impact on the production and use of games in the classroom and beyond. Education Arcade contributions to game production include (1) creative contextual development, (2) pedagogical and learning framework development, (3) curricular and teacher support, and (4) assessment and student evaluation studies.

Online Learning Highlight Videos

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


Two short videos prepared by the Online Learning department at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) showcase the center’s activities. The first video, “Online Learning Showcase” (6 minutes long), is an overview of several projects at RIT. Topics include Pachyderm, the Student Response System, RIT’s course management systems approach, remote tutoring with Breeze Meeting and blended learning courses.The second video, “A Conversation on Blended Learning” (5 minutes long), highlights the advantages of using technology to facilitate teamwork and social networking among deaf and hearing students—in this case, activities that were previously only possible with the assistance of an interpreter. The video tells the story of how technology not only allows for the interactions to happen, but enables a deaf student to take on a leadership role in the class—without an interpreter.

Both videos may be viewed at

The Online Learning website is located at

Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


The Learning Commons at the University of Calgary has worked with the Glenbow museum to create Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta, an extensive, interactive website that introduces the legendary tales and colorful personalities who shaped and defined Alberta’s history, and are the predecessors of Alberta’s maverick nature.

The Learning Commons was founded in 1997 to develop and promote quality, innovative approaches to teaching and learning in higher education. The organization provides support for the academic community through professional development programs, curriculum and project support services, and multimedia and technology development.

Mavericks: An Incorrigible History of Alberta was created to connect to the grades four to seven social studies curriculum. The ideas for student activities follow a project-based and inquiry-based learning approach and are multidisciplinary, combining social studies with language arts, mathematics, science, art, and health.

The site presents nationally significant stories of the important people and events that have shaped the identity of Alberta. Over 545 primary source images, audio, and video clips of historical materials have been digitized to increase access to Glenbow’s collections and information resources on the history of Alberta. These historical primary source materials are first-hand, original, authentic accounts of the past. They are the actual records or evidence of history and allow students to become actively engaged by positioning people, places, ideas, and events within their historical context. There is also a section on historical maps and an interactive timeline.

The Mavericks online exhibition, part of Alberta Canada’s centennial celebration, was created by the Learning Commons using the Pachyderm 2.0 software tool, a program that allows users to design educational and interactive multimedia presentations. The software links screens together, resizes images to appropriate dimensions, packages up audio and video files, and incorporates Flash technology to create vibrant and informative presentations. The Learning Commons is a member of the Pachyderm 2.0 Project consortium, a collaboration of software developers, university library specialists and museum experts who are developing and testing the program. D’Arcy Norman and Shawn Tse led the Mavericks initiative on behalf of the Learning Commons. King Chung Huang also contributed to the project. Flash programming was provided by Arts ISIT at the University of British Columbia.

The Daedalus Project

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


Research into educational gaming is leading to a deeper understanding of topics like gaming and engagement theory, the effect of using games in practice, and the structure of cooperation in gameplay. In the 2006 Horizon Report, the New Media Consortium and the Educause Learning Initiative describe the movement this way:”The past year has seen a subtle shift in the way educational gaming is perceived in higher education. A number of interesting examples have shown anecdotally that games can be very effective tools for learning. As a result, there is an increasing interest among scholars in researching the subject, not only to quantify the actual effect of using games to teach, but also to define the essence of gaming itself in order to better apply its principles to education. Educational gaming is no longer a fringe activity pursued only by extreme technophiles—it is emerging as a discipline unto itself, multifaceted and rich.”

One example of this research is the Daedalus Project, an ongoing study of Massively-Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG) players. MMORPGs, or MMOs, are a video game genre that allow thousands of people to interact, compete, and collaborate in an online virtual environment. Over the past 6 years, more than 40,000 MMORPG players have participated in the project by completing surveys about their playing style, habits, and preferences. Various topics have been examined, from gender-related motivation factors to the effect of running an in-game guild on one’s real life experiences. The results of the research are available as reports sorted by topic.

The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


The David Rumsey Historical Map Collection includes over 11,000 maps, all available online. The collection focuses on rare 18th and 19th century North and South American maps and other cartographic materials. Historic maps of the world, Europe, Asia and Africa are also represented. The collection includes antique atlases; globes; school geography maps; maritime charts; state, county, and city, maps; manuscript maps; and others. The maps can be used to study history, genealogy and family history. Materials in the collection may be reproduced or transmitted, but not for commercial use.

Teaching & Learning Interchange: Pedagogy in Practice Case Studies

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


These case studies, crafted for new teachers, are designed to provide a view into classroom practices that effectively integrate both subject matter and teaching standards.

The case studies feature an array of resources presented in several formats – PDF, video clips, text, and animation – packaged in an easy-to-use module that allows for plenty of exploration on the part of the student. Content focuses on teaching strategies, curriculum development, and best practices.

The site is intended for new teachers and students in teacher education programs. Registration is required for access, but a login is provided immediately upon registration.

Mixxer: Skype-enabled Language Exchange Site

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


Mixxer allows individual students or entire classes to participate in a language exchange.  Once a profile is created, the user can search for a language partner, i.e. a native English speaker learning German can find a native German speaker learning English.  The site asks all users to install Skype in order to communicate.  (Skype is a free voice-over-IP program which is very reliable, has excellent sound quality, and can run on Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux; see  The site also takes advantage of the API released by Skype which allows users in the site to see which potential language partners are currently online, giving them the ability to contact any other user directly by clicking on their Skype name.

Mixxer is not the only language exchange site on the web.  However, by making use of Skype and its API, it makes it very easy for a student or teacher to speak with a language partner with literally one click of the mouse.

Questions or ideas are welcomed. Contact the site’s creator, Todd Bryant, at

Digital Gaming Teaching and Research at Michigan State

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium


In Fall 2005, the Department of Telecommunication, Information Studies and Media at Michigan State University launched the Game Design and Development Specialization. The specialization  brings together undergraduate students majoring in digital media arts and technology within the department of Telecommunication, Information Studies, and Media, Computer Science, and Studio Art. Combining these perspectives and talent, students explore the history, social impacts, technology, design fundamentals, and the art of team-based digital game production.

The specialization culminates in a Collaborative Design capstone course where students work in teams with a client in the full design cycle encompassing specification, design, prototyping, implementation, testing, and documentation. Throughout the specialization, students are expected to develop a portfolio of game design and development, and to explore internship opportunities. The core undergraduate Game Design and Development curriculum is enhanced by additional classes in human computer interaction and user centered design, interactive media design, and digital storytelling. In addition  to exciting courses, students have the opportunity to participate in FuturePlay, an international conference on the future of game design, game technology, and game research sponsored and hosted by Michigan State University.

MSU states about digital gaming as an academic field, “Video games have grown to become an important medium in our society. Like film, radio, television, and the Web before it, games have become worthy of academic study, analysis and research. In academia today it is the hot research focus across many diverse disciplines, including education, computer science, communication, psychology, and economics, just to name a few.â€?

An example of the importance of digital games in social research and other fields is MSU’s Digital Media Arts and Technology project funded by the National Science Foundation called “Girls as Game Designers,â€? which is research on how girls and boys approach games, and how games affect them.  One of the projects that has grown out of the Girls as Game Designers research is the “Alien Gamesâ€? project, which “will be… integrated, out of this world fun interactive science learning and play about extraterrestrials and astrobiology designed to appeal to high school and middle school girls to interest them in astrobiology, space science, and game designers . . . .â€?


by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium

Professor Susan Tennant of the Informatics Research Institute at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) has collaborated with the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the university’s Herron School of Art and Design, and Purdue’s School of Science at IUPUI to develop ArtXplore, a multimedia program running on a hand-held PDA. The interface highlights information on 16 objects in 12 galleries at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and provides the information wirelessly to the museum visitor. Additionally, museum patrons are able to review their experience and provide comments to the curator directly from the PDA.

ArtXplore provides audio and visual content to the museum patron, including graphics, animation, video, and panoramas. The device also provides data to the museum such as how long a person looks at the art objects, what objects are the most popular, traffic patterns and time of day patterns, and other areas such as gender differences in viewing art.

The content was provided by the Indianapolis Museum of Art and the Herron School of Art and Design. Students from the Herron School, the School of Science, and the School of Informatics were also involved in content development and program design.

The Physical Universe

by Rachel Smith, NMC: The New Media Consortium

Created to accompany the eponymous textbook (The Physical Universe, by Konrad B. Krauskopf and Arthur Beiser; McGraw-Hill), this extensive site includes animations and figures for each chapter, along with study questions and exercises.  The site stands on its own with introductory text for each topic that sets the stage for exploration within subject areas such as the scientific method, matter and energy, the atom, the Periodic Law, and the solar system, among others.

Some animations and figures include audio descriptions (text transcripts are also provided). Although the site is linked closely to the book, it could be used as a resource to learn more about a particular topic even without the book. Goals for learning and follow-up questions help guide the learner, and key concepts are outlined with important terms linked to the glossary.