MARS GEN ONE: ARGUBOT ACADEMY
CONCEPT: Develop argument-building skills through this immersive sci-if game that even finds time to hit some social/ecological notes.
DELIVERY: Stylish and vibrant, the quality of this app's design is instantly obvious. Then the story kicks in and you're quickly engrossed in the tale of Zodiac, a young boy who has just arrived at an Academy on Mars. Yep, it sounds like a straight up sci-fi role-play game. Except it's not - it's an app for developing argument skills.
Developed by GlassLab Games in collaboration with NASA and the National Writing Project, the app posits that people now resolve their differences and make decisions in a unique way - Pokemon (is it Digimon these days?) style battles that involve robotic assistants battling with their wits by building logical, solid arguments. As the game develops, you learn how to equip your Argubots with claims and supporting evidence to form an effective power source and defeat rivals. You have to consider your evidence carefully and select the most valid approach. Reasoning really is paramount and this is echoed in the matches themselves when you need to decide why an opponent's claim is invalid. Get it right and their robot is toast (along with their claim.)
The claims themselves start pretty simple and evolve steadily to subtly incoporate a range of social/economic and ecological issues (aligned to the STEM standards) that are being faced in this future society - and can be drawn as parallels to our own time. This is outstanding cross-pollination of learning and vailidates the game even further.
The game progresses at a brisk rate and introduces variations on the actual robots to demonstrate different ways that you can support an argument (expert opinions, explaining consequences etc.,) This ensures that the battles are varied and there is often something new to try out.
The characters are also well-developed and likeable with the range of speech options creating some quirky dialogue and comical moments. Students really will love it
Oh and if that;s not enough, you can even sign up at http://argubotacademy.org/home for free to gain access to class management tools, reports, lesson plans and more!
LIMITATIONS: I'm struggling to think of much (always a good sign!) but I guess the ability to choose a female protagonist would have been nice.
CONCLUSION: A really unusual idea, delivered brilliantly and effective in its purpose, this is true gamification of learning at work. Highly recommended. 5/5
Understanding how to build an argument
Develop persuasive writing concepts
Developing reasoning and logic skills
Develop understanding of some simple social issues