Tuesday, October 14, 2014

15 Year Anniversary

Sequoia Studios 15 Year AnniversarySequoia Studios was founded in April 1999 and our initial location was in the Business Park at Richmond Road in Ridgecrest, California in June, 1999.

Business Park at Richmond Road
During the company's first five years, we produced Digital Animation, Serious Games, Web Enterprises, Commercial Video, and Graphic Design.

The company's first digital animation project was "Desert Phoenix" - an 8 minute film for use in a Doron motion ride.  That team included four graduate interns of the Academy of Digital Animation at Cerro Coso College in Ridgecrest.

In October, 2001, Sequoia Studios purchased the South Fork Nursery and Ryckman ranch located on the South Fork of the Wild and Scenic Kern River

Kern River Valley

Over a two year period we converted the nursery buildings into the studios where we work and live today.

Sequoia Studios, Weldon, California

Course Games™ was launched by Sequoia Studios in March, 2004 to focus our abundant energies on the production of Serious Games.  It seems like yesterday, but that was ten years ago.

From 1999-2009 we developed with Virtools as our middleware and we executed a wide range of games during that decade - from short cycle, single level learning games to a full blown MMO from scratch for corporate training and then the Survival Master STEM Epic with 11 single player levels and two multiplayer levels.  As Virtools developers, we enjoyed spectacular support from the Virtools/3DVia team:  Virgile Delporte, Martin St-Germain, Edouard Lorin, Gerald Nacache, Eric Vandermeeren, Lynne Wilson, Xavier Fouger, Cliff Medling, Christine Moses, and HervĂ© Foucher ... just to name a few.

Since 2010, we’ve been powered by Unity.  Amazing, awesome, unlimited … supercool.  The company provides amazing support, the mega community of developers is a treasure trove, and the development road map and 3D party tools is just superb.

All who have worked with me over the last 15 years know that I will probably be the last Softimage animator left on planet earth. From my first work with Softimage 3|D in 1996, I was hooked.  In 1999, instead of jumping on the Maya bandwagon, I choose to continue on with Softimage's complete rewrite - XSI.  I still use Autodesk Softimage every day on our current products.  Alas, Autodesk will no longer be continuing Softimage, so soon I will literally have no choice but to migrate to Maya or 3ds Max.

I was also an early poster child for Macromedia Breeze, and we still rely upon Adobe Connect for our virtual team live meetings.

Jim and Debbie Kiggens
To see what we've been working on recently, please visit  Coursegames.com and check out the portfolio.

To the many clients, collaborators, and friends of Sequoia Studios and Course Games - Thank You!  The first fifteen years has flown by, and we look forward to many new adventures in the years to come.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Gameplay Gender Gap Evaporating

Of the various social media tools, the role of digital games has strong implications for understanding the importance of students’ out of school learning experiences. Foremost, the traditional gender gap between girls and boys in digital game playing has largely evaporated when examining students’ use of tablets and smartphones for games.

Approximately 42 percent of girls in grades 3-5 and 37 percent of girls in grades 6-8 say that they are regularly playing games on tablets; within the same age groupings, 38 percent of boys are using tablets for digital gaming. A similar pattern exists with smartphone-based game playing with slightly more than one quarter of boys and girls in grades 3-5 using this medium for their digital play and 45 percent of middle school girls and boys.

However, participating in massively multi-player online games (MMOGs) is definitely an activity favored by boys, especially middle school boys who self-identify their technology skills as advanced. Amongst that group, 42 percent say they are regularly participating in MMOGs. Even within the group of girls with advanced tech skills, only 26 percent are MMOG players.

A key component of the MMOG play is the social interaction with other players who share a similar passion for the game topic or activities. And while girls are traditionally more interested in group or collaborative projects, a larger percentage of tech-advanced middle school boys (44 percent) than girls (37 percent) see these digital games as a way to learn how to work in teams.
Girls and boys across all grade levels see digital games as having significant learning benefits if employed within a school environment, including greater engagement in learning and making it easier to understand difficult concepts.

While approximately 25 percent of classroom teachers are integrating digital game activities into their instructional plans, some students are already tapping into online games outside of school to support their self?directed interests in academic topics. Approximately one quarter of middle school students have played an online game outside of school on their own, specifically to learn something. The percentage jumps to almost 50 percent amongst boys and girls who consider their technology skills advanced.

“I play games that develop critical thinking skills and analysis of situations. I play strategy games that are involved, complicated, and a real challenge. I learn about things that I am interested in by internet research and I have learned much about what I want to do and what areas I am interested in. I like this learning style because it teaches me about what I want to know and helps to make me more prepared for a job in a field that I am interested in".

(Boy, Grade 9, Jacksonville, Florida)

Read more:

The New Digital Learning Playbook: Understanding the Spectrum of Students’ Activities and Aspirations is the first in a two part series to document the key national findings from Speak Up 2013.

For the past eleven years, Project Tomorrow’s® annual Speak Up National Research Project has provided schools and districts nationwide and throughout the globe with new insights into how today’s students want to leverage digital tools for learning based upon the authentic, unfiltered ideas of students themselves.  With this year’s national report on the views of 325,279 K-12 students representing over 9,000 schools and 2,700 districts nationwide, we focus on getting beyond the anecdotally- driven stereotypes of student technology use to establish a more comprehensive understanding of the myriad of different ways that students are currently personalizing learning using technology.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

No Child Left Untableted

I really liked this article by Carlo Rotella for its skeptical perspective and 'a day in the life' kind of feel for what educators are confronting or will soon be confronting in the paradigm shift to mobile learning.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Research Study for Gamification in Higher Ed

Using the TS 200:  Human Uses of Technology course at the University of Victoria, they are running a control/variable experiment around the use of Gamification to improve student engagement.

Earlier today, David Leach shared their pre-post instrument in the LinkedIn Serious Games Group, soliciting feedback.

The course includes a major project essay activity, and one of the allowed formats is an Alternative Media Essay in the form of an iBook manuscript.

The course website identifies a number of Badges.  I would suggest that these are more achievements than badges, since they mostly target single parameters within the course and I would normally attribute a badge to a skillset with a recognized value outside of the course.

It is supercool to see this research happening and I'm eager to see the outcome

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Can Digital Games Boost Student Test Scores?

A new SRI study released today suggests they do — at least in the subjects of science, math, engineering, and technology. According to the report, which is an analysis of 77 peer-reviewed journal articles of students K-16 studying STEM subjects, “when digital games were compared to other instruction conditions without digital games, there was a moderate to strong effect in favor of digital games in terms of broad cognitive competencies.”

More specifically, “students at the median in the control group (no games) could have been raised 12 percent in cognitive learning outcomes if they had received the digital game.”

Another way to explain it: “For a student sitting in the median who doesn’t have a game, his or her learning achievement would have increased by 12 percent if he or she had that game,” said Ed Dieterle,  Senior Program Officer for Research, Measurement, and Evaluation for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which funded the SRI report.

Simulations have an even bigger impact, according to this analysis. When considering simulations — taking a phenomena, process, or behavior and coding it into something that can be manipulated and studied — improvement index jumped to 25 percent, meaning students who used simulations could have increased their learning outcomes by that amount.

Read the entire article ...

Playing video games can give girls an edge in math!

Girls  should play more video games. That’s one of the unexpected lessons I take away from a rash of recent studies on the importance of—and the malleability of—spatial skills.

First, why spatial skills matter: The ability to mentally manipulate shapes and otherwise understand how the three-dimensional world works turns out to be an important predictor of creative and scholarly achievements, according to research published this month in the journal Psychological Science. The long-term study found that 13-year-olds’ scores on traditional measures of mathematical and verbal reasoning predicted the number of scholarly papers and patents these individuals produced three decades later.

But high scores on tests of spatial ability taken at age 13 predicted something more surprising: the likelihood that the individual would develop new knowledge and produce innovation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the domains collectively known as STEM.

The good news is that spatial abilities can get better with practice. A meta-analysis of 217 research studies, published in the journal Psychological Science last year, concluded that “spatial skills are malleable, durable and transferable”: that is, spatial skills can be improved by training; these improvements persist over time; and they “transfer” to tasks that are different from the tasks used in the training.

This last point is supported by a study published just last month in the Journal of Cognition and Development, which reported that training children in spatial reasoning can improve their performance in math. A single twenty-minute training session in spatial skills enhanced participants’ ability to solve math problems, suggesting that the training “primes” the brain to tackle arithmetic, says study author and Michigan State University education professor Kelly Mix.

Playing an action video game “can virtually eliminate” the gender difference in a basic capacity they call spatial attention

Findings like these have led some researchers to advocate for the addition of spatial-skills training to the school curriculum. That’s not a bad idea, but here’s another way to think about it: the informal education children receive can be just as important as what they learn in the classroom. We need to think more carefully about how kids’ formal and informal educational experiences fit together, and how one can fill gaps left by the other.

If traditional math and reading skills are emphasized at school, for example, parents can make sure that spatial skills are accentuated at home—starting early on, with activities as simple as talking about the spatial properties of the world around us. A 2011 study from researchers at the University of Chicago reported that the number of spatial terms (like “circle,” “curvy,” and “edge”) parents used while interacting with their toddlers predicted how many of these kinds of words children themselves produced, and how well they performed on spatial problem-solving tasks at a later age.

As kids grow older, much of the experience they get in manipulating three-dimensional objects comes from playing video games—which brings us back to the contention at the start of this article. Males have historically held the advantage over females in spatial ability, and this advantage has often been attributed to genetic differences. But males’ spatial edge may also reflect, in part, differences in the leisure-time activities of boys and girls, activities that add up to a kind of daily drill in spatial skills for boys.

If that’s the case, then offering girls more opportunities to practice their spatial skills may begin to close the spatial-skills gender gap—and produce more female scientists, engineers and mathematicians in the bargain. So suggests a study by University of Toronto researchers, published in the journal Psychological Science. They found that playing an action video game “can virtually eliminate” the gender difference in a basic capacity they call spatial attention, while at the same time reducing the gender difference in the ability to mentally rotate objects, a higher-level spatial skill.

Exposure to video games, the authors conclude, “could play a significant role as part of a larger strategy designed to interest women in science and engineering careers.” Participants with little prior video-game exposure “realized large gains after only ten hours of training,” they note, adding that “we can only imagine the benefits that might be realized after weeks, months, or even years of action-video-gaming experience.”

Parents of daughters may blanch at the idea of actually encouraging “years” of action video game play. These moms and dads should tell themselves that their daughters aren’t wasting their time—they’re readying themselves for brilliant careers as scientists and engineers.

From KQED Mindshift

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Future of Innovation is Simulation

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.”

- Thomas Edison

Failing 10,000 times is a physical and mental undertaking that far exceeds most people’s endurance.  Today, however, a new breed of innovators are outsourcing failure to computer simulations and it’s changing business and political strategy.

Barack Obama defeated Mitt Romney, in part, with Big Data.

In corporate life, Mitt Romney was known for his acumen, strong work ethic and keen eye for talent.  He carried these practices over to his political career and his campaign team was similarly bright and indefatigable  They analyzed past trends, developed a theory of the case and executed their strategy efficiently.  They had only one chance to get it right.

President Barack Obama had a different approach.  He created an entire division of young, unkempt, over-caffeinated data junkies with little experience in business or politics.  They had no set theory of the case, but instead ran 62,000 simulations per night and continuously updated their approach.

The result is now clear to just about everyone on the planet.  The smartest guys in the room were no match for terabytes of data and smart algorithms.  There is no more “theory of the case,” but thousands of them, being run constantly.  The point isn’t to be right, but to be less wrong over time.

As Ria Persad, President of StatWeather – a firm that has managed to double the accuracy of weather forecasts, puts it, “There is a difference between a deterministic and a probabilistic forecast. We don’t actually predict one weather outcome.  We run thousands of possibilities, present the most probable scenario and the risk associated with it.”

In effect, we’re increasingly moving towards a simulation economy, where strategic analysis gives way to reconstructing phenomena from real world data, testing hypotheses and learning.

Read the whole article ...