March 7, 2016
Howard Dortch is an instructor of Fine, Digital and Performing Arts at Shawnee State University.
The Mars Colony: Challenger game designed by Howard Dortch, instructor of the Fine, Digital and Performing Arts at Shawnee State University, is used as a teaching tool at a school in Argyll and Bute in Scotland.
Mars Colony: Challenger is based on an imaginary colonization mission that uses science is a key part of the game, as players consider various aspects, such as air and water supplies, as they navigate through the game.
The idea to use the game as a teaching tool was undertaken by Hugh O’Donnell who teaches English at Dunoon Grammar. The goal was to use the game to research the impact of gaming in literacy and science skills. The students played the game over a term while learning about the three states of matter and then were asked to write a “personal-imaginative narrative” based on the game, such as how bad would it feel to be so far away from home, potential frustrations caused by crew members, and different scenarios one could face if the game was a real mission. O’Donnell’s research showed significant progression in writing among all 28 students.
“Game-based learning, such as the activities undertaken with Mars Colony: Challenger, can support writing across many disciplines.” said O’Donnell.
Game-based learning can profoundly change how disaffected learners in a class regard school and this form of learning holds exciting potential for future educators and students.
“A few schools outside of the one in Scotland have contacted me previously to use the game in the classroom, and I was more than happy to let them,” said Dortch. “It’s very exciting to see your work being utilized as a teaching tool to help engage the younger students.”