Teachers Do Battle (and Math) at FETC Gaming Tournament
Tabula Digita, makers of the multiplayer educational game (MEG), DimensionM, held the first-ever State MEG tournament at FETC 2008 in Orlando. With qualifying rounds Thursday, Friday's championship pitted 11 educators from 10 states against one another in a fast-paced, first person video game environment, for the chance to win valuable prizes, including a site license of the DimensionM game. The catch? They had to do algebra in order to win.
The event drew an early crowd, with supporters from each challenger's home state there to cheer them on. In the true spirit of community, New York even cheered on North Carolina, whose pep squad was slightly understaffed.
The championship consisted of two five-minute rounds, with the top combined scores deciding the winners. At stake: an iPod touch and a site license of DimensionM for first place; an 8 GB iPod nano for second place; and a 4 GB iPod nano for third place.
Teachers compete in the first ever Tabula Digita "State MEG," a multi-player educational gaming tournament at the FETC 2008 show in Florida
"It's as close as I've ever seen to a real video game for education," remarked Benny Boyd, a middle school algebra teacher from Titusville, FL, who looked on from the crowd.
The object of the game is to navigate through the 3D environment, collecting glowing orbs without being "frozen" by blasts from opponents. These orbs create points on a grid at the top left of the user's screen. Users then take these orbs to one of several "generator rooms" scattered about the playing field, where they are challenged with an algebraic equation. The objective? To find the best-fit line for the points their orbs created. In essence, said one observer, users are solving equations based on their individual game-play.
With two minutes left in the first round, Florida was decidedly on top. But, as any fifth grader can tell you, in the video game world, things can change in the blink of an eye. By the end of round one, it was Aaron Meyers, from Mt. Vernon, OH, topping the leader board.
Emceeing the second round was Tabula Digita's CEO, Ntiedo Etuk, whose enthusiasm energized the crowd. "You guys have to get into the game," Etuk said, pointing into the audience. Competitors continued to collect orbs, solve equations ,and rack up points. With Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania leading the pack, the remaining eight competitors worked furiously through the math, racing against the clock.
As the final seconds counted down, the crowd cheered on their favorites--among them, New York and Florida--hoping for a come from behind victory. In the end, it was all Ohio, as Aaron Meyers from Mt. Vernon Academy bested his fellow competitors, scoring both the game site license and the iPod Touch. In second place, Leslie Harrison from Walton County, FL took home the 8 GB iPod nano, and Ray Dubose, from Central York School District, in Pennsylvania, came in third, winning the 4 GB iPod.
When asked about the value of this platform in his own educational environment, Meyers, a computer instructor who downloaded a trial version of the software prior to attending the conference, said, "Often times, kids would come in to send e-mail or play Flash games. But after we got the demo, they were coming in to play this."
The biggest advantage? According to Meyers, he sees the platform as "offering kids a place where they can succeed in math."
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Chris Riedel is a freelance writer based in Illinois. He can be reached here.