Ian Bogost
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Co-Founder, Digitalmill


Thursday & Friday

For this Interactive Exhibit, we show an original suite of seven games designed to teach abstract telecommunications concepts to 4 - 6 grade kids. As a case study for educational games, Project:Connect offers a myriad of useful lessons for teachers, developers, educational researchers, and funding organizations.

About the Project The "where milk comes from" for the 21st Century, Project:Connect combines innovative game-based learning techniques with critical subject matter on technology, science, and math concepts that are aligned to key curriculum principles contained in the national standards for learning.

Educational Challenge
Project:Connect involves six distinct games about technology, science and math principles underlying modern day telecommunications. Game-based programs are utilized to learn how the Internet works, how compression makes it possible to send large files in a shorter amount of time, how satellites are launched into orbit, the basics of the global positioning system, the theories behind fiber optics, and the basics of how cellular service is provided. These topics are often abstract and difficult to teach with traditional texts or even hands-on experiments. Videogames offer a unique ability to offer embodied experiences with these abstract systems. As such, Project:Connect will serve as a useful object lesson in both game design and educational design.

Project:Connect games are designed to run on all Mac and PCs expected to be in classrooms today. The program comes complete with all six online games, user guides, teacher guides, technical glossaries and if requested live in-class support provided by the TelecomPioneers. The games are available in English, Spanish and Canadian French.

Funding and Distribution
Project:Connect offers an example of a unique method to fund and distribute games in public schools. Development of the games was funded by TelecomPioneers, a 95 year-old nonprofit volunteer group of telecommunications executives dedicated to serving their communities. Volunteers fund individual schools in their local area, and members of the nonprofit spend a day introducing classes to the games and the principles they explore. They leave behind detailed teachers guides. This private model for funding games for public education is quite novel.

Game Demonstrations
Despite its impressive size and scope, Project:Connect remains something of an experiment. The games were created under extremely tight timeframes and budgets. While as the designers we are aware of many shortcomings, we believe that the Interactive Exhibit format is a perfect environment to discuss tangible changes and improvements that could be made to these games as a paradigm for future educational games efforts. Morever, we hope that by exhibiting coherent, complete games we can generate a discussion about possible assessment strategies for these and similar games.

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