Multimedia Design Process: How to Make the Bad Stuff Good

Participants will learn how designers work through early versions of games to arrive at final products. As part of the workshop, participants will review and critique early prototypes of work in progress to the final version.

Product Feedback Session

As educators, you may be skilled at identifying a really good educational product. You can review an educational game and, based on observation and testing (or your own developed intuition), you can know if it is effective and engaging. The more difficult task includes learning how to develop a multimedia product—reviewing early prototypes of a game or animation, and changing it many times so that it meets the learning goals while also engaging potential students. This process often involves dumping many unsuccessful attempts as well as starting over. In this session, participants will share strategies for facilitating the design process to meet learner outcomes.

The intention of the presenters is to engage participants as game and animation designers, first by interacting with the process of refining goals and discussing various iterations of a product, and then by engaging in actually redesigning a current product that just isn’t working as intended.

Karin Wiburg, math education researcher, and Barbara Chamberlin, learning technology professor, head the multimedia development team used to develop Math Snacks. Currently funded in the NSF-funded Discovery Learning Program, the Math Snacks project provides very different ways for middle school students to access mathematics concepts through the use of innovative technologies, including mobile technologies. Development begins by identifying gaps in student learning in the existing mathematics curriculum, then translating those gaps into educational outcomes with the potential for in-game learning. Presenters will share early prototypes and rejected game ideas, engaging participants in the process of critically reviewing successive drafts and brainstorming solutions.

For every successful Math Snack released as part of the project, many other game ideas, scripts, and versions are worked with and then rejected. Guiding the product development process are several key questions about design, including, How is this content currently taught and what about that process is not working? How can the use of media address these learning gaps? After the learner has played this game, will she know the content, or will she just understand that she doesn’t know it?

The NMSU team will then share the design of a current game, developed to help learners use multiple forms of representations to understand the grouping of numbers, especially numbers students have trouble visualizing such as fractions. In this game, a player who wants to fill up a 10-seat bus might have to seat a monster who takes up one-and-one-half seats next to another monster who takes up only one half of a seat. Throughout the design process for this game, over 15 versions of “monster school bus” were brought to the team, each one involving improvements in the underlying mathematical meaning, affordances for doing math, game play mechanics, and interface design based on team review and user testing by teachers and students. Suggestions for the final product will be discussed.

Jim Kiggens, associate director for Digital Game-Based Learning, Center for Technological Literacy, Hofstra University, is the producer of the Survival Master game for STEM learning developed through their Simulation and Modeling in Technology Education (SMTE) project that is currently funded in the NSF Discovery Learning Program.

SMTE is a five-year project that develops and researches the academic potential of a hybrid instructional model that infuses digital game-based learning into middle school technology education programs to support students learning STEM content and skills through developing solutions to situated design challenges.

Survival Master is a 3D video game with four single-player levels of scaffolded STEM skills needed for the learners to be successful in a capstone multi-player survival level where teams of four must engineer an emergency shelter to survive the night in mid-winter Alaska.

Kiggins will share early design revisions achieved through playtesting prototypes during pre-production, engaging participants in the agile production process of critically reviewing iterations, and formulating educational game design solutions that respond to evolving criteria (e.g., the Survival Master game story required three major revisions during the initial year of design so that the narrative would best support clarified learning activities).

Kiggins will then share the Role Playing Game (RPG) design of Survival Master’s multi-player level, where player roles are developed to facilitate deeper immersion and engagement. Suggestions for expanding and/or enhancing the RPG features and their assessment will be discussed.