The K20 Center’s Game-Based Learning (GBL) team was recently honored with the Students’ Choice Award at the Serious Games Showcase and Challenge (SGS&C) in Orlando, Florida. The competition, held each November, recognizes excellence in the design of original educational games.
Technology has become an integral part of how we communicate, learn and enjoy our free time. While many digital tools seem to only have recreational value, leaders at the University of Oklahoma’s K20 Center are leveraging video game platforms to engage students in difficult education topics, and OneNet’s statewide network is bringing these resources to schools across the state.
The K20 Center is a statewide education research and development center that adapts instructional technology to improve student learning. Leaders at the K20 Center invest in research to better understand digital learning in order to help Oklahoma schools become high-achieving, interactive learning communities.
While technology is often viewed as an entertainment tool, whether video games or web surfing, leaders at the K20 Center aim to incorporate the enjoyment students find in technology into education initiatives. The K20 Center works to design games that create meaningful learning experiences in a familiar and engaging way.
The K20 team was recently rewarded for its hard work when it won for its entry of the web-based game “Get a Life,” in which students guide a character through important educational, career, and civic choices, learning about the risks and rewards associated with various life opportunities they encounter on the journey. “Functions of the Machine,” another game designed by the K20 Center team, received recognition as a finalist in the competition.
Released earlier this year, “Get a Life” is a playful way for students to learn about the cost of college, the education requirements of careers, how education can affect income, and how to deal with debt and other setbacks. Students are in charge as they help their character “get a life” in the 10–15 minute, narrative-driven college and career readiness game. With 108 different careers to experience, “Get a Life” gives students the chance to learn about the jobs they’re interested in and discover jobs they’ve never heard of before. There’s always something new to encounter and somewhere new to end up because when students create their own stories, no two are the same. “Get a Life” and other games designed by the K20 Center’s GBL team are available at no cost through a partnership with OneNet. They can be accessed through the K20 Games Portal at https://k20center.ou.edu/gbl/.
“We are very proud of the work that the GBL team does for the students in Oklahoma,” noted Javier Elizondo, Coordinator of Game-Based Learning at the K20 Center, “and to be recognized as the Students’ Choice at the Serious Games challenge validates the effort that we have put on making every aspect of games engaging.”
“Over the week, we had the opportunity to share ‘Get a Life’ and ‘Functions of the Machine’ with students, educators, and industry from all over the world,” said Emmett Mathews, Art Director on the GBL team at the K20 Center. “From NASA trainers to middle school students, everyone seemed really engaged and excited with both games. Feedback is always helpful, but hearing from so many different perspectives and backgrounds was especially meaningful.” All of the games aimed at teaching middle and high school students qualified for the Students’ Choice Award, judged by the students who played the games. Both K20 Center entries were selected as finalists.
“It was really great to see the other Serious Games finalists, ranging from VR simulations to motion controlled rehabilitation games. There was a wide variety of really cool and unique games,” added Mathews. “The Student’s Choice award was the perfect award for ‘Get a Life.’ We met a lot of really great people and were invited to help out with next year’s competition. It’s clear that we are making a difference and I am really excited for what’s next.”
OneNet is very pleased with the K20 Center’s success and its partnership with the organization. To help the K20 Center ensure students across Oklahoma had access to their materials, OneNet partnered with the organization to host a virtual server in OneNet’s data center. The server hosts the gaming software and provides students across the state with access to the games. By leveraging OneNet’s existing network, the K20 Center saves substantial time and financial resources. Without the partnership, the K20 Center would have to dedicate staffing resources to ensure proper maintenance of the server, while also paying substantially more to host the games on their personal server.
“Our partnership with the K20 Center demonstrates OneNet’s commitment to expanding educational opportunities across Oklahoma,” said Von Royal, OneNet executive director. “Our aim is to help organizations like the K20 Center advance STEM initiatives.”
With a mission of cultivating a collaborative network that creates and sustains innovation, the K20 Center is changing how children in Oklahoma interact with educational material. So far, K20 games have been accessed by 27,432 users, a figure that continues to climb. By partnering with OneNet, K20’s innovative products are becoming more accessible than ever before.
Story by Abbey Wood, OneNet Strategic Communications Intern Spring 2020