Youth & Opportunity
Engineering , Math
Editor’s Note: Today we announced the full availability of Microsoft Kodu Game Lab for the PC and the launch of a nationwide Kodu Cup competition. We’re inviting students, aged nine to 17 to design, build and submit their own video games.
The following is a guest blog post about the educational benefits of video games and video game design from Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges, Research Fellow, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, which specializes in advancing children’s learning in the digital age.
There's a growing body of evidence that both playing video games and making video games have promise as educational tools. In fact, it may be one of the most effective ways to engage today's youth as they learn the critical skills they will need to succeed. As the Federation of American Scientists concluded from its 2006 Summit on Educational Games:
“The success of complex video games demonstrates that games can teach higher-order thinking skills such as strategic thinking, interpretative analysis, problem solving, plan formulation and execution, and adaptation to rapid change. These are the skills U.S. employers increasingly seek in workers and new workforce entrants. These are the skills more Americans must have to compete with lower cost knowledge workers in other nations.”
In fact, game-based learning has emerged as one of the most promising areas of innovation in making Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) topics more engaging for kids today. The report Game Changer: Investing in Digital Play to Advance Children’s Learning and Health , demonstrates that video games can be used to learn not only content, but also STEM skills and systems thinking, which are essential for preparing youth for STEM careers.
Additionally, real-time 3-D action video games have been proven to improve cognitive skills such as attention and other executive functioning. These skills enhance learning in a wide array of areas and are also tied to number sense, a skill critical for early math learning in and out of school.
Researchers are finding that making games fosters the development of critical STEM skills. Our colleagues at E-line Media have shown that a well-designed game is a well-designed system with a delicate balance of goals, constraints, challenges and rewards. Learning how to create and edit such a system is learning critical analytic skills including systems thinking, problem solving, iterative design and digital media literacies.
This is not to say that we advocate children playing all video games and without restriction. Many games obviously have violent themes that are not age-appropriate. And some genres of games have proven more beneficial than others. For example, the cognitive skills that are enhanced with 3D action game play are not enhanced by other game genres, such as simulation games. We also know that some games are better for “transfer” than others (for example, playing many hours of Tetris will make you very quick at rotating Tetris shapes, but no better at any other mental rotations). There is still a lot of research to be done in this area, so we encourage parents to look critically and wisely at the games their children are playing. If something looks inappropriate, be cautious, but also keep an open mind while exploring redeeming qualities.
This past winter in the U.S., the Cooney Center and E-line Media launched the National STEM Video Game Challenge, in partnership with sponsors AMD Foundation, Entertainment Software Association and Microsoft. The goals were: (1) encouraging children to create video games and (2) encouraging game developers to make games that can truly educate and inspire children in STEM subjects. This effort was a huge success, with over 550 applications. Fourteen Youth winners (grades 5-8) were recently named and the Developer winners will be named on March 30th in Washington, D.C. Our Youth submissions came from programs designed to teach kids how to make games (such as Kodu and Gamestar Mechanic) as well as open platforms such as Flash that are frequently used by adult game developers. Developer finalists submitted games in many platforms--from SMS to Flash to Unity--and over many content areas, from biology to number sense to systems thinking.
For a sneak peek at some games that were entered into the challenge, take a look at our Popular Vote Award contestants and the winner, Ko’s Journey, which is a promising example of mathematics being integrated into the storyline of a game.
Gabrielle Cayton-Hodges is a Research Fellow at The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop
Download Microsoft Kodu Game Lab today.
For information about entering Microsoft’s new video game design competition for kids ages 9-17 in the U.S., visit Kodu Cup, visit www.koducup.us. Happy Gaming!
Food shortages and distribution issues have become a major problem in the aftermath of the tragic earthquake and tsunami in Japan. In many areas, supermarket shelves are empty, particularly as people stock up on food and other items as they face uncertainty around the nuclear situation in the country. In Sendai, people in shelters are waiting for food to arrive, as transportation problems have slowed distribution.
Second Harvest Japan, Japan’s food banking network is coordinating donations and distribution of food and other grocery items for impacted people of the earthquake and tsunami. The recent events have driven massive local demand for their services and many government agencies, relief organizations, shelters, and people in need of food are reaching out to them for help. Their existing website wasn’t set up for the rapid updates required in a time of disaster. They needed a site that could not only support real-time publishing, but also provide high performance and the ability to handle large volumes of visitors from around the world.
Microsoft, AidMatrix and Slalom Consulting have partnered to provide a cloud based community communication portal for Second Harvest Japan. The portal uses Microsoft’s Windows Azure and related Aidmatrix Microsoft-based cloud technologies for coordination across food donors, transportation providers and distributors in the Japan relief effort.
Microsoft is offering the disaster response portal free-of-charge to government and nonprofit agencies working on relief efforts in Japan. Interested agencies should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cloud services and applications can be hosted anywhere in the world, avoiding issues such as damaged infrastructure and equipment, power shortages or telecommunications service interruptions. In addition cloud services can actively scale to meet increased demand.
The portal provides mass communications and light collaboration. It includes features such as situational awareness through mapping and information overlays, rich search and HTML content editing, social network capabilities, and RSS feeds. It’s particularly effective in disaster situations because it helps customers avoid latency or downtime issues that can be caused by a traffic spike during a disaster and there are no IT back-end and support costs.
The team at Second Harvest Japan have already noted increased community activity which they attribute to the emergency portal.
Microsoft is offering the disaster response portal free-of-charge to government and nonprofit agencies working on relief efforts in Japan.
Find out more about the resources Microsoft is providing to aid relief efforts here.
For local Japanese information and contact details please visit here.
NetHope, Microsoft, Dell, HP and InterConnection Partner to Deliver Laptops to Rescue Workers in Japan
Guest post By Gisli Olafsson, NetHope Emergency Response Director
Communication is the lifeblood of rescue operations in Japan. Without the ability to share information and collaborate in real-time, rescue workers struggle to coordinate the delivery of food, water, medicine and other aid to those in need. This is true now more than ever, as snow and frigid temperatures in northern parts of the country slow relief efforts.
Based on initial reports, we’ve learned that communication networks have been severely hampered in the devastated areas of Japan. What is needed now is to provide satellite-based communication equipment and service, as well as hardware like laptops, satellite phones and more, by which humanitarian agencies in the region can communicate with each other and the outside world.
Delivering this equipment to NGOs is our top priority at NetHope, and that’s why we’re teaming up with our friends at Microsoft, Dell, HP and InterConnection to prepare and deliver 250 refurbished laptops to humanitarian workers in Japan. Rescuers from several organizations including Care, ChildFund Japan, Habitat for Humanity, International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Japanese Red Cross, Mercy Corps/Peace Winds, Oxfam Japan, Plan International, Relief International and Save the Children will use the laptops to share information and coordinate relief efforts across their groups.
For instance, at Save the Children, relief workers will use the PCs to coordinate delivery of supplies to a network of child-friendly spaces the organization is creating in evacuation centers and shelters in Japan. The spaces are aimed at providing displaced children in Japan with a safe place to play and to give parents a break from watching their children while they register for emergency assistance. Save the Children estimates that as many as 75,000 children may have been displaced because of the earthquake and tsunami.
Yesterday, 20 volunteers came together in Seattle to prepare the laptops, donated by Dell and HP, for shipment to Japan. The volunteers installed both English and Japanese language Windows 7 and Microsoft Office 2010 software donated by Microsoft on the machines. Experts from InterConnection, a Seattle-based nonprofit that specializes in charitable computer reuse and recycling, were on-hand to assist and host the volunteers at its Wallingford office. The volunteers came from all over the Puget Sound region and include Microsoft employees as well as others who responded to calls for volunteers on VolunteerMatch, Facebook and Craig’s List.
NetHope would like to thank the volunteers, as well as Microsoft, Dell, HP and InterConnection for their support. Their hard work and generous donations will have a big impact on rescue operations in Japan, and our NGO member agencies are eagerly awaiting the refurbished laptops.
To learn more about InterConnection including how you can donate your old computers to support efforts like this one, visit http://www.interconnection.org/. And, to learn more about what NetHope and its members are doing in Japan, please visit www.nethope.org/japan.
Dell is committed to being a responsible community partner and comes together in times of crisis to help those in need. To further aid in the Japan recovery efforts, Dell is contributing $1 million through corporate and employee-matched donations to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent. The company continues to stay in contact with employees, customers, partners and emergency response organizations to help rebuild the communities where damage has occurred.
HP and its employees as well as the Hewlett-Packard Company Foundation have committed more than $2.3 million in technology products and cash donations to organizations and initiatives that are aiding the Japan relief effort. Save the Children, the American Red Cross and a partnership with Microsoft and Dell to support NetHope and Interconnection with a laptop donation, are amongst those that have thus far benefitted from our support.
To help support ongoing relief efforts, Microsoft has made an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash as well as in-kind contributions. U.S. staff have already raised more than $700,000 through our existing employee matching program. We’re working with customers, partners, local government, and nonprofit agencies to support relief efforts. You can find out more on our disaster response page.
We have all been shocked and saddened by the images and reports coming from Japan.
It is a human tragedy on a massive scale.
To help support ongoing relief efforts, Microsoft is making an initial commitment of $2 million, which includes $250,000 in cash as well as in-kind contributions such as software.
We already have a range of support efforts underway including:
There are many opportunities to help. We invite you to consider supporting any of the following relief organizations in the work they are doing to help the people in Japan:
We will continue to monitor the situation in Japan and do what we can to help.
By Reed Price, Director, Network Programming, MSN US
Sean Chu, the Executive Producer of MSN Japan, says the experience of responding editorially to the Magnitude 9 Earthquake that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, gave his team a sense of how they could be a powerful force to help people cope not only with the quake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster -- but with the societal aftershocks that will linger as well.
In an interview Saturday, March 26, Chu said, “over the past few weeks, my team has worked very, very hard. Literally, we were on this 24/7. We got together for dinner [Friday] night -- the first time after the quake -- and I was glad to hear that they actually want to do even more. We're all very tired and fatigued but they didn't want to stop.”
Many team members spent the first night together at the office building, supplied with emergency kits of blankets and water from Microsoft, and venturing up and down the 22 flights of stairs for other provisions from nearby grocery stores. By Sunday, Chu said, it was clear that they needed to reassess how they were going to respond to the crisis. The team came up with “a laundry list of all the possible information and tools that people may need,” Chu said, and agreed to create a special portal to house the information. The focus: “helping people to manage their lives, helping people to navigate their lives through the situation.”
The team restructured itself on the fly and reached out to power companies, to the government, and other sources for life planning information. One team member worked closely to see how Microsoft as a whole was helping, and included that information in their special portal page. It was a small group—just 19 full-time employees—and they told the larger Microsoft Japan about their work. Chu said he was touched by the outreach from the 2,500 employees across divisions: “We've had the Azure team help us, we've had the Hotmail team help us, the Silverlight team help us, we've had EPG (the Enterprise and Partner Group) help us. The entire company is trying to help us program this,” Chu marvels.
Screen shot from MSNBC’s Photo Blog: Panoramic image: Sightseeing ship atop house in Otsuchi, Japan
In the last week, the MSN Japan team made a conscious effort to shift the emphasis of their programming toward Recovery and Revitalization. They adopted a new “Support Japan” logo and, with help from the US Engineering deployed a new user-generated site where they are inviting the audience to upload pictures and videos. “People can share their messages and thoughts: “I'm turning out my lights,” “I'm gathering blankets to send over”, or “I'm actually going out and having a big dinner with my friends and helping the economy,” Chu said. “Anything like that is fine. I think we were one of the first portals to do that, to try to gather that information.”
Chu said, “I know as editors we try to look at all the news and it really is depressing, it really drags you down. And somewhere down the line I felt responsible, that I needed to show our audience that this was devastating, yes … but we need to move on. We need to stay a little bit more optimistic and upbeat about it so that we can move on with our lives and help the economy get back on its feet. So I wanted to do as much as we can, as MSN, to do that.”
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