Sunday, October 28, 2007

Area Adventure (SLP): Tech Review 2

Area Adventure is a web-based game that helps high school students practice the calculation of perimeter and area. The player is asked to complete a journey around the world, following a route from New York City, Paris, Hong Kong, Cairo, Taipei, to London. When in one city, he or she will have to select the flashing geometric shapes that appear on the landscape and solve the provided math problem by clicking on the correct answers. Such efforts will bring them to the next city until they complete the journey.

The Challenge of the game is based on a clear goal of traveling around the world through recall of math concept and formulas and calculation of perimeter and area of various geometric shapes. The Proclivity can be found in player's motif of successfully advancing to the next destination through his or her effort. The Uncertainty of the game is not obvious, basically because the repetition of similar calculation steps and the easy access to the formulas. However, the game's presentation of spectacular landscapes around the world and the player's curiosity of knowing the next destination help keep the player to continue the journey. In addition, there is little social interaction required in this game.

The following is a further analysis of Area Adventure using the 10-point essential criteria from Shelton:

1. Learning Issue (complex; intentional). Area Adventure features more like a directed instruction aimed at identified problems than a complex game.

2. Learning objectives and goals (explicit or implicit). The learning objectives of this game are explicit - to master the concept and calulation of perimeter and area of geometric shapes.

3. Constraints (interaction, rules). The game includes an environment with constraints (rules) and follow a certain pattern: Travel to a city - Find Shapes - Solve Problems (with help of the notes and grid tool) - Move to the next city.

4. The game kind of mimic real-world process: While traveling along a certain route around the world calculating perimeter and area of the world-famous achitecture, the player becomes a traveler, mathmatician, and architect.

5. This game is a web-based application that requires computer hardware and software. It also askes the player to prepare paper and pencil for calculation. (it might be helpful if it could embed a calculator and scratch sheet in its interface. Just a thought.)

6. Activity (Interactive; Autonomous). Area Adventure is an autonomous game with embedded information.

7. Non-Random (outcomes tied to learning goals, even with some random qualities). The outcomes are based on the player's attempts, not on performance because it still allows you to move on even you give wrong answers. I'd like to suggest the game designer to incorporate some punishment/improvement into the calculation steps.

8. The activity of the game is not repeatable because the process is somewhat linear and the outcome is not associated with the performance, which likely compromises its original learning goals.

9. Scalable (Internal; External). Area Adventure is not internally scalable. However, it has the potential to be developed to include multiple scenarios based on similar instructional objectives.

10. The game contains representations (traveling around the world) not quite affordable in real-world.

11. Cost effective. This is a free web-based game that can be integrated into high school geometry class.

Dr. Stuve Feedback:

Area adventures sure is a pretty game. It is a very positive experience, aestheically. I'm wondering if it's a bit too contrived. It is quite drill and practice, which is good for practice and mastery of discrete concepts, like area and perimeter. But, do you think kids will bore easily calculating the use of shapes on buildings? I don't know, but I was hoping for more challenging problems. Since the shapes are projected on the objects, even when they were actually caused by perspective, I felt a bit cheated. Might the contrived nature of the game negatively effect kids motivation, or it is just me? I would want to do simple practice calculations in a more simpler form of engagement. But, I would want to see kids reactions first.

But, even a simple tasks can be helpful and lead to better, more confident proplem solving later. If the slick imagery of Area Adventures motivates them to practice, as opposed to just giving then I'm all for it.

What are your thoughts on the contrived nature of Area Adventure?

Wei's response:

I agree Area Adventure is very much of a highly contrived design, with its drill-and-practice nature under the camouflage of "traveling around the world." I admit that initially I was it was attracted by its pretty graphic design and the appealing theme of world journey. However, as I kept moving on in the game I started to feel bored by its repeatedly used drills without any real challenge. Everything followes the same pattern. The sequences produce a predictale outcome. The only interactive activity (if it counts) is the feedback (correct/incorrect) to your multiple choice answer. The player is not allowed to choose his/her own route or learning skill level. In general, no "real" real-world problem-solving senario is introduced in the game. And the kids' motivation will likely get affected in a negative way.

Based on what I observed from playing the game, I would suggest the designers of this game increase the interactivity/interaction (more feedbacks, customizing choices) and raise the challenge/complexity level. In addition, a brief introduction to each landscape and a 3-D 360 degree view of it might be helpful to eliminate the view error caused by perspective.

Overall I would like to rate this game a 3 out of 5.

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