Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Problem Solving Games

It is no secret that I am an advocate for using games as a tool for learning. Games have the power to engage students and many offer great learning potential. They allow students to explore, be creative, learn content, develop literacy and numeracy skills, improve memory retention, develop problem solving and decision making skills and all while having fun. Lately, I have noticed a range of problem solving games which are becoming popular. These games offer great learning potential.

Often they relate to physics theories and require problem solving and decision making skills. They also teach students to persevere and to learn by trial and error. The game itself can be the class activity or it can be used as a stimulus for other activities by engaging the students into the subject or topic. Students can even document their journey through a game by creating a blog or journal by writing, video, pod cast and images.

The first game I have found interesting is World of Goo created by 2DBoy. In this game you are given a number of blobs of goo which connect to each other the aim is to construct a structure which reaches the pipe to carry the goo. As you play the game you work through levels of difficulty. This is not a free game, you can download a trial from or purchase it from a games store.

Along similar lines to the World of Goo is Huje Tower. This is a free online game and is also available as an apple app as both lite and paid version. In this game you construct a structure which needs to reach a given point. It also offers a range of levels to work through and provides hints.

Fantastic Contraption is another problem solving game which is available online and as an apple app. You are given challenges to construct contraptions using wheels and rods.

Another construction game which is available is Soup Toys, this game has been mentioned previously in this blog.

Tiki Towers

Tiki Towers is a problem solving game which offers fun for students. This is avalible as an apple app.  You need to build a structure out of bamboo to help the monkeys collect the bananas and get to the other side.  You are only given a number of bamboo to work with each time.  As you play you unlock more islands and levels.

A site which has many more problem solving games is

There are also a range of games available which provide challenge which you solve by drawing in the solution. An example of this is Crayon Physics. Another game which is very similar is Magic Pen.

A game available on is Roller Coaster Creator. The challenge is to draw a roller coaster line from one point to another and to collect the coins on the way. It offers different levels of difficulty and you add different items to the construction.

There are also many drawing games available in

In these games you draw a line which becomes a track for a vehicle. You then press play when you have completed the track. It is also availabe as an app.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Talking Avatar Videos

I know this is not a new device and many people use it but I thought I would share some ideas anyway. The Logitech webcam offers a great function.

You can choose from a range of avatars and the camera calibrates to your face. This makes the avatar move with you, the eyes blink when you blink and the mouth moves as you speak. The webcam has a built in microphone allowing you to film and record a voice at the same time. Here are a few of the avatar options.

It is very easy to use, simply select the avatar and sit in front of the webcam, you need a well lit and quiet area. I encourage students to practice first and then record. Students may need to do a few takes. The video saves to the computer. Using this device is fun to use and encourages students to practice their speaking skills.  It is also useful because you don't need a classroom of computers.  All you need is access to one lap top or a computer and one web cam, students can take turns using it.

Here are a few ideas on how to use it in the classroom

Student use:
  • Reflection of a task
  • Reflection of an excursion or camp
  • Research task
  • Book review
  • Use in a poetry unit, write and recite a poem about one of the avatars
  • An alternative to an oral presentation for students who are not comfortable
  • Read a book to share with younger year levels
  • Read out a story they have written
  • Speak as though they are a character from a story eg. Gingerbread man
  • Use to practice speaking languages other than English
  • Add to a PowerPoint presentation
  • Add to a blog or Glog
  • Use as an introduction to a movie or animation students are making
 Teacher use:

  • Project on a screen or IWB at the beginning of the lesson to gain students attention
  • Use to give instructions
  • Give hints to a new unit of work
  • Add to a virtual classroom
  • Add to PowerPoint presentation
  • Use at a staff meeting
  • Use at a Subject selection night

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World of Zoo

I came across this game while wandering a computer games store, it is called World of Zoo.  I love Zoo Tycoon and this game seemed to have a few similarities. World of Zoo is much easier to play, making it great for younger students. The graphics are more cartoon looking rather than the realistic approach of Zoo Tycoon 2. This also makes the game suitable for younger students.  This is a PC game you can purchase, it also comes in Nintendo DS and Wii formats.

As you play the game you can unlock items and more animals. You can customise the animals and change their patterns and colours. Students also earn coins as they look after the animals and participate in challenges.  They can then buy items with their money. The appropriate environment and food are provided so students don’t need to decide what is suitable for the animal. The game provides information about the animals. Students can also write stories about their animals.

The feature which I find interesting is the built in camera. You can take photos in the game and they can be exported to your computer. So students can interact with the animals and then take photos. It is fun trying to get that perfect photo as the animals move around.  These photos could be used for a project, art activity, research task or used to create a comic.

This game is great to use with primary school aged students. It could be integrated into activities about animals, habitats, using money, numeracy, literacy and writing stories. The game can inspire many art activities such as painting or drawing from a photo students have taken in the game, create an animal mask, look at the colours and patterns on the animals and create a design, create puppets of animals or totem poles.

I have created a comic example, I used the giraffe images I took from the game and created the comic using Comic Life.

Monday, June 07, 2010


This is a great site I heard about at the Blast Conference I recently presented at. It is called Furbles, the site offers demo versions to work with. It is a great way to engage young students in maths activities by looking at shapes, numbers and colours. Students can also see the relationship between data and visual interpretations such as bar graphs, tables and pie charts. These would be great activities to use on an Interactive Whiteboard.

You select the number of furbles you want, the colours, shapes and number of eyes.

The eyes move as you move your mouse around, students love this!

If you select the bar graph option along the bottom bar, you can select the category you wish to look at in bar graph form. Here is an example of one using colour. The furbles move themselves into place to create a bar graph.

The same happens when you select the table format or the pie chart.

If you select the shoe icon, students can move the furbles themselves to form different groups according to the colour, shape or eyes. This would be a great interactive whiteboard activity.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Tap into the World of Comics: Primary School Version

I recently presented my 'Tap into the World of Comics' at the 2010 Blast! Interactive Learning Conference for Middle and Upper Primary Educators at the ICT Learning Innovation Centre  (Which was a fabulous event by the way!).  I realised I had to make my presentation a little more 'Primary school friendly' and more appropriate for presentation mode rather than print mode. 

Here is what I came up with.  I also created a handout for teachers to jot down notes during the presentation and demonstrated another use of comics.