This week I’m attending the Sandbox Summit at MIT. The focus of the Sandbox Summit is kids, play, education and mobile apps. It’s a fairly small group that is attending…probably about 200 or so people…and a really cool cross-section from the children‘s media-education-technology sectors. I’ve met some interesting and smart people from companies like Intel, Scholastic, TERC, WGBH, Highlights and Project LAMP, just to name a few. At the Sandbox Summit we are seeing presentations from some of the thought leaders in the industry and participating in workshops where we learn new things. Today I attended a workshop called “Playing with your Head: Deconstructing Gaming Psychobabble” and it was conducted by Carla Engelbrecht Fisher from No Crusts Interactive. We explored how to to take terms from educational psychology and operationalize them for educational gaming apps. For example, when you’re looking to include scaffolding or cooperative learning or distributed learning in apps, what does that actually look like? How do you design for it?
What was fascinating to me, and what I want to discuss with all of you, was the discussion we had around “success” in educational gaming apps. What I learned is that I had a preconceived notion of “success” meaning that the app produced a change in student performance as a result of using it. But others in the room had other definitions….”success” for an educational gaming app could mean that the child had fun; that the child had a ‘positive experience’ using the technology; that the child and his or her family spent time together enjoying the app.
So this got me thinking: what do YOU think the criteria for educational gaming app “success” are? And if a critical component is NOT a change in learner performance then can we call these educational games? Or are they really just games??