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Heifer International: Game for Change

What it is: Heifer International works with communities to end hunger, poverty, and care for the earth.  Heifer International does not give hand-outs, they offer hand ups.  Transforming lives of hunger and poverty, into sustained lives of hope.  Using gifts of livestock and training, Heifer International helps families improve nutrition and generate sustainable income.  I have written about a program that Heifer International has before, called Read to Feed.  I highly recommend that you take a look at the Read to Feed program if you haven’t seen it before.  Heifer International has partnered with BeaconFire and ForgeFX to create an interactive 3D game that teaches students about hunger and poverty in a virtual world.  Through Heifer International: Game for Change, students will learn about real world conditions of poverty and how communities can create sustainable solutions.  Through game play, students will learn about sustainable options for help.  In the game, students take on the role of a 12 year old Nepalese girl in a village that struggles with poverty and hunger.  There are four tasks/missions that students must complete in the current (beta) version of the game.  Each task offers an activity that teaches a core principle.  One example is a task where students learn about deforestation that makes it more difficult to collect firewood used to cook dinner.  The lessons in the game mirror real-life happenings in Nepal with Heifer International’s partners.  The game is currently in Beta version and the creators are asking for suggestions here.   How to integrate Heifer International: Game for Change into the classroom: Heifer International: Game for Change is an excellent way to offer your students global education, awareness, and encourage them to action.  Students will learn important lessons about issues like poverty and environmental degradation in a real, hands on, manner.  Start out with a geography lesson, encouraging students to find Nepal on a map or globe.  Use Google Earth or Scribble Maps to put a place marker on Nepal and a place marker where they live.  Talk with students about issues of poverty and hunger, exploring the Heifer International site for students where they can watch videos, do experiments, and play games.  Next, allow your students to step into the story by taking the role of a Nepalese girl living in an impoverished village.  Students should work to complete all 4 tasks in the game and keep a journal (online or off) of their thoughts as they complete the game.  Was it hard to find food, wood, water?  There are a lot of lessons packed in here, from geography and social studies, to reading and following directions and character education. As an extension activity, students could create VoiceThreads or Animoto videos about Heifer International.  Tie in the Read to Feed program so that your students can get hands on with Heifer International.  Use their completed VoiceThreads or Animoto videos as “advertisements” for the Read to Feed program. If your students are anything like mine, they will have definite opinions about the game.  Why not take advantage of that, and have them offer suggestions and praise that can be used by the creators?  Have students craft their ideas and send them here. Tips: If you haven’t signed up for the Read to Feed program, it is an outstanding program.  It includes free DVD, leaders guide, poster, storybook (Beatrice’s Goat), brochures, bookmarks, student rewards, and standard based curriculum.  Get your students excited about reading and involved in their global community, it is never too early to get your students thinking about others! Please leave a comment and share how you are using Heifer International: Game for Change in your classroom.

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Playfic: create, play and remix text-based games

Posted by admin | Posted in Analyze, collaboration, Create, Evaluate, History, Interactive book, Language Arts, Middle/High School, Primary Elementary, Science, Secondary Elementary, Teacher Resources, Web2.0, Websites | Posted on 08-01-2013

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What it is: Playfic is a site that let’s users create, play and remix online text-based games.  I may have lost some of you already…but don’t leave yet! A text-based game is a genre of game that uses no graphics or sound, but instead, uses text to tell a story in an interactive world.  Think of a choose your own adventure tech-style.  Students can create a story that others can interact with by directing the story using words and phrases.  As an example, the story might be about a forest, describing what you can see East, West, North and South.  The player would type in a direction “East”, hit the return key, and the story progresses.  You can try out a sample text-based game here.

How to integrate Playfic into the classroom: Playfic has all kinds of good stuff for classrooms.  To create a story, students must first learn a little bit of coding.  Tutorials are included on the Playfic site, and are easy enough to get your students up and running in no time.  There is even a link to an Inform 7 (coding language) recipe book that will have your students dreaming up new scenarios and actively researching how to make them come to life.  Students can create games for each other while strengthening their writing and grammar skills.  This is wonderful for fictitious writing, but could also be used for students to explore “what ifs” in history and science.  Students can take a moment in time and dream up what might have been different about the world if the event hadn’t happened the way that it had.  As they are researching and learning about the actual event, they will also be analyzing why the event is important and critically thinking about it’s impact on the world we live in.  Similarly, students could explore a science experiment, hypothesizing what will happen and the different outcomes that might occur.

Teachers could create these choose your own adventure stories for students for new learning or review of a topic.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have a story using sight word vocabulary that prompted practice with the sight words?

I know a handful of students who really struggle with writing…it is PAINFUL.  These students are brilliant. They have great ideas to share. One of the students I have in mind came up to me today and said, “over break I taught myself Lua (programming language).”  Students like these will be all over this type of writing.  What a cool way to engage them and excite them about the writing process in a new way.

One of the things that I really like about Playfic is that it takes a lot of planning, organizing, and thought to create this type of story.  For some students the planning/organizing portion of writing is a real struggle.  This site would be so useful in teaching students the importance of those steps.  I also love that it will have them researching and looking up solutions for how to make their ideas come to life.  Just like we do every day in the “real world.”

Tips: The Inform 7 Recipe book can be found here. 

Leave a comment and tell us how you are using  Playfic in your classroom.

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