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How An iPad Game With Robots Teaches Kids the Art of Persuasion

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A screen shot of “Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy."
A screen shot of “Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy."


A Collaboration Problem

Future colonists on Mars are having a collaboration problem as they wrestle with important questions about their future.

This not-so-fictional scenario plays out in the iPad game "Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy." Players in grades 6 through 8 help colonists resolve disagreements by piecing together well-crafted arguments ... while learning the art of persuasion along the way.

Learners play the game with characters called Argubots. As disagreements pop up, Argubots are directed to pick up different bits of evidence that support a particular point of view. Opposing views face off in "duels" between Argubots. Winning the duel depends on how you've equipped your Argubot.

And no matter whether you win or lose, every twist and turn in the process cultivates a player's critical thinking—which is useful life skill.

"Persuasive abilities apply to real life," says Pearson research expert Kristen DiCerbo who is part of a team with Glasslab and NASA that developed the game. "You want to be able to build an argument, whether you're asking someone for a refund or taking a stand in politics."

Fewer Barriers Between Learning and Assessment

Turns out, games are particularly useful for this kind of learning. First, they're engaging for young learners. And second, each new level of the game fits in nicely with the stages of how complex concepts are learned. As players advance through the game, their skills get better. Higher levels introduce more sophisticated persuasive challenges.

"The game is also breaking down the barriers between learning and assessment," says Kristen. "As students are engaged in the digital environment, we can capture data and understand what they can and cannot do without stopping for a test."

Will this change the classroom of the future? "I don't know," says Kristen.

"I don't see computers taking over all the decisions in a classroom," she says. "Teachers will always have that role. We're just trying to find the balance."


iPad Game "Mars Generation One: Argubot Academy"
Argubots square off in useful discourse with observations and evidence.