Friday, October 06, 2006

BCCE orgo games Bradley talk


BCCE orgo games Bradley talk

Jean-Claude Bradley: All right, so we only have twenty minutes here I'd like to talk to you about some games that you can do in organic chemistry to help teach organic chemistry. Both of these I developed, EduFrag and Wheel of Orgo; they're very different, as you'll see. I'll be spending a little more time with EduFrag, and hopefully I can end by showing you a little demo.

To put this all into context, basically I gave a talk two days ago, talking about how to use blogs, wikis, screencasting and things like that. Really, the way that you want to think about these is just as different platforms to do the same thing that you have been doing in teaching, even without technology, which is to address content, interaction with the students and assessment. I'll be showing you how you can do the same thing with games and how games are particularly good at certain things.

The first game I'll talk to you about is the EduFrag project. In terms of assessment, I'll show you how you can use it in making quizzes in a 3D world; it's a very the interactive kind of environment. You can add content; I'll show you a study room where you can actually put pictures of your content so students can go study before they do the maze. And then, the interaction, there are all kinds of other possibilities here that I'm sure you will think about that I haven't even addressed.

The EduFrag design - this is what it ended up being after year. I started this last summer. It ended up being a very modular project in the sense that if any of you want to get involved, I can show you in an hour how to create content so you can actually have your students during this. There is a free version of the game, so it's pretty simple and straightforward to do.

This is also quiz based, so this is very different from some of the other games or simulations. It's not a simulation; we're not building molecules, grabbing stuff and trying to build something in 3D. This content is just a very quiz-like environment. The textures are portable, which means that you can use them in different games and it's very flexible. Again, I don't have much time to get into all of this, but if you're familiar with the gaming world, you can go from very, very competitive and very violent kind of interactions to very nonviolent and noncompetitive, and that's your choice.

I started to use this because last summer it struck me that for five years I've been playing Unreal Tournament and I never got bored with it. To me, that's something that I thought would be interesting to see if I could use that addictive quality of that kind of first person shooter game and to see if I could adopt it to chemistry.

The very first thing that I tried was just to put my WebCT quizzes in a maze. You can see here's a weapon - this is a full version of Unreal Tournament 2004. You walk around and you can either go through the doors or not. Here's another example, where instead of using the pictures of the quizzes, I'm actually drawing reactions. The reactions are either true or false; if they're true something good will happen, if they're false something very bad will happen, and that depends on the type of game that we're doing.

I'm going to skip through some of these because you will have access to this entire PowerPoint if you're interested about further details.

This is what the editor looks like. The editor is very simple as well, if you're interested in actually building the maps, but you don't have to.

This project really started to take off when I came across a wiki where they were actually using the educational version of Unreal Tournament. This is pretty cool; it's a very small program, it's about 15 Mbs. You can have all you students run it on any PC; there is no Mac version. Basically, it enables you to do this with a lot of students. The problem with the commercial version is that it is 20 to 40 dollars, depending on where you get it from, and not all students will be able to do that. Although, in our library we did have Unreal Tournament installed specifically for this purpose. But, this is a nice solution where you don't have to have the full game.

The educational version does not have any weapons, so what can you do with that? Again, this is going to be a very different kind of interface than with the full version. This is the system that I adopted. You start up in a study room, which has pictures of your chemistry and you end up in a first room. There are four doors; one of these doors is going to be true, and if you go through that, you'll end up in another room, then another room. If you get any of them wrong, you end up back in the study room - you have to start over.

I run these as races. The students bring their laptops and they all start at the same time. You can see they get very tense when they're in the 18th room because if they make any mistake, they have to start over. But if they do make it past that 20th room, they end up in a reward room, they say, Hey, I'm done, " and then I give them a prize; I'll go over that.

What does it look like? Again, I put a lot of screenshots here because I wasn't sure if I'd have time to do a demo. First the study room: there's a pit here. On the wall you can see this is how to do Lewis structures; you have the valence periodic table and you have examples of Lewis structures. You can walk around that to take a more detailed look at what you want.

This what a typical quiz room looks like; this is a corner, and these are either true or they're false. This one would be false, if you were to walk through that one, you would end up starting back in the study room. The last room is the cat room, where when you see the cats then they've won.

What I've been doing for the past two terms is I've been giving out a chance of winning one of four prizes. One of them is a video iPod, then a chemistry book, molecular model set or a consolation prize. Basically, the winner picks from four cards, but they can't win the same one twice. It really encourages them to keep coming. It's happened twice, where a student has won all of the prizes except for the video iPod, and at the very last moment they did. I ended up giving out one video iPod per term. They really appreciated that.

The full weapons version - it's kind of hard to see here - it's the same principle with the rooms and the four selections, but the difference is when you go through a correct door, you end up with more weapons, ammo or health; and if you go through a false door, you fall in a pit and die. So, you don't want to do that!


The main environment is a gigantic room. These are actually pictures of Linus Pauling, and if you walk into the Linus Pauling, you're teleported into one of these rooms with the four questions. Here, you're playing against other people online, so it's a completely different kind of sensitivity.

Everything that I'm doing here is completely open source. I have a wiki - - where if you want to download these and try them out, it's all there. There's also a blog where, for example, student evaluations, anything that has to do with the game or related games will be posted. I also started a Flickr group that you might what to have people go through, where if you want to upload your doors, you can have people pick and choose to make up their own mazes.

The requirements - again, I don't have a lot of time for the details, but it's really ridiculously simple - you just need to come up with a 256x256 pixel bitmaps, and you have to name them "true001" or "false001" et cetera. What happens is that your files will replace the files on the game, and you're done. Now you can use the templates that I have and they will run with your particular content.

This has been adapted in a number of different areas. Beth Ritter-Guth has done this for grammar and the use of commas. It's the same kind of maze; it's just that you have different content. For chemical information retrieval - the last talk - basically here our librarians tried their hand at putting true and false statements about how to find chemical information. I put my class FAQ on there because they weren't reading it!


In other rooms, they have to do their tests and things like that and I thought I should just put them in here that way they'll have to learn them. It's also been done with calculus and physics; there are people who have done that. I had an undergraduate student do poster session using Unreal Tournament. You can walk around the space and see the pictures of her experiment and things like that.

You guys are a provement tool. Online, this shows up with all of the other servers that are using Unreal Tournament, and if you happen to pick the EduFrag one, here at Drexel University, you can go and do an alkine quiz, in this case.

If any of you are interested, I'd be happy to talk to you about getting involved in that. It's all free.

The second one is the Wheel of Orgo. This is something that I started to play eight years ago on a regular chalkboard. Recently, I've been doing it on either a smart board or a tablet PC. The advantage of a tablet PC is that I can record the sessions, and those are also available to you if you want to see them. I asked the students if they had a problem with having their voices on there, and they didn't, so you can hear me talking to the students as we go through the game. There are a lot of different learning opportunities there, if you're really interested in how that works.

The rules are really simple. This is organic chemistry, so the teacher draws a starting material on one side and a final product on the other side of the page. Then we go around the room and the students take turns drawing on the tablet PC or on the board any reaction from the starting material or any reaction to the product.

What I try to teach them is that often times it's through trial and error that you figure out how to synthesize something, so don't worry too much that may know all the way to the end, just think of all the ways to make aldehydes or think of all things you can do with alcohols. That also helps them to rehearse that.

They get one point for a correct reaction and three points for completing the synthesis, so the student that ties that starts to the end. I've done it with many modifications. This does not count for any points. Again, there are prizes I give out, but this is all voluntary. The students are all participating because they want to do this.

Modifications, I like to do open web and open book because I think that when they graduate that's what they'll be doing, they'll have access to the Internet. If they know how to get the information, then that's what counts. There are all kinds of other things, like if the students are not that strong with material, I sometimes give points for just even attempting it, it really depends on the audience.

This is what it looks like: here's benzene and I end up with this amylyte. They are many steps here; if you're interested this is on This is lecture 15: Wheel of Orgo.

The one thing when you go through this, on your recording, I give students time to think and I didn't edit that out, so there may be periods of silence. But in the future what I did was when I gave students time to think I paused the recording, so it sounds a lot smoother and shorter than it actually was.

Here's just an example of the first play. A student comes up and says, "Okay, Br3 with iron tribromide, and then puts bromobenzene." There are different ways putting it; I can either stop it at that point and say, "You are wrong, " cross it out and put in the right answer. In this particular case, the way we're playing it is I told the students it was wrong and if anyone could figure out what was wrong about it, they got a point. Sometimes you'll see things that are wrong being left there, but in the end they all get corrected.

This is in the middle of the play. You can see here that this branch got corrected, this branch got continued and this student here had a lot of problems with sodamide - with the whole benzene mechanism. This is the attempt of one student to correct another, which is also wrong. But, that's ok because if you listen to it there's a lot of great opportunities to teach them things and even to learn some things because, as I'll show you at the end here.

This is eventually what happened - this is the connection that was made, the reduction of the nitro compound to an aniline. A student suggested sodium borohydride; I had to think about that one because I didn't think it would work, but I wasn't sure because we never actually explicitly looked at it. It turns out you can't do it, but that was a pretty good guess. So, there may be points here where the teacher can learn a lot as well.

The final one I gave for that term was the synthesis of a cat from glycine.


This was very interesting because it was a way for me to have them take everything that they have been studying, their way of thinking about organic chemistry in a completely different perspective. It turns out there is a solution to this. Does anybody know?

[Inaudible audience response]

Jean-Claude: Four billion years and more!


Woman: Give or take a billion years.

Jean-Claude: But, the point here is that they have been thinking about these reactions and now they have to think of a cat as being a very complicated collection of chemical reactions, but still you can describe the behavior of a cat only with chemical reactions.

You know, I really like these games. I'm not big on "I'm going to try this game on a group of students and see if they perform better on a standard exam." There's so much more going on here that has nothing to do with standardized testing. I think if you try these things, you have to keep them in mind. The key thing is that they are all very simple, so it's not a big investment in time. I can work with any of you, and the next day you can have your students try some of these things.

The key websites to go to: edufrag.wikispaces is the wiki, there's a division there in the wiki, there is the free version stuff and then the commercial version stuff; the blog is here,; for the Wheel of Orgo stuff, that's actually in my chem243, the last organic chemistry class we had and finally, I put more stuff in there than just the gaming, but if I do anything with gaming I do report on it, so I do report about the different kinds of teaching initiatives I have going on.

That's basically it. Do I have time to do a quick one minute demo?

Woman 2: You have a minute, or 30 seconds at least.

Jean-Claude: Thirty seconds, all right. Again, this is a very small program; it's just 15 Mbs. You'll see here that you can't use it for commercial purposes, which we're not. As long as you are intent on doing it in your classes, it should be fine.

What happens is the way this is structured; it's actually a collection of maps. You start in the study room - it might be a little dark - but basically you move through this thing. Here's the pit, and you can see that you can get pretty good quality stuff on here. These are the 256x256 bitmaps. Then, you just jump in the pit here and it teleports you to the first room. These are all randomized; every time the students play it's a new maze.

Here, for example, I'm going to be doing a lot more of this. I've been getting feedback that students have problems with drawing arrows, so I'm going to be putting a lot more arrows in these.

Here's an sn2 reaction. I don't think there's anything wrong with it. If I walk through it, it takes me to the next room where I have, again, four choices. If I walk through one of these that is incorrect, I end up at the beginning.

That's basically all there is to it, and like I said, it's very easy to reproduce it. I hope that one of you will want to try something. That's it!


Woman 2: I have two questions. Surely on your salary you're not buying these prizes for all your classes?

Jean-Claude: The question is where does the money come from for the prizes. Well, one of the advantages of having an online class is that the Sloan Semester - any one of you heard of the Sloan Semester? It's an initiative to help Katrina students actually not miss a term. I already had some classes so I taught some students all three courses of organic, and I got some money from that. So, I can use that pool for other educational applications.

Woman 2: My other question is I think I first heard about you when you said that anybody in the country could join in some race that you had; you didn't say anything about that in the talk, is it still, like when you started, a race against other students?

Jean-Claude: The question is the online collaboration or playing?

Woman 2: Yes.

Jean-Claude: The free version, theoretically, does have a network capability, although I've never used it. When we do it in class, basically the students sit in the front rows with their laptops and then make sure that they are all starting at the same place, because you could cheat by simply just going to the last room. But because I'm watching from the back, I know that they're not doing that. Now, for the full version, that is online. It doesn't have to be, but usually it is online. You can play against bots if you're playing by yourself. But yes, that's all around the world.

Man: We have a lot of trouble with people not doing assigned pre-lab exercises; this looks like it might be adaptable to that. Have done that type of...?

Jean-Claude: For lab exercises?

Man: Pre-lab. In other words, somebody being prepared to do a lab.

Jean-Claude: Yes, adapting this for lab would be a great idea. We haven't done that. I don't teach lab, so I haven't had a reason to do it, but it could certainly be done. As long as you have something that's unambiguously true or false in a picture format.

Man 2: In the multi player games, in the full version, are they fighting as well as running around trying to answer these questions?

Jean-Claude: Yes. In the full version you have full weapons; it's basically the same thing except it happens to be about organic chemistry. Theoretically there's no reason, because Unreal is all open, that you couldn't take one of the popular maps and put it into your editor. The editor is really nice. I looked into using the Quake in June also, but it's just too difficult to manipulate; Unreal has a really nice interface. But yes, it's really the whole game.

Woman 2: You can continue to answer questions. But Daryll, are using the PC?

Daryll: I'm using it.

Woman 2: Okay, excellent, good. We'll just switch you over...[Audio ends]

Transcription by CastingWords


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home