I was thinking today about how my school is using increasing numbers of games to teach the material - an idea I am obviously in favour of. There are still a fair few problems with the classes where the games are used though. I was thinking today about how some of these programmes could be fixed.
The first of the problems is that the games are either too focused on the material that there is almost no fun involved, or that they are so obviously games that the students can play them without having to bother themselves with what being thought. This problem really has to be tackled on a game-by-game basis so theres not much I could do on that front.
One of the other major problems with the classes is that the teachers have almost no way of tracking students activities. By this I mean that teachers have no way of knowing how a student is performing or how they are progressing. The teacher has to rely on asking students their scores and walking around constantly to see how the class is performing. But also their is a participation factor. When in the computer room, most guys can easilly alt-tab out of the game and mess around in paint or do any of a thousand other things. This means that the teacher, as well as coordinating play, has to ensure that the students are even playing at all.
Another of the problems I've found with the games is that they lack in a formalized competative element that removes a lot of the incentive of playing. I would think that a central scoreboard for each class (or whatever subset of students you chose to use), would lead to much more interest being taken in the games - as long as the games are fun. If the games aren't fun then the board becomes a rediculous nerd-ranking interface.
The final problem I saw with the current system is the difficulty involved in distributing new games to the students. The teachers maintain the computer room on an almost voluntary basis, so the closesty they come to a relyable distribution system is to have all the games burnt on CDs and installed on each machine.
I tried to figure out how I would handle these problems.
My entire solution revolved around a games server, which would provide facilities to, hopefully, combat each of the above problems. Keep in mind that I haven't work out specifics or any implementation details.
The server would contain the following: lists of all the games available for play, all the students - split up into classes, what games they are eligable to play, and then a database of histories which stores scores/progress along with dates etc for each student, which could then be queried to produce performance printouts. There might be a server interfacethat alerts the teacher when someone does something they shouldn't.
A basic, steam-like, interface would be installed on each of the client machines - the ones used by students. When a student logs in it checks what games teh student should be allowed play that class and downloads the games required. The student can then load up the game and play away. During play the server is logging progress, along with any alt-tabs/exits out of the games. The high-score tables and such would also be visible, both through the steam-like interface and possibly the game itself. There are a thousand possible small facilities which could
be adde dto give the teachers more control.
What I'd have to do is develope a server, client, and SDK with which to make compatible games.
Well just thought I'd get this written down somewhere. If you have any comments don't hessitate to post.