A dozen museum educators stand nervously and watch a class of elementary school kids pour into the Minnesota History Center, iPods in hand. After a 10-minute orientation from their teachers, they stream into the exhibit about life on the American frontier. They’re using a program on the iPods called ARIS to read QR codes attached to objects in the exhibit. Each QR code tells ARIS that the student has fulfilled a step of their selected ARIS quest, and the museum educators are nervous because they designed and prototyped these quests just an hour ago. (Check out a video demo of ARIS here.)

After their visit, the kids evaluate the quests. Did they learn anything? Yes. Was it fun? Yes! Was it fun because just because they got to use iPods? No. It’s hard to ask for more out of an hour’s worth of work creating a mobile educational game (granted, this was a highly unscientific survey).

More at:

Finding Waterman

In which good folks from the  create an ARIS activity for Carmen Petrick Smith’s undergraduate educational technology course. Here’s an excerpt from their Storify piece of what they did:

ARIS is a mobile tablet-based gaming environment, based on the idea of augmenting scavenger hunts with more information about a related story or lesson plan. For instance, if you were teaching the Narnia books, you could have students move around the school as if they were moving through Narnia. You could have them talk to Aslan (in the form of a playground sculpture) and shoot through the halls on quests to save the world beyond the wardrobe.

Anyway, that’s not what we did.

What we did was take the story of John Pearl Gifford, 19th century physician, social activist, founder of the Gifford Medical Center and grave robber, and develop a mini-game around the historical context that allowed Gifford to be both a doctor and a felon.

This morning, we gave the students a first crack at working through the initial two levels of the game: locating the Librarian in Waterman and scanning QR codes to get hold of teeth to sell.

and what they learned about playtesting:

I learned a huge amount this morning not just about the mechanics of game-play but also how players interact with — and EXPECT TO interact with a game. A huge takeaway from this morning is just how much of the text in plaques I should convert to videos. It’s one thing to have a photo of Igor and a list of background text underneath, but a very different thing to take your Igor doll out on campus and shoot a video of him with narration in the background.

…Not that I have an Igor doll at all.

And as a group who are excited about the possibility of getting ARIS into classrooms where students can use it to construct their own narratives about a lesson plan, and interact with each other in a challenging, knowledge-share, this exercise was priceless.

Read more here. Dig on Vermont!

Untitled 6The article is actually called 30 Surprising (And Controversial) Ways Students Learn, and includes a lot of things that readers of this blog probably already know, like:1. Playing scary and violent video games help children master their fears in real life.

2. Video games can lessen disruptive behaviors and enhance positive development in ADHD children
5. Gardening improves children’s desire to learn and boosts their confidence
8. Music and movement augment children’s language capabilities during the preschool years
9. Green spaces or natural backyards elevate children’s learning through discovery

Then there was #11.

11. Children who construct their own video games experience increased cognitive and social growth

In a primitive society, children learned necessary survival skills by mimicking their elders. It was essentially, learning in action. In modern times, academics are often taught rather than “shown”- removing this type of opportunity from the educational process.

However, research outlined in the Lookstein Online Journal indicates that children show cognitive growth when they are given the task of creating their own video game. In order to develop such a game, students must use prior knowledge, create links between scenes, and take control of their learning through trial and error.

In essence, it is another way to create and active learning environment similar to ancient history. Children must use logic, survival skills, and generate new ideas and solutions in order to complete the game.

And it went on:

19. Play-based learning increases children’s attention span

… etc.

Read the rest, then go plan and make and play an ARIS game!

ARIS game proposal

April 19th, 2013

One of our users just uploaded a trailer for an ARIS game designed to change the world for the better by being more than just entertaining. The goal is to create a game that will encourage kids to get outside, exercise, and go out into their environment more.

To accompany his excellent blog post on Transmedia Storytelling, ARIS Game Tool, and K12 Education, John Patten makes a short 2 minute video argument on using ARIS to help improve writing and communication skills in students. Embedded here:



April 19th, 2013

Jarrod Robinson created a cool 15 minute screencast demonstrating how ARIS could be used for physical education. Embedded here:

Here’s a nice example from Melbourne City School of using ARIS to prototype a game to save gorillas:


What they will be building over the next  month or so is some AR and a game to help promote the save the Gorillas campaign from the Jane Goodall Trust and Melbourne City Zoo.

During our first session I introduced the kids to AR 101 and then we brainstormed opportunities for using this technology to place their stories and promotional materials in locations in and around Melbourne.

Between Learning Adviser Steve Brophy and I, we managed to both spark the kids imaginations and guide them to make sure we were both realistic to the requirements of the project and the limitations of the technology. I was in awe of some of the ideas and insights this diverse group of student had on the day.

The second session was all about ARIS and the basics of game mechanics. Many questions later the kids were eager to get started and build themselves a game or two.

Another great example of ARIS being used in schools.



Cool Project: Lake Eola

April 17th, 2013

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From the project Web Site:

Explore the mystery surrounding the naming of Orlando in this situated documentary. As a reporter, you must walk around historic Orlando finding clues and meeting historical figures that aid you in uncovering the true meaning behind the city’s name. Complete quests based on your real-world location and see how you compare to other players.



See more at

Kids learning History with ARIS

ARIS is being used by the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, MN facilitate history learning through a process of design, research, production and play testing! Here is a blurb from their site:

Conquer summer boredom and level up your history skills when you sign up for this fun, hands-on camp to learn the basics of game design. Lots of people enjoy games, and this one’s perfect for you if you’re a history-lover who likes to dig up clues from the past, you’re curious about game design, or you just like a good story! Using ARIS, location-based gaming software, you’ll work with experts and other teens to create an epic game with real content and characters from the past.

More information and registration can be found at: