Let the games begin!

The London Olympic games will be starting on July 27. My Year 7 class will be studying a unit of work based on the Olympics that combines English, Maths, Science, Geography and History. So when I saw the Xbox game London 2012, I couldn’t help but test it out and see whether I can incorporate games based learning into parts of the unit.

London 2012 is available on Xbox and Playstation 3. On the Xbox some games are also able to be played via the Kinect motion sensor. Players can compete in over 45 Olympic events including track and field, swimming, archery, gymnastics, cycling and diving.

cycling in london 2012 game

I tried the events with both Kinect and the controller. I found the controller much more enjoyable. While some reviewers have said that using the Kinect gave the game more of an authentic feel, I would disagree. For example in the spint events, there is no need to run. All you need to do is to wave your arms wildly.(This is possibly because the game is also designed for Playstation Move, which can’t detect whether your legs are moving or not.) The KInect is nowhere sensitive enough to play table tennis properly (the ball sort of flies through the middle of your body). Archery was quite fun on the connect. If you want to play the events with Kinect, I find that Kinect Sports is much, much better (and cheaper the moment).

There were some events that were really enjoyable with the controller. I particularly liked trampoline and gymnastics, which required you to perform different routines based on pressing different combinations of buttons. Kayaking, weightlifting and shooting were also very good.

The game does have a lot of detail and gives an authentic Olympic feel. You can choose to play as different countries and when you win a gold medal, a shortened version of the national anthem plays. Each event is played at the real location of the London Olympics.

Overall, the game is OK. If your class is doing a unit on the Olympics in Term 3, it is a quite good game to use as a hook for your class. However, I find Kinect Sports to be a much better game. If you already have Kinect Sports, it might not be worth getting the London 2012 game as Kinect Sports‘ game play is much more sensitive and intuitive, cheaper, and will have a longer lifespan. Kinect Sports also has lot of the same track and field events, and in Kinect Sports, you actually need to run in the running events.

Kinect Sports game cover

 Games based learning activities using London 2012

If you are thinking about getting London 2012 for your classroom, here are some games based learning activities;

  • Experiencing unfamiliar sports

Students can play sports that they may be unfamiliar with like the different routines in gymnastics and trampolining. Students can describe how these sports are judged. This can also include the venues that the sports are being played in.

  • Science of angles and wind resistance

In javelin and discus, players are required to throw at an optimum angle in order to achieve the maximum distance. In archery, wind resistance plays a part in how you aim the arrow. Learning can be designed where the London 2012 game can be used as a launch pad into more discoveries on projectile motion and wind resistance.

  • Evaluating the authenticity of the events

Most events require players to time their button pressing. For example in swimming you have to time when you press particular buttons so that it simulates smooth strokes. In sculling you have to press the buttons at the right time and maintain a consistent rhythm to gain speed. Students can learn about the techniques used in each sport and evaluate how well the game has tried to replicate that.

  • Use the game as a stimulus for students to create and host their own mini Olympics games

The London 2012 game will give students the experience to learn how different sports work and they will be able to choose their events for their Olympics, create a schedule and create processes for judging.

There are heaps more ways to integrate games into Olympic-themed learning experiences. What are your ideas?

Level Up! Using games culture to enhance learning & innovation

Level Up! is a project that involves embedding games elements into everyday classroom practice. The project involves games based learning, gamification and games design. The brochure and poster presented at the Microsoft Asia Pacific Partners in Learning conference are shown below. Click here to access the virtual classroom tour details from the Microsoft Partners in Learning website.

poster presented at the PIL c onference

Xbox Kinect in the classroom

hurdles in kinect sports

Last week I bought a Kinect for the science faculty and embedded it into a Year 7 science class. If you search for Kinect in the classroom in Google, you’d find a large number of teachers already using Kinect in the classroom. However, most of them have integrated the Kinect in complex ways that require hacking the Kinect or SDK coding. I wanted to embed the Kinect as part of a learning activity that all teachers can implement in the classroom without feeling intimidated by.

My Year 7 class is doing a unit of work on forces at the moment. In the unit of work, they do an activity to measure average speed of moving objects. Traditionally I would bring students outside the classroom to run and walk a certain distance and measure the time taken to calculate average speed. I have also used slot cars in similar ways. Now that I’ve got the Kinect, I wanted to device an activity that allowed students to do a fun activity that won’t usually be possible in the classroom.

I decided to get my Year 7s to do hurdles in Kinect Sports. In pairs, students ran a 100 m race in hurdles and Kinect Sports measured their time. Students then calculated the average speed of each student and constructed a table to show the results.

My Year 7s usually need a lot of support in learning activities. With Kinect Sports, I had a student volunteer familiar with Kinect to demonstrate the game and all students knew what to do without my help at all. They were also highly engaged and were very motivated to calculate average speeds for each student to find out who is the fastest. The students completed the speed calculations faster than I expected. In a one hour period, this is what the class achieved the following:

-Completed a quick quiz

-Brainstormed why distance, time and speed were important measurements in an object’s movement due to forces

-Students constructed a table to record the results from Kinect Sports

-Each student ran 100 m hurdles in Kinect Sports

-Average speed calculations were completed by students

-Furniture was rearranged to its original seating plan

-Lesson was summarised

It might not sound much, but this was a great achievement from this class!

While this activity may not be the most creative or complex way to integrate Kinect as a teaching and learning tool, it is an activity that can ease many teachers in integrating gaming consoles into the classroom It is a numeracy-based activity that has applications in many other subject areas. This activity was shared with other teachers at my school in our weekly Xbox professional learning sessions.