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WRAPPING UP THE INDUSTRY CIRCLE SERIES


We are pleased to present our last article in our 2015/16 Industry Circle series, which aims to acknowledge the achievements and challenges in the growing social impact games industry. We hope you enjoy the following article from Amplify Games, and we’ll see you at our Google Hangout Q&A with the Amplify team on May 10! RSVP here.  
 
EXTENDING LEARNING IN AND OUTSIDE OF SCHOOL
 

At Amplify Games, we are focused on the importance of extending learning both in and outside of school.

We all know that high-quality digital tools and interactive experiences can add great value when well integrated into classroom instruction. But we also know that instructional time is extremely limited and educators always have a great deal of material (often too much) to cover. Have you ever heard a teacher say, "I have too much time with my students and not enough content to fill that time"? Of course not! That’s why our mission at Amplify Games is to captivate students with educational games that will motivate them to increase the amount of time they spend and their engagement with complex texts and ideas, both in the classroom and in their free time.

Here are some lessons learned from our experiences creating learning games that might help you design games that excite and engage students.

We partner with world-class game designers so the students who play our games don’t have to give up the exceptional graphics and production value they expect from their favorite games. The games were designed by commercial game designers and studios in collaboration with leading academics and pedagogy experts to help strengthen engagement and skills in English language arts (ELA), math, and science.
 
 

As one student said, “I’ve been playing games for my whole life, but I never knew there would be a game that I would love that was for learning. That shocked me so much. ... It reminds me I’m just sitting home in my man cave, just playing and playing.” (Yes, this 6th grader has a man cave for game playing, so you know he’s a tough critic!)

It’s not enough just to make educational content sufficiently palatable so that students can stomach the learning component, while still considering the learning part to be yucky. So our approach is to actively inspire students and help build their confidence in key academic domains including algebra, life science, and the close reading of literature.

We spent three years conducting iterative playtesting with over 1,000 students, developing our relationships with groups of playtesters over 8- to 10-week sessions to get the most useful feedback. Now these students have evolved a framework for thinking about key academic topics—they say they’re considering a career in medicine after playing our science games or that our math games “helped me realize that you can do anything with numbers.”

The more time students have with such learning games, the more room for these transformational moments. And when students play engaging games outside of classroom instruction, they get incremental exposure to critical academic topics and skills. That’s why we encourage schools to identify opportunities for students to access our games outside the typical class schedule. Some schools set aside rooms where students can play the games during lunch and after school; others allow the students to take tablets home at night and on weekends. Our ELA games are integrated with a digital library of over 600 texts, ranging from classics to contemporary, fiction and nonfiction; along with the games, students can benefit from extended access to this library outside of class.

 

A recent report by Common Sense Media shows that on average, students ages 8 to 12 spend almost 4.5 hours of screen time every day, not including time spent for school or homework. For teens, that number increases to over 6.5 hours every day. With Amplify Games, educators can reclaim some of that screen time for extended reading and learning, without cutting into their valuable and limited instructional time.

For more about our game design philosophy and school implementations, join us on May 10 for a special G4C Industry Circle Google Hangout. We’ll discuss how our goal to create meaningful games for extended voluntary play translated into the guiding principles for our development process, and we’ll share insights from our research about how students are engaging with our games outside the classroom.

 
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