Games and Education - The Logic Class - strategic development plan
SIMS-like educational gaming development
Jerry Garfunkel

I would like to lead a development team that re-creates the game-playing Logic class, part of the Programmer Training Class (PTC) described below; It should be updated at that time. Many of the games that were used in the early iterations of this program, 1970's. 1980's, were not computer based. Most can now be recreated on a computer easily.. (A potential post-graduate research project?) I would find other suitable games that have been developed since I last presented the game-playing Logic class (20+ years ago). Ideally the new Logic class would incorporate handheld computers with students beaming collaborative and/or competitive transactions to each other. If we add wireless broadband technology to this mix, we gain access to the internet and subsequently other students in other places, near and far. The hardware and software to make these connections does exists today, but it is still too "buggy" and/or expensive to be practical. But I have no doubt that these technology issues will be resolved in the next few years. (I conveniently stayed vague.) While the particular limitations of bandwidth and network reliability/security will go away, new technology issues will take their place.
These issues may be managed more easily with a proper collaboration partner (i.e. Dell, Gateway, Apple, et al)
I would like to find (or help create) a high level curriculum development tool for teachers - a "quasi-programming language" perhaps, disguised as a graphic application, similar in purpose to Apple's Hypercard, some years ago. This application would give teachers a "user friendly" authoring tool to manipulate objects that interact with each other.
With or without the tools just mentioned, I would like to find (or help develop) classroom applications that simulate transactional behavior. The popular SIMS series of entertainment software, in particular The SIMS, is a good example of two-dimensional "behavioral transaction processing" (BTP) where the student is transacting with the computer, simulating human behavior. Most of today's video games are two-dimentional BTP applications. In a three-dimentional BTP application, multiple players collaborate or compete. On-line Chess, Scrabble, etc. are 3D BTP applications. And so are games like EverQuest, Dark Age of Camalot, Anarchy, etc. It is this last group of games that is of particular interest educationally. They have become very popular in recent years. In the computer gaming community, these games are referred to as MMORPG - Massive Multi-player On-line Roll Playing Games. The title alone suggests the relevant use of these games in a collaborative learning environment. Suppose we replace the winning objective of these games along with their metaphorical context, i.e. slaughtering the opponant and other high-adventure, etc., with other winning objectives that relate to the learners' real lives. The challenges presented to the game-players in the new games will be based on curriculum guidelines for Mathematics, Science, Social/Civic Studies, History, foreign language, Music and Art appreciation, et al - and targeted for every grade level. It basically gives the students (and the teacher) a platform and possible context to form collaborations. In the educational version of these (M)MORPGs the game strategy calls for collaborating with other players, not slauhtering them - an important difference. Some of the applications, being developed by Elliot Soloway's Hi-Ce group fall into this category. The image of students beaming transactions to one another with their handheld computers in a classroom or out on a field trip takes the gaming metaphor (whatever it may be) off of the computer screen and places it on terra firma, almost anywhere.
As discussed above, if one adds a wireless broadband internet connection to this scenario along with a digital camera and streaming audio/video (live and/or stored), the possibilities, internationally, are endless. The technology for this scenario exists today but at an early stage. In two years from now things will have changed. In five years from now, technology will have changed even more; In ten years from now . . .

Programmer Training Class (PTC)
In the early 1980's, I developed a training program for a large corporation in Philadelphia. To avoid layoffs of non-IT personnel and simultaneously expand its IT staff by 800% (from 12 to 100), this Philadelphia based insurance company hired me to develop a program that sought out and trained qualified company employees to work in the IT department. The range of ages among the students was similar to the range of ages in the Ed Tech Team program. There were 6 iterations of the Programmer Training
Class (PTC)** ranging from 9 to 14 weeks long. The PTC was entirely project-based and collaborative. People were busy with productive activities all the time, just like at camp; there were few official pauses. The technological support for collaborative projects was limited in those days. I used an early implementation of today's client-server networks, known as time-sharing. This is a familiar term to anyone who has been in the IT industry for more than 20 years. The PTC was very successful. One key to the success of this CLE program, was the curriculum I designed for the first week. It taught me some lifelong lessons about the power of a collaborative CLEs. It is these early experiments with collaborative learning that give me some context and leave me disappointed in my camp experience this week. I know the value, the fun, the power of good collaboration work. The first week of the PTC consisted entirely of game playing. Game playing in the early 1980's had little to do with computers. The games these students were playing were all table games, (board games, card games, etc.). Without knowing the details of the Game-Playing class, one might think that the first week was simply used as an ice breaker. The Game-Playing class was much more than an ice breaker. The breaking of the ice and the bonding of the group over those first five days was a byproduct of the groups' activities. That said, the ice breaking and group bonding was astonishing. It caught me by surprise the first time I implemented the program. The games used for this class were of course carefully selected and studied. The playing strategy for all selected games required analysis and deductive logic skills. It was the same analysis and deductive logic skills required of computer programmers - only set in a different context. The games varied from one-person games up to 10-person games. In some instances, I created new rules for games replacing dice-throws and other "random" factors with deductive logic challenges. The games were assigned point values based on timings I did months prior to the start of the Programmer Training Class (PTC). ** Students earned points for playing games (and small bonuses for winning); a required quota was assigned for the week. In a CLE, it was important to lay out the expectations for the entire week as early as possible, so that students could manage their own pace (with mentoring and monitoring from me). It quickly became apparent to them that the quota I had set required a lot of work - and a lot of play. Over the first two days I introduced a new game to them every 2 to 3 hours, building their "repertoire" to approximately 12 games to choose from. I administered portions of a popular Programmers Aptitude Test (SRI/IBM) on the first Monday of class and again one week later using another "sister" version of the same test. The results showed a 14% increase in deductive logic skills , well beyond the statistically significant point. The day was divided into three periods. Rules were created that enhanced student interactions both qualitatively and quantitatively. For instance, each period required new playing partners (with qualified exceptions); Games could be carried across two periods, no more, etc. These classroom rules were rigid and carefully constructed. They were created to produce the maximum collaborative experience among the class members. The strict structure of rules that I created was in support of a very "loose" CLE. I expect that Bette and Mike, et al, go through a similar process every year, trying to create "rules" and structure to maximize the collaborative experience.
Besides serving as an ice breaker, the Logic class
quickly and accurately identified some students who simply lacked the required skills - deductive reasoning - for the vocation they sought. Each class, but one, identified one such person who incorrectly made it through the screening process which selected 14 - 23 employees for the PTC from as many as 300 applicants. The collaborative spirit that was created in the first week, remained with the class throughout the 3 month program and beyond. Twenty-five years later, I am still in touch with some of my students from these early collaborative CLEs.

(A side note: the Game Playing class caught the interest of the Federal government who saw it as a non-culturally-biased" method for identifying and measuring computer aptitude among general populations. Nothing was ever followed up.) At right is the Programmer Training Class #4, 1979


Post Graduate project suggestion
SIMS educational-gaming development

A collaborative team of gaming graphics programmer(s)
Team resources:
   subject experts:
   curriculum expert (teacher)
   Ed Psych
   Behavioral/Organizational psych - 
English Lit story writer (metaphor)
HH programmer (develop HH specific)
graduate research assistants (classroom application)

Create a Hypercard-like high level, graphic (visual), wysiwyg, "programming language" for developers (technical teachers, Brians/Ellens-like).  Program the objects with specific behaviors. 
Subject application can trigger bits and bytes on/off, like "dip switches" that set the object's behavior like genes on a DNA chain.  But only thousands not zeta-zillions variables. 

The finer (as opposed to courser) the model the more accurate the inter-objects' behavior and responses to responses.  (Behavioral transactions)