Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Can video game save children life?

In this article I explain the educational theory and motivation behind development of EvilToys game that will be released for OLPC laptop and normal computers.

By Ahmed Mansour
contact: atphalix [AT] inbox [DOT] com


Anti personnel mines are munition designed to explode from presence, proximity, or contact of a person. whoever triggers the mine, whether a child or a soldier, becomes its victim and can still kill or injures civilians decades later after the end of conflict.

Explosive Remnants of War, are not mines, but ammunition (grenades, mortars, rockets, shells, or bullets) which has not been used or has been fired, but has failed to explode. This does not mean that the UXO is safe. In fact, it is extremely unstable and can be detonated by the slightest touch.
Usually UXO cause much more destruction than landmines. The lethal range of the explosion of a common mortar, for example, is 300 metres, while the explosion of a large bomb may be lethal within a range of 1,000 metres or more.
countries in red are the most affected b landmines (source wikipedia)

Landmines and Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) are serious problem affecting about 35 country. in 2010, 70%  recorded of casualties were civilians and 25% of them are children. (according to Landmine Monitor 2011 report. page.37)

To reduce the number of casualties among civilians, humanitarian NGO do two important tasks: demining and Mine Risk Education (MRE) which is : "activities which seek to reduce the risk of injury from mines/ERW by raising awareness and promoting behavioural change including public information dissemination, education and training" IMAS 07.11:'Guide for management of mine risk education' 23 December 2003, page3.

Educational theory:

Tell me, I’ll forget..

The project is based on the assumption that a child learn best by doing and interacting with his environment, rather than being lectured in a classroom.
in other words, how many time you said to your child: "don't touch this!", and he still did it? in normal life it could be "tolerated" since by punishment and learning from mistakes the child result in change in behaviour. but in case of weapons one mistake could be fatal, and this would be ineffective.
Mine risk education used hand drawn images in Laos

Show me, I’ll remember..

The most widely used education medium is leaflet paper, it is cheap and can be easily printed to reach a large population.
the use of cartoons to explain can rise complicated questions as it can be culturally offensive or worse instead of getting the message as clearly as possible, they are distracted by cartoon characters...:
"when the wise point to the moon, the fool looks at his finger". 

Involve me, I’ll understand..
some students can get the message through hearing and listening, and some may (through repetition) remember it without having an understanding it's meaning and thus not apply it in real world and make the entire risk education effort useless! a better solution for both childs is through involving them in the learning process where they don't jump into the conclusion that mines are dangerous but through playing and experimenting they came to the conclusion themselves and thus have a deeper understanding of it.  

A better educational solution would be as close as possible to how a child naturally learn during it's early years, mainly through play in a familiar envirment. like building a physical "studio" with different situation where he may encounter dangerous explosives (and can see physical plastic replica of them) are presented, Through walking inside the studio envirnment child will learn to:
  • Know where they might encounter mines .
  • Avoid entering hazardous terrain.
  • Recognize danger sign and clues that indicate the possible presence of mines.
  • Never touch or get close to a mine or unexploded ordnance or unknown metal debris.
Obviously, making this kind of studio is very expensive and not practical solution and make it hard to transport to remote village and also time consuming to build and adapt from country to another.

My proposed solution to overcome those limitations, are the making of a 3D video game called EvilToys with purpose of modeling a realist Virtual World contaminated with various kind of explosives, where the child through a first person view can walk and survive inside. The safety education are not displayed inside the game but instead embedded in the game rules so learning became transparent for the child and the game give both through play motivation to progress and the only way to progress in the game is to learn to survive by recognizing and avoiding dangerous objects and areas.
The goal is convey knowledge in interactions and feedback from the world rather than static information that need to be remembered, indirectly the player learn to remember area in the virtual world where there is a risk/landmines and learn to avoid it, which could translated into a real life behaviour when faced with similar situation in the real world.

EvilToys Game design:

The player start in closed area with a door and a button on a wall, after pressing veious keyboard buttons and getting familiar with how to navigate through the world the player discover that by getting near the button on the wall is only way to open the museum door.
the aim of doors and button refashion is to give the child a basic sense of Causality and understanding relationship between causes and effect, which is first step in learning that a landmine explode because he stepped on it/touched it and if he does not touch it it won't explode/ if he don't push the door button it won't open. this is a crucial basic skill needed to make the player understand that danger can be avoided by following good behaviour. In other words, what Psychologist call Edward Thorndike's law of effect:

"behaviours that lead to satisfying outcomes are likely to be repeated, whereas behaviours that lead to undesired outcomes are less likely to recur."

The learning stage, start inside a virtual landmine museum where the child has the opportunity to see and recognize shape
of most commonly used mines on a table and get close to them without exploding, and recognize several kind of danger signs. museum is used
as an alternative to plastic replicas to of real mines, when they are not available or expensive to get which give the child a "feel" of the
3D real world size of the objects and thus will be easier to recognize in real life than with photos alone.

Not all UXO/Landmines are shown in the museum, to avoid making the player absorb too much information and give more progressive learning approachy. and instead let the player ask himself: is this unknown object dangerous? that lead to avoid not only known hazards but also to recognize suspected and newly discovered dangerous objects and areas.

The maze is the main game level: the idea behind the puzzle is to make it difficult to remember safe places, and thus when playing again the player will simply skip blindly dangerous area without thinking. but with a maze it is hard to remember the path taken instead encourage the player to look for
clues that indicate dangerous area.


"You don't understand anything until you learn it more than one way." - Marvin Minsky

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Quel est le lien entre logiciel libre et éducation ?

Lien vers l'article original :

La liberté du logiciel a un rôle particulièrement important dans
l'éducation. Les établissements d'enseignement à tous les niveaux devraient
utiliser et enseigner le logiciel libre car seul celui-ci leur permet de
remplir leurs missions essentielles : diffuser le savoir et préparer les
élèves à être de bons membres de leur communauté. Le code source, ainsi que
les méthodes du logiciel libre, font partie des savoirs humains, alors qu'au
contraire les logiciels privateurs1
font intervenir un savoir secret, fermé qui est à l'antipode de la mission
des institutions éducatives. Le logiciel libre soutient l'éducation, quand
le logiciel propriétaire l'interdit.

Le logiciel libre n'est pas limité à son aspect technique ; il a aussi une
dimension éthique, sociale et politique. Il s'agit des droits de l'Homme que
les utilisateurs de logiciel devraient posséder. La liberté et la
coopération sont deux valeurs essentielles du logiciel libre. Le système GNU
implémente ces deux valeurs, ainsi que le partage, car il est bon et
bénéficie au progrès de l'humanité.

Pour en savoir plus, voir la définition
du logiciel libre
et notre article pourquoi le logiciel devrait être

Les principes

Dans cette vidéo de six minutes, Richard Stallman [EN]
explique brièvement et précisément les grands principes du logiciel libre et
leurs rapports à l'éducation.

Des transcriptions de cette vidéo sont disponibles en
espagnol et
d'autres langues.

Des fichiers de sous-titres SubRip sont aussi disponibles en anglais, espagnol, et quelques autres langues.

Téléchargez cette vidéo au format Ogg

Le projet GNU a été initié en
1983 par Richard Stallman dans le but de développer un système libre, le
système d'exploitation GNU. Chacun peut ainsi aujourd'hui utiliser un
ordinateur en restant libre.
Fork me on GitHub