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Nonprofit sees success using motion controls for educational games

October 13, 2015 | By Alex Wawro

"In exploring the use of Leap Motion Controller and the SMALLab motion capture environment, GameDesk has opened up rich possibilities for the use of such devices to help students understand complex Earth and Science topics."

- An excerpt of the nonprofit GameDesk's whitepaper on "Learning Geoscience Concepts Through Play & Kinesthetic Tracking"

There's a bit of notable new research out today detailing how the L.A.-based nonprofit GameDesk Studios has been experimenting with using games -- and in particular, motion-based games -- to help students better understand complex subjects like math and science.

While games have a long history of being used as educational aids (Broderbund and The Learning Company sold millions of them in the '80s and '90s) GameDesk's latest research is notable because it revolves around how motion-controlled games can be used to enhance kinesthetic learning -- the practice of teaching students through physical activities, rather than lectures or bookwork.

Developers with an interest in educational game design may appreciate GameDesk's recent whitepaper on the topic, which lays out how it researched and designed games (in concert with science experts like Bill Nye) using the Leap Motion gesture controller and a floor-based motion capture system to augment lesson plans on topics like continental drift and plate tectonics.

Pre- and post-game testing suggests playing these games did help students better understand the topics at hand, though GameDesk took pains to quantify this testing as "a quasi-experimental study" and did not compare its methods to other game-based learning programs. 

By the way, if you're interested in developing educational games don't forget that you can totally get grant money for that from the U.S. government.

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