When I saw that FableVision was the keynote for today, I admit I was a little worried - but only as much as I'm always worried when I see a presentation by someone running a commercial business. I suppose the idea that a company involved in education is more interested in the business than the education runs deep in me. Goodness knows, I've had my share of bad experiences in this area...
But every now and then, I find a glaring exception. The DEN, usually, is one. FableVision is another. We're a good way into their presentation so far and they've barely even mentioned a product that they sell. (I think I caught a few references, but they weren't shameless plugs like I make.) Rather, they're talking about using a child's interests to help them get excited about learning. It started with a story about the twin brother of one of the founders getting in trouble in math class because he was drawing in class.
As you might imagine, I loved the story.
Raffle time. Think I'll end this post here and stop by their booth later.
Now, they're talking about games in education. Not much research supporting their importance, but a lot of anecdotal stories and Maryland is apparently at the forefront of the research supporting the idea of good games getting kids into learning.
Ok, now they're talking about a product, although it's not being released yet. I think they spent enough time making the case for keeping the students' interest to spend some time talking about their bread-and-butter. (But that's just my opinion.)
Labyrinth is a math game (mostly) for middle school students that uses a lot of comic book style storytelling to get the kids interested. It's being privately beta tested at the moment, but the ThinkPort.org booth in the hallway was offering a way to sign up for a chance to try it out.
There are no instructions, leaving the kids to figure out the mechanics. Makes me think of MYST, a game series that sucked away countless hours of my life in college.
There's even a way for students to communicate with each other using the "Tasty Pet Communicator " (the name fits the plot, trust me), although according to the ThinkPort booth there are enough admin rights for teachers to make that communication safe.
"The people who learn the most from educational software are the people who make educational software." He told us that quote was a secret. Gee, I hope no one blogs it...
That was a segway to talking about Scratch and other programs that help students make their own games - products that FableVision doesn't make. Encouraging students to compete against them in game development, or trying to encourage students to become future FableVision employees? You decide.