Video Games Take Testing to the Next Level

Researchers see promise in game-like assessments that measure complex skills


Students demonstrate scientific inquiry skills by playing a video game about kelp forests in fictional Kamagua Bay, Alaska

Young people playing Halo or World of Warcraft might not realize it, but they are working on the prototypes for a future generation of student tests.

“A video game is nothing but a series of tests,” says James Paul Gee, the Mary Lou Fulton Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State University and the author of What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Game players, he notes, are continually using their knowledge to solve problems. They need to know, for example, how much energy they need to jump over chasms, which tool to use to open doors, and which weapons to use against particular foes. And, Gee says, “At the end, there’s a ‘super-test’; if you pass, you can take it to a new level.”

Based on these principles, Gee and others are currently developing new models of assessment that immerse students in virtual worlds to measure abilities that are difficult, if not impossible, to capture on pencil-and-paper tests, such as the ability to solve problems and conduct scientific inquiry. In some cases, these assessments are also learning experiences, because students receive instantaneous feedback, as players do in actual video games.

This is an excerpt from the Harvard Education Letter. Subscribers can click here to continue reading this article. Click here to become a subscriber.

For Further Information

Researchers at the Virtual Assessment Project in Cambridge, Mass., are developing three virtual assessments with seven school district partners. Watch a video about the development of the Kamagua Bay game-based assessment on their Web

J. Clarke, and C, Dede. “Assessment, Technology, and Change.” Journal of Research in Teacher Education 42, no. 3, (2010): 309-328.

S. Corbett. “Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom.”The New York Times, Sept. 15, 2010.

C. Dede. “Immersive Interfaces For Engagement and Learning”.Science 323, no. 5910, (2009): 66-69.

D.L. Schwartz, and D. Arena.Choice-Based Assessments for the Digital Age. Palo Alto, CA: Stanford University, August 2009.


Harvard Education Letter. Retrieved December, 8, 2012, from


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Med Kharbach: “So you want to create a digital magazine for your students but still did not find the right web tools to do so. Well now you can .  we have just finished reviewing some great web services that you can use with your students to create and publish highly customizable magazines and newspapers  for  your class.

I am pretty sure as you introduce the idea to your students everyone will want to have a say in their next e-magazine. There is nothing much more rewarding to students then to have a proof of their hard work recognized in a publication of some sort. Educational Technology and Mobile Learning has already published 7 Must Have Tools to Publish Students Work but today we are updating this list to include  new tools.

Most of the tools cited here are easy to use and have user friendly interface and they will let you create your own e-magazine or newspaper in few simple steps. Yet I would recommend your discretion as you use them with your students.”

Please click here to find the tools mentioned.


Kharbach, M. (2012). Eduactional Technology and Mobile Learning. Retrieved on December 2, 2012 from

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Glossary of Multimodal Terms


“This term refers to a set of socially and culturally shaped resources for making meaning. Mode classifies a ‘channel’ of representation or communication for which previously no overarching name had been proposed (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001). Examples of modes include writing and image on the page, extending to moving image and sound on the screen, and speech, gesture, gaze and posture in embodied interaction. It is not that other modes of communication had not been formerly recognized and studied; for example, extensive research and theorization has been undertaken into gesture (e.g. McNeill, 1992). Embracing a variety of communicational means as worthy of investigation constitutes a challenge to the prior predominance of spoken and written ‘language’ in academic work, and opens up possibilities for recognizing, analyzing and theorizing the variety of ways in which people make meaning, and how those meanings are multimodally interrelated. Modes are not autonomous and fixed, but, created through social processes, are fluid and subject to change. For example, the words ‘wicked’ and ‘cool’ have recently taken on fresh meaning. Nor are modes universal, but are particular to a community where there is a shared understanding of their semiotic characteristics. Making marks in the sand as they recounted stories was a mode for the Walbiri women of central Australia (Munn, 1973) that is not available in other communities.”


Mavers, D. & Gibson, W. (2012). National Centre for Research Methods. Retrieved on November 26, 2012 from

Jewitt, C. (2009). The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis. London: Routledge

Kress, G. (2010). Multimodality: A social semiotic approach to contemporary communication. London: Routledge

Please refer to the LINK for all terms of multimodality.

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Digital Writing Month: A Code-Poem Experiment






[Computer code] has its own rules (syntax) and meaning (semantics) … Code can speak literature, logic, maths. It contains different layers of abstraction and it links them to the physical world of processors and memory chips. All these resources can contribute in expanding the boundaries of contemporary poetry by using code as a new language. Code to speak about life or death, love or hate. Code meant to be read, not run. ~ From Code {poems}

1.  Start by working through all (or even just a bit of) “Getting Started with Programming” and/or “HTML Fundamentals” on Codecademy.

2.  Check out this really cool project. Here’s an example of a code poem. And one more. As you work on this exercise, give some thought to how computers and digital technology have altered the evolution of print literature, then experiment more directly with the relationship between writing code and writing literature.

3. Write a poem or microfiction in code using JavaScript and/or HTML. Your code should be both human readable and machine readable. It doesn’t have to accomplish much when compiled (i.e. read by a computer), but it should accomplish something.

4. For reference, here is a page with sample JavaScript, showing some code and what results from that code: Here is a page with sample HTML, showing some code and what results from that code:

5. Test your code. If you’re coding in JavaScript, you can test your code here: If you’re coding in HTML, you can test your code here:

6.  Publish the code for your work somewhere on the web and share a link to it on the #digiwrimo hashtag. We recommend publishing the code itself (and not what it does) in order to have people thinking about the nature of code itself as art.”


Digital Writing Month. (2012). Retrieved November 23, 2012 from


Please also click HERE for Kevin Hodgson’s Code-Poem Experiment

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Hull, G., & Nelson, M. (2005). Locating the semiotic power of multimodality

‘Locating the Semiotic Power of Multimodality’ by G. Hull & M. Nelson

  • A multimodal text can create a different system of signification, one that transcends the collective contribution of its constituent parts.
  • Multimodal texts have the power to be a democratizing force in which the values and views of more people can be incorporated into our constantly changing global environment (Hull &Nelson, 2005)

As a result of the Change in Semiotic System landscape , their goal is:

To offer framework for analyzing multimodal texts

To specify the qualities and characteristics of multimodal text design

To answer: How to account for or where to locate the power of the multimodal text?


Analyzing digital storytelling:

  • Hull and Nelson set out to analyze an exemplar digital story to achieve their goal of accounting for and locating  the power of multimodal texts
  • Digital story-telling is a form of multimedia composition that includes combining images, video segments, background music, and voice-voice over narrative to create digitized movies
  • DUSTY (Digital Underground Storytelling for You(th)

Why digital storytelling?

  • Besides being multimodal, digital storytelling is:
  • Popular
  • Personal
  • Provocative (rigorous, sophisticated entities working on many different semiotic levels)
  • Data-collection/ Archival
  • Broad range of Genres


Life-N-Rhyme’ by Randy

  • An exemplar in the genre of digital storytelling accessible at http://  (The site is temporarily down.  
  • Please watch the video here:

  • Economical design
  • Orchestration
  • Braiding (blending of language, images, and music)
  • Hull and Nelson focused primarily on the images and words. They developed a transcription format to analyze the digital story.

Transcription Format

Hull and Nelson examined to see whether an image, when paired with music , functioned as an icon, index or symbol (Hull & Nelson, 2005)


Narrative Theory Used for Analysis


Labov offered much in the field of narrative theory

Hull and Nelson used Labov’s notion of the semantic  and structural roles of orientation, abstract, and coda in narratives to analyze the digital story ‘Life-N-Rhyme’(Hull and Nelson 2005)


Sections of ‘Life-N-Rhyme’

  •  Title
  • Startling introduction
  • Builds expectations
  • Intro – The first 13 seconds
  • Serve purpose of orientation section
  • Presentation of possible thesis
  • Abstract in regards to the piece as a whole



  • Digital stories create a different meaning when all the modes are experienced together, transcending what could be accomplished if only one mode was used separately
  • Multimodal composing should be included as a form of ‘writing’ that is as formidable as an essay is.
  • There are technological, economic, and pedagogic challenges  that limit the incorporation of digital multimodality in the classroom

Discussion Questions

  • Do you agree that multimodal forms, such as digital storytelling, should be taken as seriously as writing an essay? Why or why not?
  • Have you used multimodal forms in your classrooms to present information?  What was the response and/or the effect from your students?
  • Do you think allowing ELL students to create a multimodal presentations would benefit their L2 acquisition?
  • What would the challenges be to incorporating digital multimodal forms in your classrooms? What are some possible solutions to the challenges that you might face in trying to use multimodal forms?



Hull, G., & Nelson, M. (2005). Locating the semiotic power of multimodality. Written Communication, 22(2), 224-261.

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Classroom Newspaper Google Docs Style

Jeff Utecht says: “3rd Grade Teacher, Laura Chesebro here at ISB continues to impress me with her innovative use of technology with kids. First there is her class website/blog where she engages both parents and students. Then there is the fact all her students are blogging themselves. Another example of her innovation was the weather unit they did earlier this year where she used her Facebook and Twitter Network to gather temperatures around the world for the kids to analyze and use”

Click here for details.


Utecht, J. (2012). The thinking stick. Retrieved November 13, 2012 from

 Please also check the website for: 



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Multimodal Literacies in the Secondary Classroom

“Sewell and Denton (2011) decided to incorporate multimodal instruction on a regular basis in their 6th and 7th grade English classrooms in Kansas.” Please read the details here


A Podcast Project

Smythe and Neufeld (2010), in an effort to investigate potential digital literacy interventions, conducted a podcast project with thier ELL students in the Dalare Community School in Canada. The podcast project was  “part of a larger three-year study concerned with ELLs uneven academic progress, especially in the areas of reading and writing” (Smythe & Neufeld, 2010, p. 489).

Please click here for the details.

Guiding Questions from Multimodality, Literacy, and Technology in a Refugee Youth Center:

How does multimodality affect our English Language Learners ability to construct meaning?
How do we continually engage our students and foster in them a love of learning?
How do we, as educators, prepare our students to be successful in a complex, multidimentional,
     technological world?
Multimodal Literacy in a Classroom Context by Maureen Walsh (2010):
Walsh, M. (2010) Multimodal Literacy: What does it mean for classroom practice? Australian Journal of Lanugage and Literacy. 33(3) p.211-239.
 Multimodality, Literacy, and Technology in a Refugee Youth Center. (2012). Retrieved November, 13, 2012 from
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How to assess multimodal composing?


Our friend, Jin, reminded us of an important concern about multimodal practices in schools: How can teachers assess multimodal writing or composing? This is also a big concern in multimodal research. Here are some solutions for the issue:

MODE is a node of the National Centre for Research Methods and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Based at the Institute of Education, University of London, they deliver an innovative programme of research and training on multimodality and digital data and environments.

Please click here to learn about their training, research, and resources on how to assess multimodal data. Their page will be useful not only for classroom teachers but also for researchers who are interested in multiliteracies or multimodality.

For example, click here for “multimodal approaches to researching social media” 

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“Placing a historic text at the centre of the curriculum through blogging…” by Martin Waller


“I have always been fascinated by the story of ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ by Jules Verne as it was so ahead of its time. Members of an elite club building a projectile which will help them to travel to the moon – in the 19th Century.

In Class 5, we have been learning about ‘Earth and beyond…’ in science and I have been thinking about ways in which I can use this text with my Year 5s. It was with great delight that I found out today that the book is in the public domain and can be reproduced online. I also like the idea of combining a historic piece of literature with a new literacy platform… blogging. I was originally going to link this through the class blog but instead have decided to create a seperate blog at:

The site is very sparce at the moment but this is so I can keep aspects of the plot (and project) secret. I’ve also renamed the Baltimore Gun Club to the Explorers Club to suit the age range of the class I teach.

The first blog post is the invitation at the start of the book given by Impey Barbicane which I think is an excellent stimulus for the start of the project. The children are now invited to discuss the invitation through the comments section. The actual address will be posted in a couple of days and the children can also create their own blog posts linked to our work across the curriculum, as well as their own independent learning linked to space.

I think it’s going to be an exciting ‘extra’ project that the children can take part in, which ties both traditional and new literacies together in an engaging way.

I would be thrilled to hear your thoughs about this project and how you think it could develop.”

Reference: Changing horizons: Reflecting on literacy, teaching, technology and life…(2012). Retrieved from

Note:  Also click here to see the”Class 5 Blog” by Martin Waller

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