New Video Focuses on Teaching Kids Ethics, Common Core Style

MIT's Education Arcade and the Learning Games Network have jointly developed a new video game that they hope will engage kids to start thinking. The new free video game, Quandary, is designed to teach ethics while aligning with Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts for third through eighth graders, writes Katrina Schwartz of Mind Shift.

Quandary helps students understand how to take a different perspective and learn how to empathize. The player in the game acts as a captain. Earth residents have occupied the far away planet of Braxos and the captain leads the mission. The captain is responsible for making important decisions about survival in the new world that will affect their crew and the residents of Braxos.

Currently, the video game has three episodes that follow a similar pattern. The player learns a little about a problem on the planet through a comic strip narrative. He then must interview different characters and organize their statements into facts, solutions, and other opinions.

The player accurately categorizes various kinds of statements and can present characters with different solutions or facts to dig into the issues deeper, gathering more information. If the captain fails to thoroughly investigate the problem, he or she will miss valuable pieces of information.

"Every time I play a fact, the value of each drops down, so I can only play them a limited number of times," said Peter Stidwill, executive producer of the Learning Games Network in an BrainPOP Educators webinar. "So I can't play facts willy-nilly; I really have to think through what I'm going to do." Players have to think critically about the right facts to elicit important information from different characters, some of which prove to be pretty stubborn.

The player is required to make a recommendation to a council back on Earth and justify why he's urging that course of action. "If I haven't gone through the process of finding out information from the characters then I actually don't have the information to hand," Stidwill said.

Also, the player should predict how each character will react to the decision, further testing their ability to take perspectives and show empathy. Finally, the game will show the player the outcome their decision achieved and how it affected the colony.

Scot Osterweil, creative director of MIT's Education Arcade, said "we see games as an organized space for playful exploration and through the process people encounter and form new ideas and concepts, they begin to construct knowledge."

The game developers recommends kids to play in pairs so they can discuss how and why they're making choices. The organizations have developed several tools for teachers to use if assigning the game in class, including an implementation video, game flow chart, and sample lesson plan.

Additionally, there is a mapping document showing how different parts of the game address Common Core standards. The game has a new iPhone and Android app that offers almost the same experience as the web-based game, with one exception. The app also allows players to create their own character.

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