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Peer Review

Life Preservers: An Evolution Learning Game

by Brian Winn , Carrie Heeter


Overall Numeric Rating:

4.5 stars
Content Quality: 4.75 stars
Effectiveness: 4.5 stars
Ease of Use: 4.5 stars
Reviewed: Mar 29, 2013 by Biology Editorial Board
Overview: Life Preservers is a video game based on National Science standards that teaches about evolution, adaptation, and the history of life on earth. Students read brief histories of different organisms at match these organisms with different adaptations. They are then asked to predict which newly introduced exotic species will impact the different species, and which exotic species would cause the most damage to the ecosystem. Players are casts as protectors of the Earth from aliens who would seed the planet with animal species for their own purposes.It is an effective application of technology to this topic.
Type of Material: Interactive game/tutorial.
Recommended Uses:
  • Exercise outside of or in class.
  • Independent learning
  • game competition (with points awarded in game) for a group of students.
  • Technical Requirements: Flash
    Identify Major Learning Goals:
  • Match adaptations of animals with environment requirements
  • Match adaptations with food requirements
  • Explore the concept of a phylogenetic tree
  • Analyze impact of potential new species on environment and long term evolutionary trends
  • Designed to meet National Science Education Standards for grades 5-8 and 9-12.
  • Target Student Population: Middle School, High School. May be appropriate for lower level undergraduate.
    Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Understanding of basic ecology and evolution concepts.

    Evaluation and Observation

    Content Quality

    Rating: 4.75 stars
  • Accuracy of material is good
  • Connection between adaptations and life styles is emphasized on a fairly simple level
  • Requires analysis of information on part of students to maximize points Much of the exercise can be done by trial and error but that reduces point totals
  • Very clear instructions. Captivating graphics. Good foundation in evolutionary theory.
  • Concerns:
  • None

  • Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

    Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Simulation leads students through the information--from simple to more complex. Helps build information in small bits
  • Helps students visualize phyolgenetic trees and the patterns of evolution
  • Game aspect will engage students at many levels
  • Interactive and engaging. Asks students to apply knowledge to solve problems. Sound pedagogical foundation.
  • Concerns:
  • Would like feedback when incorrect answer selected--why is it wrong. Without that it can become a trial and error search with little understanding.
  • Not particularly inquiry based, students go through a set tutorial with set answers. Little opportunity is provided for students to explore topics.

  • Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

    Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Simulation was intuitive and ran easily and to completion.
  • Explanations provided are easy to follow.
  • Help available.
  • Excellent graphics. Loads and runs quickly. Navigation is easy and straightforward.
  • Concerns:
  • No pause button. Can wait until continue button come up but no dedicated pause button.
  • Did not see a way to go back if I wanted to hear something over. Probably because scoring would be affected.
  • Is a bit slow at times. Very linear tutorial, students cannot deviate from the set order of events much.

  • Other Issues and Comments: One of the better simulations I have seen. Could have several applications.