The ChemTiles Game
In another example of code and content re-mixing for educational purposes, Andrew Lang and I have adapted many of the elements of the Spectral Game and tiles from the Second Life quizzes I traditionally gave for my introductory organic chemistry course. Many of these tiles were originally created for use in Unreal Tournament.
The concept is simple: tiles represent images or statements that are either true or false in any context. By marking them as true or false and ensuring that one true tile is present in a mix of a number of false ones, games can be designed that vary from rooms within a maze to obelisks offering a selection of floating images in Second Life.
In the current implementation, the tiles appear in a web browser. Clicking on the correct tile produces a new random selection. Clicking on a false tile stops the game and records the player's score. Following the same structure as the most recent implementation of the Spectral Game, the first 10 queries present only two tiles. As the game progresses the difficulty level increases and more tiles are included.
Whereas the Spectral Game obtained spectra and molecules from ChemSpider, this game taps into a set of 256 x 256 pixel images in a Flickr group. Using Flickr lets us leverage the ability to easily tag images, which can then be used by players to select different topics to practice.
I'll be giving a prize to the student in my current CHEM241 class who scores highest by 10:50 ET April 10, 2009. The student must play under the "all tags" option, which covers all the material before test 1, given the following week. Students can also practice different modules by selecting tags like Lewis Structures, Hybridization, Nomenclature, Newman Projections, etc.
I think that this approach of rapid remixing of code and content on free hosted platforms (like Flickr or ChemSpider) is really the future of technology in education. It will be difficult for heavy top down - and expensive - systems to compete against the incredible flexibility of these lighweight and loosely connected initiatives led by educators with the simple motivation of just experimenting with teaching in a better way.