MSU-developed game is class resource

Posted on: August 2, 2011

When middle school students go back to school this fall, they might be playing an MSU-developed video game - in class.

An educational video game developed at Michigan State University is being showcased in GameUp – a new feature of the educational website BrainPOP, which is used in classrooms around the world.

The game, “Life Preservers,” teaches national middle school science standards related to the history of life on earth and is accessible atwww.lifepreservers.msu.edu. It is prominently featured in BrainPOP’s GameU, a collection of top free online game titles that tie to curriculum.

“Life Preservers” was designed by MSU faculty members Carrie Heeter, Brian Winn and Darcy Greene and students as part of a research project funded by the National Science Foundation.

“It is a huge honor for one of the projects developed in the Games for Entertainment and Learning Lab to be part of BrainPOP,” Heeter said. “We are in such good company with the other games on GameUp, and thrilled that ‘Life Preservers’ will be used in the classroom to help teachers and students.”

“BrainPOP is working with some of the best educational game creators and featuring their work,” said BrainPop’s Norman Basch. “We are looking for not only the best educational games, but also those that teachers can effectively use in the classroom.”

Heeter and the team developed the video game as part of an NSF project to study how boys’ and girls’ game-playing styles relate to learning from a game.

“We designed the game to teach national science standards, to fit within a single class period of 40 minutes or less in middle school, and we wanted gameplay to be easy to figure out and fun,” said Heeter, who was the project leader.

Statistics on how people played the game helped the research team uncover many clues about differences in how boys and girls play games. Those clues were published in the book “Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives in Gender and Gaming” and is now used internationally by academics and the games industry to understand gender and games.

BrainPOP sites – including BrainPOP Jr. (K-3), BrainPOP, BrainPOP Español, and BrainPOP ESL – host 11 million visits each month. BrainPOP Educators, its online professional community, has more than 135,000 members.

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