The xGames project, a collaboration between Reid Kerr and Anniesland colleges, has been running for nearly a year and is currently in the final stages of piloting its innovative use of wireless xBox360 controllers for classroom quizzes. Funded as part of the JISC Learning and Teaching Innovation Grants: SWaNI (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) FE programme, the project has produced a highly user friendly question editor to allow complete novices to quiz and game design to easily author questions. These questions can then be played in one of several games designed by the project on a large screen linked to a standard Windows PC fitted with USB receivers for up to four wireless xBox controllers. Using wireless controllers is crucial as the range of the sensors allows a great deal of flexibility in classroom set up, permitting the use of breakout groups to discuss topics and feedback, for example. Additionally, xBox controllers are familiar to many learners who are more confident using them than PC gaming.
The video below demonstrates the system’s use in a primary school classroom, and the engagement and enthusiasm of the children is immediately obvious, with lively discussions about the quiz questions and clear enjoyment of the session, the immediate indication of correct and incorrect answers providing instant feedback to the pupils. The use of the large screen allows the teacher to constantly maintain a clear overview of the progress of the entire class, allowing her to identify topics that are generally not understood and which require whole class revision or struggling individuals within the group. Discussion amongst the older group of college students is more muted, but their focus on the game mechanics and subject matter is evident.
The games, screenshots for which can be found under the games menu on the project site (software will be available from this site in due course), are designed using industry standard software such as XNA Game Studio, 3D Studio Max, Fireworks and Illustrator, with the question editor using a Visual Basic form for generating plain text files containing the question stem, distractors and correct response. Unlike a commercial system such as Quia, questions are stored in a shared public folder so they can easily be shared and reused by teachers in different institutions. XGames has generated interest from FE and, particularly, schools, and may well see further uptake as an affordable and easily adopted way of bringing game based learning into more classrooms.