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Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy
Pros: Compelling visuals, feisty characters, and intriguing missions make for a rich learning experience.
Cons: Some features are still in development, and the app can have some battery life and stability issues.
Bottom Line: A visually appealing, pedagogically sound exploration of what makes a valid argument.
Teachers might use Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy to encourage students to complete the different missions and experiment with gathering and presenting evidence. Teachers might have kids share the particular points of view they chose to take in their duels on each mission, from the initial argument about ice cream flavors to later missions that deal with a potential pet for the academy.
Teachers can also use GlassLab's substantial data-collection resources to sort their students into class sections and track each student's progress through the game across Common Core State Standards-aligned tasks.
Editor's Note: Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy is no longer available for download.
Mars Gen One: Argubot Academy is a slick, clever role-playing game that follows new cadet Zodiac Flynn through the first days of this earthling's life in a colony on Mars. Zodiac is the first native Earthling to join the Argubot Academy, a training facility otherwise populated by people born in the Mars colony of Bracket City. Zodiac's task is to learn the art of using argubots, the special robots that can be armed with argument cores and then engage in argument duels. Zodiac's task is to use argubots to explore a series of missions that grapple with key issues facing the Martian colonists.
There are several argubots: Authoritrons, Consebots, and Observatrons allow users to appeal to authority, cite consequences, and offer observations, respectively, in the course of their argument. As users amass evidence and progress through each mission, they consider important STEM-themed issues while learning key insights about the components of a valid argument. Users can download Mars Gen One on its own, and schools can sign up to use the Argubot Academy EDU edition, which features standards-aligned reporting, printable lesson plans, and classroom-management features for tracking students' progress.
Mars Gen One is the result of a partnership between game developer GlassLab, NASA, and the National Writing Project. The game was clearly designed with the Common Core in mind -- indeed, the teacher portal on the developer's website allows teachers to track and sort student progress through the different Academy missions according to various standards. Further, this partnership managed to produce an app that focuses as much on the STEM issues in the story (“What sort of protein should we eat? Do robots have feelings?") as on the important ELA skills needed to develop a successful argument.
The argubots at the heart of the game are a powerful metaphor, and they offer an illustration of the purpose and substance of making a solid argument. The take-home message of this game is that an argument is a tool that has to have certain components -- namely, a claim and evidence -- for it to work well. The game drives this point home as Zodiac trains with different types of argubots, learning how to build “cores” with complementary claims and evidence.