For Immediate Release
May 8, 2008
Contacts: David Ottalini, 301 405 4076 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Maryland Professor Helps Craft Anti-Violence Video Game
COLLEGE PARK , Md. - When the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) needed help developing a new video game that would teach youngsters aged 5-7 (K-2) how to deal with conflicts peacefully, it turned to the University of Maryland and Human Development Professor Melanie Killen.
She and then-doctoral student Nancy Margie spent months working with interactive gaming veteran F.J. Lennon and his team - including animator Dave Warhol - as they developed Cool School: Where Peace Rules. "I was brought in as a developmental psychology consultant to create the conflict scenarios and conflict resolution options in the video game as well as to provide feedback about the developmentally appropriate nature of the text, the game, and the characters," says Killen. The University of North Texas and the University of Southern California were also involved in the game's development.
The FMCS has a federal mandate through its youth initiative to combat school violence and bullying by teaching conflict resolution skills in at-risk schools. Cool School is a whimsical, interactive game "designed to teach children about conflict resolution in a lively, fun, entertaining, and developmentally appropriate context." Students "journey to the fanciful world of Cool School, where everything from erasers to desks to books to basketballs are alive and full of personality." The player gets to experiment with different solutions to the conflicts, eventually progressing through 10 levels and 52 different scenarios that Prof. Killen and Margie developed. Tested at school locations in Illinois, it's already received high praise - by teachers, parents and students alike.
Cool School runs on both Windows PCs and Macs (OS X), and is available as a free download from Curriki.org - an online nonprofit social entrepreneurship organization aimed at educators.
Prof. Killen has spent more than two decades investigating peer conflicts, and has recently researched how young people react to and evaluate video games. She is enthusiastic about the game and says it can be a wonderfully positive tool for young students. "Not only does it provide educators with a developmentally appropriate tool to enable children to learn constructive and prosocial methods for resolving peer conflicts, it also provides children with the opportunity to play a video game that has positive goals, images, and messages while being fun and entertaining."
With Cool School, Killen says the FMCS has provided a computer game that can help make a difference - in a format young children aged 5 to 7 and their parents - can understand and embrace. "We hope that this game raises the bar on the type of content that parents can expect to be in the games that their children play. Too often, parents are closing their eyes to the content that their children are engaged in when playing games." Killen says the hope is to have versions for different age groups in the future.
The National Education Association Magazine
Newsdesk recently had a "Conversation With ... Prof. Melanie Killen" about Cool School and the University of Maryland 's part in its development.
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