Flying Start is a collaborative project between over 40 Schools or departments at the University of Leeds (UK) created in 2012. It consists of a website with student and staff videos, interactive activities as well as social media channels, where information to help new undergraduate students manage the challenging transition from school or college to university education is uploaded in stages. The aim of the resource is to help students gain a clear understanding of the importance of academic skills so they arrive at Leeds prepared for study.
Monkey Tales Games
Winner of the MEDEA Award for Professionally Produced Educational Media 2011
Monkey Tales Games is a 3D video game series to support the learning of maths, created in 2011 by die Keure Educatief and Larian Studios in Belgium.
This series is made up of five exciting and fun video games with age-specific themes: The Princess of Sundara (7+ age), The Museum of Miscellany (8+ age), The Abbey of Aviath (9+ age) age 9, The Castle of Draconion (10+ age) and The Valley of the Jackal (age 11 and up).
The showcase video of Monkey Tales Games, including an interview with Vicky Vermeulen
The 3D games are divided into chapters and levels, where the player has to solve 3D puzzles (moving something that blocks the way for instance) and is challenged by a monkey to take part in a minigame (an educational math exercise such as “shoot the right fraction” which the player has to win to get to the next level. Monkey Tales Games can be used by teachers in class, but they are mainly intended for home use to help students practice the maths they learn in class. The game adapts the difficulty of exercises, dependent on the skills and knowledge of the player so he or she is challenged at his or her own level. Even playing at different times in a school year will mean that the player has different results.
About the creation of the entry
Mr Swen Vincke, founder of Larian Studios and Ms Vicky Vermeulen, project leader at die Keure Educatief, about the rationale of Monkey Tales Games: “Learning and rehearsing the basic mathematical skills in a traditional way has often been conceived as ‘annoying’, and we realised that additional steps could be taken in order to make mathematics more attractive for everybody. Furthermore, we wanted every student to feel they were being rewarded to be ‘allowed’ to practice mathematics. In order to achieve this goal die Keure and Larian Studios joined forces and combined the expertise of both companies: mathematics didactics and 3D-game development.
Unlike many other edutainment games, the production values of Monkey Tales Games are the same as those applied to commercial ‘real’ 3D games, making it very appealing for children.
The cutscene video's, as well as the accompanying videos in the learning levels and all the rooms are of high quality. Everything was filmed with a green key and then mixed with a 3D design background (Creative Conspiracy). Two famous Belgian actors play the main characters Moudrost and Emotje. They tell the story to the player and guide them through the game.
We would really like to note that with Monkey Tales Games kids will not learn new math content as it's all about rehearsing and drilling exercises of the educational content they have already learned at school. Teachers and parents can use Monkey Tales Games as an instrument to do differentiation and remediation in a completely different way, but Monkey Tales Games focuses on fun so children are very motivated to keep playing and finding out more about how the story ends.”
The pilot game Monkey Labs was a finalist in the MEDEA Awards 2010. For Belgium, The Netherlands and Poland, the games are distributed on CD-ROM as well as in a digital download version from the webshops of both companies. They also plan to distribute the international versions (English, German, Polish) through the leading gaming platforms worldwide.
About Swen Vincke and Vicky Vermeulen
Swen has been in the games industry since 1997, handling multiple roles as he founded Larian Studios. He was the lead software engineer/designer on all of Larian Studios projects up until 2005. His most important credits as a software engineer include the multiple awardwinning Divine Divinity (2002), Beyond Divinity (2004), The Led Wars (1997) as well as a series of other games (12 of them).
In addition to also designing all of the previous games, he designed KetnetKick, the world’s first online creative community for broadcasters which broke all kinds of records in Belgium (VRT, Belgian national broadcaster) and received the kids awards for best game twice (2004, 2005). KetnetKick has since been licensed by the BBC (UK national broadcaster) under the name Adventure Rock, NRK (Norwegian national broadcaster) and one of the biggest French national broadcasters. Since 2005 he’s more focused on managing his teams which consist of 40 people and being responsible for business development at Larian Studios. He is actively involved in the design of all of Larian’s projects including the critically acclaimed Divinity II: Ego Draconis and the innovative Monkey Tales Games.
He has published several articles in Game developers magazine, speaks at various game developer conferences, regularly gives seminars and has been responsible for several research projects, both national and international, with both academic and industrial partners.
Vicky graduated as an Industrial Engineer specialized in Electronics Design in 2003 at Hogeschool Gent. During the next four years she was a teacher of mathematics to 15-18 years old students in several secondary schools in the Ghent area.
In 2007 she started working at the publishing house die Keure Educatief as an editor, where she was responsible for the fund mathematics and sciences. Die Keure Educatief has almost 50 years experience in developing educational books for children in nursery schools, elementary schools, secondary schools and for adults in adult education.
In recent years more and more possibilities of ICT applications are discovered and applied to all parts of society, including education. That’s why Vicky took the opportunity to start working for the new ICT department at die Keure as project manager. She is responsible for several e-learning and ICT projects, including Monkey Tales Games.
Swen and Vicky both represented this entry at the MEDEA Awards 2011 Ceremony and talked about it in further detail during a presentation at the Media & Learning Conference 2011 Brussels. During the MEDEA Awards Ceremony, that took place during this conference, Monkey Tales Games was announced the Winner of the MEDEA Award for Professionally Produced Educational Media 2011 and received a MEDEA Statuette as well as a tablet PC. As Monkey Tales Games was also voted the MEDEA Award Audience Favourite 2011, Vicky and Swen also received a tablet pc. Up-to-date information on the series is available from the official Facebook page.