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Play & Learn - Colorado History

Pikes Peak Library District
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Innovation Leader: Vicki Fox, PPLD Children's Services Manager

Problem Statement

Over 8,000 fourth-graders in El Paso County, study state history to meet Colorado Educational Standards. Pikes Peak Library District (PPLD) strives to be a relevant source of information and the PPLD KidsWeb provides resources. Yet these resources attract relatively few children. In contrast we know that games are the primary attraction on the KidsWeb. Games can immerse children in a learning environment that provides challenge, feedback and assimilation of new knowledge. PPLD won a Colorado Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grant to create an interactive, web-based game to attract children and reinforce learning about Colorado history. According to an article by Amy Addcock on Making Digital Game-Based Learning-Work, “Digital games are one technological advance that cannot be ignored.”

Innovation

The game team consisted of library staff, an elementary teacher, museum partners, local school district representation, and a game development company, guided by a professor from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. The goal was to create a game that would engage fourth graders and reinforce student knowledge of Colorado history within the scope of our funding and the technical requirements of our platform. The game will give teachers a feedback option to enhance their teaching and to provide a framework that allows the development of future games at a reduced cost.

Three brief games were created for fourth grade students on Colorado history covering: Trappers & Traders, the Gold Rush and a comparison of two Native American groups and eras; the Anansazi and Utes. Children make choices and occasionally have random “luck” such as striking gold or being stranded in a snowstorm. Journal entries help explain the “success” of their choices. The game will be hosted on PPLD’s website available to anyone throughout the state. Teachers will be able to have their students log in which will create a summary of student’s play for educational feedback.

Progress

Feb. 26, 2010 launched a prototype for a single era; eras are Fur Trade, Gold Rush, and Native Americans. A usability study in March 2010 demonstrated that students were very engaged by the game play. On May 3, 2010 the Play and Learn Game will be launched as the: Colorado History Arcade. Anecdotally, the students used in prototype testing were visibly excited about playing the game and told us that they were excited to play future sections. Unfortunately, they almost unanimously wanted to create their own avatar which is unrealistic for the scope of this game and observed student’s indicated they learned a variety of things but one said. “I learned that it was hard to choose what you should do back then.” This seems to meet a larger goal of understanding that history was full of decisions that were not always easy.