Perspectives & Tips on Teaching with our 3d-style "first person" games
 in Sunday School
by Neil MacQueen, www.sundaysoftware.com

"3d" refers to the player's "first person" point of view in the game, and their ability to navigate forward through a landscape, and in any direction.  ("2d" would be like an old style left-right, up-down game like 'pong')

In a "3d" style "first person" game, you SEE THE BACK OF THE PLAYER in front of you, and you move that player. The screenshot on the right from Joseph's Story CD is an example of the player's ""first person" point of view as they navigate Robin through the story landscape. Other times, you do not see a player in front of you --but your point of view is as if you are inside their head and seeing what they are seeing.

This point of view and control excites the kids, and makes them pay attention, and makes them THINK. They have to interact with the story content, make choices, and decide what to do, ---and this often relates to how well they have been listening to the story, know the story, or can figure the story out. As they move, they trigger events.

Games like these are like an Easter Egg or Scavenger Hunt, which they can only "win" if they pay attention to content. Pretty sneaky, really!

Sunday Software has produced a number of "3d - first person" style games, including:

WHY are 3d style -first-person games great to teach with?

Because they are ENGAGING and ENGROSSING to the learner --both on a superficial level (kids love them), and on an educational level (brains love them).

  • Our brains want interaction and control. And when it get it, the brain pays attention and wants more.

  • And they are fun for the kids.

This picture on the right is a great example of ENGROSSMENT.  The lab is being visited by someone dressed up as Moses, and yet the kids are glued to the screens. Notice even the teacher is helping at the screen and nobody is paying attention to either the photographer or the character!

PROBLEM:
Some teachers don't like "games" (
where have we heard THAT before).  They're suspicious of anything that looks like too much fun. Or....they feel like a fifth wheel because when the kids are at the computer, the kids aren't looking at them. Or they see a scene like the one pictured here and think the kids level of engrossment cuts them out of the lesson.

SOLUTION:
See the two adults standing in the photo?  They should be sitting down with the kids and playing through the game WITH THEM!

Some teachers need eye-contact to maintain control or to teach. But as every parents who reads to their child knows, you CAN have wonderful conversations without eye contact. They can interact with YOU, each other, AND with the game at the same time. And because they're ENGROSSED, they are more open to talking about what they are seeing and doing, and the kids who easily get bored -DON'T. 

Where teachers fail at teaching with software is when they STAND BACK and don't engage the students during the software. If you're going to try and "teach" standing 5 feet away, you might as well go out for coffee and let the kids run around.

See this picture of the teacher and student at the computer? Notice where the teacher's hand is. The teacher is not only right by the student's side, he's helping him play. 

 

Neil's teacher-to-teacher tips about teaching with our 3d games:

1. Preview the game with our outline in hand. Take notes. "Read the cheats!" Our free guides are at www.sundaysoftware.com/tips

2. Understand how things work. The guide will tell you, but basically, all 3d games work by your character "triggering" events. Find this, then... Walk into that, and... IF you try to do things out of order, the game won't let you advance. For example, in Exodus Adventures, you can't leave the Burning Bush level until you've found all the places where God wants to talk to you (there are three of them, and they must be triggered in correct order). If you're all thumbs with these games, read the guide and get a teen to help you.

3.  Decided what to key on, where to pause, what to skip, -and what you may want them to come back to after they've finished. Games are great to "play again". Schedule the time.

4. PUSH your kids along as needed.  Note the "secrets" about certain parts of the game and dole them out to the kids to save time. . For example, in Exodus Adventures' game inside Miriam's Library: read the guide about bypassing Mirriam's Song Game if you're short on time. Or in the Land of Goshen, TELL them where to find Dabney's video recording (inside the Hebrew home) rather than having the kids wander around looking for it after they meet Dabney down in the digsite.

5.  Play along with them. If you're not going WITH your students, you're not using the software the way it was designed. Sit with them the computers. I have specifically put in questions, comments, and misc content that I KNOW the kids will bypass. Kids will be kids. But they are there for YOU the teacher to grab hold of and comment about during or after the lesson.

6.  If you can't be right there, give them a worksheet which has questions about the content they are going to be playing through. This will slow them down and get them to READ. In some cases, we have printable worksheets with game guides for the kids. Check our teaching tips for each game.

7. Have them SAVE their locations as they play. Many of our 3d games have a "Save/Load" feature. These "saved spots" can be a way for you and the kids to GET BACK TO certain locations for further discussion. Some games do not because the expectation is that you can finish the game in under 35 minutes.

8. When you are teaching with a game for the first time, it is easier to FIRST BREAK IT IN with the OLDER KIDS. Their level of gaming proficiency will help YOU become better acquainted with the software. Then use it with the younger children.

9. YES, you CAN use 3D game software with NON-readers. They will love it, but need a lot of help. So make sure you invite some of those older kids to help you -who've already learned the software with you in a previous class.

10. With more complicated games, have some High Schoolers help you, and make sure you leave PLENTY of TIME to play the software during class time.

Need help? That's what I do.

Email neil@sundaysoftware.com

<>< Neil MacQueen
www.sundaysoftware.com
 

SUMMARY:
  • Preview, preview, PREVIEW!
     
  • PAY ATTENTION: 3D Games are essentially Scavenger Hunts, -moving, looking, finding & listening in order to solve, accomplish, win.
     
  • Because of the way 3D games are built, they're really good at walking kids through a storyline, or presenting quiz questions.
     
  • PLAY WITH THEM: But because of the way they're built, kids can bypass content, unless you're holding them accountable for it.
     
  • We put Extra Content in the game  for the teachers to grab hold of (the kids will try to bypass it). So you need to play WITH them, and consider scheduling TIME to GET BACK to some of that content again.
     
  • KNOW WHEN TO SKIP or offer "CHEATS". 3d games can 'beat' you. Therefore you need to leave plenty of time in your lesson to try again. And sometimes the teacher needs to be "The Expert Gamer." (which is why you want to print our game guides.
     
  • Play along with them. Observing is not teaching.
     
  • Yes, kids can play TOGETHER. They do it all the time when they're with friends. Manage their working together with some sharing rules.

Read more articles about teaching with software

NOTES for Developers and interested Customers:

WHY WE HAVE DESIGNED SOME OF OUR SOFTWARE IN THIS STYLE?

We design some of our software as 3D games because kids are very GOAL ORIENTED at the computer. They know the objective is to "beat the game" and don't want to lose. This makes 3d style software really sneaky from a teacher's standpoint. The only way you can "beat" Exodus Adventures is to listen to the story and know what to do next in the story,  -maybe even read a Bible verse to figure it out.  Or take Bongo Loves the Bible CD for example... the only way you can "win" and get more bananas to fling at the plants and mummies --is to answer the questions correctly. And when they're done playing through the content, they want to play it AGAIN.  So ideally, you don't just use Joseph's Story once and put it away. You schedule OTHER times for the kids to come in and play it again. And guess what...they learn the story better the second time too.

We design some of our software as 3D games because the "game engines" can be really good at rewarding kids for reading and paying attention. Take Galilee Flyer for example. The only way to "beat" Galilee Flyer is to correctly match all the verses in the game you've selected. And we award "time bonuses" for answering questions correctly  Pretty sneaky of us. Kids don't want to lose. And even when they win, they can fly the game again to get a better score. These 3D quiz games, such as Flyer or Bongo Loves the Bible are designed with the idea that repetition is the cornerstone of all learning.

We design some of our software as 3D games because the "game engines" are good at telling a broad story. The 3D game tools are primarily designed to "get from Point A, to Point B, to Point C" --and to do things at each point in order to advance to the next point.

So while to the first-timer, Exodus Adventures may look randomly laid out, it's not.
It's very linear...

a) go here and do this,
b) then look here and find this thing related to the story,
c) then go here and figure out this other thing using this Bible verse, then.... 

So for Example: in Exodus CD you can't get to the burning bush without first learning about how and why Moses escaped Egypt.

For a GIANT story like Joseph, you can't possibly teach all that the story means in one lesson, or even two. And if all you want to teach is Joseph's, then while you'll find his dreams in the game, the software isn't going to focus on them. That's INTENTIONALLY not how it's designed. It's designed to teach the broad story -which is one of my mantras. (Those of you who know me from my work in the Rotation Model for Sunday School will recognize that emphasis: "First, teach the story!")

Copyright 2011, Neil MacQueen. All rights reserved.