Games in medical education

I have already mentioned briefly that we have been working with our colleagues in the Department of Physiology at UCM’s Medical School. This collaboration goes back to around 3 years ago, when I met Lola Comas and Carmen Fernández Galaz at a focus group in the School of Education.

We spoke briefly about <e-Adventure>, the kind of games and simulations that could be created and we decide to meet later to discuss potential collaborations. In the end, we decided to create a brief simulation to rehearse the steps of a practical exercise in which the students have to measure Hematocrit levels in a blood sample. This practical exercise is performed once in the course, using blood samples from sacrificed laboratory rats. For this reason, students are not allowed to recreate the exercise out of the scheduled session.

The key idea of developing a simulation game covering the steps of the exercise is that students would be able to practice the exercise at their own pace before going to the lab, thus becoming familiar with the steps of the procedure and later on getting more profit out of the time-limited lab experience. In addition, the students would later be able to practice the virtual version of the exercise before the exam to refresh the procedure. The result is what we call the HTC game, a virtual practical exercise developed with <e-Adventure> using photographs of the actual workbench at the lab, and that can be directly deployed through the Virtual Campus at Complutense Unversity.

The results of the experience have been very interesting. We conducted an experiment separating the students into an Experimental and a Control Group, letting the former play a few days before the actual session and sending the latter directly to the lab. The students in the EC found the practical exercise easier, demonstrated a better grasp on the concept and even made fewer mistakes.

All in all, a great success that we reported an article submitted to the International Journal of Medical Informatics, which published the final version recently. Here is the full citation:

Pablo Moreno-Ger, Javier Torrente, Julián Bustamante, Carmen Fernández-Galaz, Baltasar Fernández-Manjón, María Dolores Comas-Rengifo: Application of a low-cost web-based simulation to improve students’ practical skills in medical education. Int. J. Med. Inform. Vol 79, pp. 459-467, (2010)

The article includes a link to download the game, which can also be found (in English and Spanish) in the <e-Adventure> website. In addition, if you don’t have access to IJMI, our self-archived copy of the draft is also available at the <e-UCM> website repository.

CS Training for the Nintendo DS (report from the ISIE 2010 conference)

I am sitting in the lobby of the Palace Hotel in Bari, where the ISIE 2010 confernece is taking place. This is a huge conference (700+ attendees), most of them Electrical or Industrial Engineers. It feels weird to attend a conference in which most people are specialized in topics I only know shallowly (from my first years in college).

Then you may be thinking, “and what are you doing there?” Well, presenting a paper, of course.

This is the complete reference (no page numbers, the physical proceedings are not ready yet):

Roberto Tornero, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Javier Torrente, Baltasar Fernández Manjón (2010). CS Training: Introducing Mobile Educational Games in the Learning Flow. In proceedings of the 2010 IEEE International Symposium on Industrial Engineering (ISIE 2010). July 2010, Bari, Italy.

In this article we describe a line of research we officially opened about one year ago, working on the use of the Nintendo DS game console as an educational tool. We gathered ideas from Brain Training and created a game for practicing Computer Engineering exercises, named CS Training.

We have developed 10 mini-games related to different subjects in the computing curricula, and joined them together in a game similar to Brain Training (aka Brain Age, Train your Brain, etc.). These games can be practiced on the Nintendo DS anywhere and anytime, without pressure or limitations.

However, things start getting interesting when we use the “Evaluation mode”. This mode allows each student to take a measured challenge once a day. When the student starts the challenge, we use the console’s Wi-Fi connection to start a session on a Moodle server (entering user name and password on the console) and download a list of CSTraining-enabled courses. The student selects the course and the game begins!

In this mode, the DS will query the Moodle server to check which games should be presented to the student. The student completes the challenges, the game computes a final score and submits the score to Moodle. The coolest part? You can make these scores public and let the students compete for the best score.

Right now it is fully playable on the Nintendo DS, and we are working on a new and improved version including an editor. It is a very exciting project, I hope the community will like it.

The <e-Adventure> family

It’s been ages since I last posted something. Time constraints this year are being worse than ever and I hardly find the time to write (interesting) things. Just to remind everyone (including me) that I still maintain this blog, I wanted to give a brief overview of the current state of the <e-Adventure> family of platforms.

Yes, I said family.

I am assuming that readers of this blog are already familiar with the <e-Adventure> platform. Almost one year ago, I introduced in this blog the <e-Adventure3D> platform, a 3D version of the same approach to educational gaming. During the last year, we have also been working on a mobile version designed to work in mobile phones, with the idea that it would be possible to create a 2D adventure game using the <e-Adventure> editor and then “export” it suiting different mobile devices.

We have been busy in the last few months promoting this family of platforms all around the world. First, I presented a very early prototype of the mobile platform (<m-Adventure>) at the DIGITEL 2008 conference in Banff, Canada (and I wrote about it).

Then, I went to Japan to present for the first time our <e-Adventure3D> platform in an academic event, the ACM Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment (ACE 2008). The presentation was very successful, mostly because the platform is really cool. I really hope we can push this development further. This is the full citation (remember that you can always find all our publications at the <e-UCM> website):

Javier Torrente, Guillermo Cañizal, Ángel del Blanco, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Baltasar Fernández-Manjón (2008): < e-Adventure3D>: An Open Source Authoring Environment for 3D Adventure Games in Education. Proceedings of the ACM International Conference on Advances in Computer Entertainment Technology (ACE 2008). December 2008, Yokohama, Japan.

Only a few weeks ago, Pablo Lavín went to Jordan to present a newer, much improved version of <m-Adventure>, where he spoke about our flexible architecture designed to support multiple exportation profiles at the IMCL 2009 conference. This is the citation:

Pablo Lavín-Mera, Javier Torrente, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Baltasar Fernández-Manjón (2009): Mobile Game Development for Multiple Devices in Education. In proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Interactive Mobile and Computer-Aided Learning (IMCL 2009), Amman, Jordan.

At the core of all these products, is the notion of using a Learning Management System as a central point in game-based learning activities. Javier Torrente recently traveled to Liverpool to present our work in how to coordinate heterogeneous game platforms (including <e-Adventure>) using a Learning Management System as a persistence layer. The presentation was very succesful and received the Best Paper Award from the Programme Committee at the GDTW 2008 conference. This is the full citation:

Javier Torrente, Pablo Lavín-Mera, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Baltasar Fernández-Manjón (2008).  Coordinating Heterogeneous Game-based Learning Approaches in Online Learning Environments. In Proceedings of the Sixth International Game Design and Technology Workshop and Conference (GDTW2008), pages 27-36. Liverpool, UK.

As you may see, in spite of the long silences in this blog, our research line is more active than ever. We are being pleasantly successful with our products and really anxious to see how far we can go. And soon you will all get a glimpse of our recent progress. Stay tuned for the inminent release of <e-Adventure> 1.0, which right now looks awesome.

Report from the DIGITEL 2008 conference

By the end of November, I attended the DIGITEL 2008 conference in Banff, Canada. This is the IEEE conference on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning and, as such, there were a lot of interesting papers about game-based learning. The papers are already available at IEEE Xplore.

Our paper, also available as a draft at the <e-UCM> website, described our first steps towards the implementation of a mobile version of the <e-Adventure> platform:

Pablo Lavín-Mera, Pablo Moreno-Ger, Baltasar Fernández-Manjón: Development of educational videogames in m-Learning contexts. Proceedings of the 2nd IEEE International Conference on Digital Game and Intelligent Toy Enhanced Learning (DIGITEL 2008), pp. 44-51. Banff, Canada. (IEEE Computer Society). 2008

This article is part of Pablo Lavín’s Master Thesis, a project that I’m proud to be directing.

During the conference I met a lot of great fellows, including a group of European grad students that are researching in game-based learning:
Frozen in Banff

From left to right, they are Hanno Hildmann (German, but residing in the UK), Sheryl Wu (from Taiwan, neither grad student nor european, but great anyway), Neil Peirce (from Ireland) and Rikki Prince (from the UK). And yes, it was very very cold.

Travelling to Banff was difficult and expensive, but the location was really awesome. Apart from the work bits, we went all the way up to the mountains with the Banff Gondola, did some hiking in the forest, spotted wild animals and threw rocks into a couple of iced ponds. I would say we had a lot of fun. And that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?

Article: Building Adaptive Game-Based Learning Resources: The Marriage of IMS Learning Design and <e-Adventure>

The article we wrote in cooperation between the <e-UCM> research group and the Educational Technology Expertise Center from the Open University of the Netherlands has finally been published in the latest volume of Simulation & Gaming.

The article describes the integration of the <e-Adventure> platform with IMS Learning Design environments, implemented over the CopperCore platform.

This is the complete reference:

Daniel Burgos, Pablo Moreno-Ger, José Luis Sierra, Baltasar Fernández-Manjón, Marcus Specht, Rob Koper: Building Adaptive Game-Based Learning Resources: The Marriage of IMS Learning Design and . Simulation & Gaming 39, pp. 414-431. 2008

As usual, the final draft is available for download at the <e-UCM> website.