Martin Owen
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Martin is Director of Learning at NESTA Futurelab. Futurelab is an independent research, develop and communicate organisation funded by the UK government and private sources. Its work is in the field of innovative digital resources - including games and mobile learning. Martin’s is to think strategically about the ways technology transforms learning. He helps to build new partnerships and bring new ideas into the organisation, and is involved in forming and evolving these ideas by taking them out to learners. He has developed a number of games including Savannah- a wireless, wearable, multiplayer role playing activity for young learners and the Racing Academy- a real computer game for real physics and engineering.

Previously, Martin held a teaching and research post at the School of Education in the University of Wales, Bangor.


Racing Academy: designing, driving and discourse
Thursday & Friday

This Interactive Exhibit will involve game playing, engineering and a discussion of the notion of game communities and challenge. The learning concept behind Racing Academy is the use of the community of practice that grows around computer games to engage students in discourse about engineering and physics. Ultimately we want to create an MMOG in which there will be a community that trades engineering, physics and mathematical knowledge within what can be truthfully described as a game.

The current implementation has the following features:

  1. It is first and foremost a compulsive game. The prototype is a drag race over a standing quarter-mile strip. The player races against the computer. Races take less than 20 seconds and there is a compulsion to do better and to improve performance. The game is tuned so that the level of challenge in the game is enough to sustain interest yet remain tractable for the student. There are three levels with opportunities to solve three levels of engineering problems.

  2. The game differs from most motor racing games in that it is based on a 1000+ parameter simulation of the automobile and the tracks it races on. This means that the physics and engineering of the cars can extend to post-graduate level. There is extensive telemetry giving students a lot of real data to work with.

  3. We have thought carefully about how we might build communities of practice around the game environment. This is still an area for open experimentation; however, there are possibilities in the medium term of using IM, groupware and mobile phone technologies.

Initially the game has been tested with 15-year-old students in two city schools in Bristol in the UK with a broad spectrum of academic attainment. By the time of the conference this prototype will be freely downloadable so we can have a mass response to the game (we have already have had significant international press coverage). We have plans for a development trajectory that is shaped by our methodology of direct engagement with learners and teachers.

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