How to Teach Guitar

This past week I finally had some free time, so I decided to pull out my guitar and play a few songs. My girlfriend, who also plays, asked if she could join in. Naturally I agreed, but we hit the problem that she didn’t know the song I was playing. I started explaining the chords we would be using and started talking her through the progression and rhythms, but it wasn’t long before we both got frustrated.

Learning to play a song and teaching a song are very different things and I have much more experience with the former. Attempting to teach a song I realized there were several fundamental problems: It was hard to determine what parts of the song would challenge her the most, it was difficult to explain things without resorting to jargon, and it was not always apparent when she wanted to keep practicing something and when she wanted to move onto something new. This experience got me thinking about how some games are very effective at reducing the impact of these kind of challenges, while others fall short. Read more ›

Posted in Education

What’s an Educational Video Game?

Over the past two months I think we’ve made one thing very clear: we’re pasionate about what we’re doing. But based on conversations I’ve had with friends and family, I’m not sure everyone understands our work. So I’m taking this opportunity to explain it to you based on an upcoming game I’m designing, Jade’s Ups and Downs; a simple, story-driven game which asks the player to push the up or down arrow about once every ten seconds (in correspondence with the story) in order to advance.

Educational Video Games??…. What?

As the term says, educational video games are simply video games that educate the player. But how does that education take place? Well, in Jade’s Ups and Downs, we’re teaching 2-3 year olds action-reaction using two buttons, the up arrow and the down arrow. If the player presses the incorrect button there is no stimulus. That is, nothing happens. No sound, no animation, nothing. As an early education teacher, I’ve witnessed two-year olds search for an incorrect or unintended stimulus, repeat it until they tire of the response and move onto another activity. In an effort to get them to complete the activity, we only give the player two buttons (so if one option isn’t right, the other is) and we only acknowledge the correct button input as it correlates to the story.

So therein lies how they’re educated. They learn to push the arrow key which correlates to the story and, as a reward, the animated story advances. For example, one line of the script says, “…. she looked down.” at which point the game pauses and awaits (and will eventually tell) the player to press down. After the down arrow key is pushed Jade will look down and the story continues.

Why Teach from a Computer? No One Wants to Stare at a Screen All Day.

Studies have shown that babies and toddlers (under the age of two) should not be viewing screens (particularly when it’s passive media, such as television) as it distracts their minds from the active learning they should be engaging in at such an early stage of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that young children (ages two and up) be limited to one to two hours of screen time per day. Jade’s Ups and Downs is designed to be a five-to-ten minute play session. It provides a fun and engaging experience that can provide variety to an early education teacher’s curriculum and can be reinforced at home (as it will be playable online). So, again, this game – like our other games – is like another tool in a teacher toolbox, intended to hammer out useful ways to educate.

The End

Hopefully this whole concept of “educational video games” is starting to make sense. They aren’t replacing a teacher in a classroom. But, as is the case with Jade’s Ups and Downs, are an excellent means for a teacher to provide learners with a fun and educational experience that can introduce or reinforce lessons taught in class.

Posted in Education