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Saturday, 23 July 2016

Crypto Island

Fig 1
If you have read the previous pot then you will no doubt have realised that is referred to the considerable success of the Only Rocket Science project that ran in 2014-15, so did I run any project 2015-16, of course, I just hadn’t got around to blogging. The project for the last academic year was Crypto Island see fig 1; the clue is in the name, and the project was designed as a case study for me to investigate the use of serious games. As a pedagogical tool, the use of games, often popularised as gamification using points scores, badges and leader boards can bring a competitive enthusiasm and engagement to learning. While these interventions may prove effective early on, eventually participants can often come to feel punished or controlled by a system that relies completely on extrinsic rewards. Moving away from the view that a game is a tool used to support learning, and that instead the game is a medium through which one learns, presents the opportunity to consider the more intrinsically rewarding benefits of serious games, in essence that the game should not only be fun but produce emotional, behavioural and cognitive engagement, in a combination that is key to success (Iten., N.  & Petko, D. (2014). Learning with serious games: is fun playing the game a predictor of learning success? British Journal of Educational Technology doi:10.1 1 1 1/bjet.12226).

The sim transported students back to the period 1942 when Britain was at war, see fig 2.
Fig 2

fig 3
Students were tasked with learning about and then cracking encrypted messages. The game element I introduced was for them to decipher the code before damage from nightly air-raids see fig 3 reached a predetermined value. In the event that the target value was exceeded, then the encryption would become correspondingly more difficult.

fig 4
Students start by learning the fundamentals of encryption based situated in an old factory learning space, see fig 4. Where materials are presented on notecard dispenser boards in a low resource demanding format. The emphasis at this phase is for collaborative problem solving, making successive attempts at testing and evaluating their learning using in-world online cryptographic engines. Submission uses notecards that are returned using covert drop points, in this case public letter boxes. Once the practice sessions are complete, actual messages are delivered through telephones placed at various locations around the sim; in order to retrieve message students would have to wait for a telephone call (ring), at which point they simply touch on the telephone to receive a notecard; a particular feature I felt had the further effect of encouraging exploration and collaboration. Once the cyphers have been decoded, they are once again recorded on notecards and returned using the drop point network. When all messages have been correctly deciphered, air strikes will cease, effectively ending the game.



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