Over the past 10 years, my attempts at creating games to support classroom-based learning have been very time consuming and the results hardly award winning. I have been waiting for a game software development tool that could build game show-quality learning events that support learning objectives and make memorization fun.
Gameshow Pro by LearningWare is a template-based game authoring tool that has most of the features I've been looking for. The end product can be controlled by the trainer in a classroom or can be played by individuals at a computer. Gameshow Pro Web allows games created with the tool to be played online. (I'll Take Learning for 500 is a book about creating games and features Gameshow Pro. See the TMR review here.)
When you first start the software, you are asked to select from one of six Gameshow shells or templates:
* Classroom Feud
* Final Answer
* Wheel of Knowledge
* Question Bowl
I used Gameshow Pro to build a game to test knowledge of the features and functions of a medical charting application. I chose Wheel of Knowledge, which is very similar to the popular TV show Wheel of Fortune.
After deciding on a game template, you use five "tabs" to build it: "Game Options," "Rules," "Match Setup," "Team Setup," and "Event Setup." The length of the game will probably depend most on the learning goals. Is this game meant to teach facts or to enable a deeper understanding of complex topics?
In my case, the purpose of the game was to teach parts and pieces of a Windows-based application. The class size was about 15 people broken into five teams of three people. I choose five feature topics, five function topics, and five workflow topics. So I had 15 puzzles, which I estimated would take about 3 minutes each to solve for a total of 45 minutes. I added another 15 minutes to allow for the game introduction and a final summary.
The game default is to play sounds for right or wrong answers. I chose the "normal" sound set--a bell-and-buzzer combination. Sounds can be useful or annoying; selecting the right sounds for the target audience is worth some thought.
It's worth noting that the Administration Options tab provides setting for the use of a wireless ring-in system. Teams use this type of device to signal that they have an answer to a question or puzzle.
The Rules tab allows you to customize scoring, determine the length of time the students have to answer a question, guess a letter, and solve the puzzle. The Match Setup tab determines, among things, the prize values and puzzle value colors and, most important, the content of the game ("Match Puzzle"). For example, I chose point values between 100 and 400 for the features and functions questions and between 500 and 800 for the more complex workflow questions.
In the Match Puzzle function, I chose short answer and multiple-choice formats for my game. You can import graphics, sound, and movies and add them to questions. You can't expect the tool to create sound instructional design, however. That's something the developer needs to think through before using Gameshow Pro. Through storyboards, you can map questions to the course learning objectives and word puzzles to the relevant questions.
I experienced no particular difficulty with the software installation. Except for the obvious soundcard requirement, there are no heavy technology requirements for this software.
One of my favorite features of Gameshow Pro is the SideSlammer, the device students can use to let the instructor know they are ready to respond. The five- or 10-team version comes with an instructor remote that enables facilitators to manage the game from anywhere in the classroom.
The option to show a sample question as a pre-game activity provides an opportunity for students to practice using the SideSlammer ring-in device and to learn the game format.
The principle benefit of the templates and their wizard-driven functionality is the significant decrease in the time spent on design and development. The Gameshow Library augments ease of use. The library provides worked examples of each game with explanations for each of the options. Having worked examples is especially useful for novice game developers. In addition, I found the wizards and corresponding options easy to navigate.
In addition to the library, the online help documentation provides instructional design rationale for each of the games. Since the help file is broken into the same informational chunks as the Gameshow Library topics and sub-topics, finding what you need to know for a particular game set is easy. On its website, the vendor has a variety of case studies and tips to use game shows.
Gameshow Pro comes with sample game shows to illustrate how to set up, create, and play a game before creating one yourself. The vendor offers free group webinars as well as individual walk-throughs of the software.
I chose the Wheel of Knowledge game concept because it's similar to a popular TV show and therefore doesn't require much introduction. But selecting a game that is a good match for your content and learning objectives could be a complex task. And since the application is primarily wizard-driven (fill in the blanks or make selections), mastering the tool is a matter of finding specific settings that map to the learning objectives and the needs of the target audience.
Gameshow Pro does limit you to only five games. If the more simple ones like Tic-Tac-Toe or Classroom Feud are not suitable for your adult learners, then you have only three other choices, and they could become tiresome. The games may also be appropriate to a narrow range of learning objectives such as memorization of facts or team-building activities.
To control the flow of game events, the instructor must thoroughly understand the game dynamics such as how to enable the timers, select teams, manage wrong or partially correct answers, and spin the virtual wheel. I recommend that the instructor practice leading the game several times using two to four teams. In addition, some participants could become very competitive, and the instructor will need to be prepared so that it doesn't distract or detract from learning.
Corporate single user licenses are priced according to the number of game types you use. Typical corporate pricing is $895 per perpetual license (unlimited use, unlimited time) for the first four games, $395 per license for Wheel of Knowledge, and $395 per license for Question Bowl. Multiple user pricing is $4,495 for a 10-user license (4 games) and $1,995 for each add-on game.
Do you use games as part of your instructional strategy? If so, download a trial copy of Gameshow Pro. With this tool, even small training teams of content developers or subject matter experts can quickly and effectively create a learning event or assessment that is relevant and engaging for students of all ages.
Review by April Creasey
Product Ratings Gameshow Pro Overall rating *** 1/2
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|Publication:||Training Media Review|
|Date:||Sep 1, 2007|
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