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Gaming/Virtual Environments

Learning about Ecosystems Science and Complex Causality through Experimentation in a Virtual World

This project will develop a modified virtual world and accompanying curriculum for middle school students to help them learn to more deeply understand ecosystems patterns and the strengths and limitations of experimentation in ecosystems science. The project will build upon a computer world called EcoMUVE, a Multi-User Virtual Environment or MUVE, and will develop ways for students to conduct experiments within the virtual world and to see the results of those experiments.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1416781
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 - Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

Comprehending how ecosystems function is important knowledge for citizens in making decisions and for students who aspire to become scientists. This understanding requires deep thinking about complex causality, unintended side-effects, and the strengths and limitations of experimental science. These are difficult concepts to learn due to the many interacting components and non-linear interrelationships involved. Ecosystems dynamics is particularly difficult to teach in classrooms because ecosystems involve complexities such as phenomena distributed widely across space that change over long time frames. Learning when and how experimental science can provide useful information in understanding ecosystems dynamics requires moving beyond the limited affordances of classrooms. The project will: 1) advance understanding of experimentation in ecosystems as it can be applied to education; 2) show how student learning is affected by having opportunities to experiment in the virtual world that simulate what scientists do in the real world and with models; and 3) produce results comparing this form of teaching to earlier instructional approaches. This project will result in a learning environment that will support learning about the complexities of the earth's ecosystem.

The project will build upon a computer world called EcoMUVE, a Multi-User Virtual Environment or MUVE, developed as part of an earlier NSF-funded project. A MUVE is a simulated world in which students can virtually walk around, make observations, talk to others, and collect data. EcoMUVE simulates a pond and a forest ecosystem. It offers an immersive context that makes it possible to teach about ecosystems in the classroom, allowing exploration of the complexities of large scale problems, extended time frames and and multiple causality. To more fully understand how ecosystems work, students need the opportunity to experiment and to observe what happens. This project will advance this earlier work by developing ways for students to conduct experiments within the virtual world and to see the results of those experiments. The project will work with ecosystem scientists to study the types of experiments that they conduct, informing knowledge in education about how ecosystem scientists think, and will build opportunities for students that mirror what scientists do. The project will develop a modified virtual world and accompanying curriculum for middle school students to help them learn to more deeply understand ecosystems patterns and the strengths and limitations of experimentation in ecosystems science. The resulting program will be tested against existing practice, the EcoMUVE program alone, and other programs that teach aspects of ecosystems dynamics to help teachers know how to best use these curricula in the classroom.

Learning about Ecosystems Science and Complex Causality through Experimentation in a Virtual World

Taking Games to School: Exploratory Study to Support Game-based Teaching and Learning In High-School Science Classes

This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. 

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1415284
Funding Period: 
Tue, 07/15/2014 - Thu, 06/30/2016
Full Description: 

Research shows that educational games can enhance students' science learning, but current work leaves teachers dependent on researchers and games companies to provide good games and game-based curricula. This project aims to study how teachers can be involved in making science learning games more effective, and how educational science games can better support good teaching. This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. It will conduct studies with successful research-based educational games for learning science, and popularly available educational games from websites such as BrainPop, in a network of teachers who have experience using 'canned' games in their classrooms. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. It will also help develop a list of the types of customization options teachers need in order to be able to effectively use educational games in their classrooms. If successful, this research could point the way towards new tools that let teachers create activities that turn any game into an educational game, and to better use existing educational games in their classrooms. This could greatly speed up our ability to deliver high-quality learning experiences through educational games.

This project involves a participatory design process in which a small number of experienced teachers will feed into a principled, iterative refinement of prototypes of the tools (annotation, data dashboard, and level-builder) to be prototyped within the Brainplay suite. In the beta testing phase, a hierarchical linear model analysis will be conducted on both student and teacher outcomes in 25 classrooms. In addition to the quantitative analysis, qualitative studies involving classroom observations, focus groups, and teacher journaling will be conducted to examine impact on teaching practices and refine the functional specifications. Project dissemination will take place through the community around the previously-developed Leveling Up games (played around 10,000 times per week), and through existing professional networks such as Edmodo. The project will also work within the games community to help inform possible approaches to logging learning data and allowing teacher customization across all games.

Taking Games to School: Exploratory Study to Support Game-based Teaching and Learning In High-School Science Classes

Reclaiming Access to Inquiry-based Science Education (RAISE) for Incarcerated Students

This project will develop a Universal Design for Learning, project-based inquiry science program that includes virtual learning environments, virtual laboratories, and digital scaffolds and supports that promote scientific learning for incarcerated youth.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1418152
Funding Period: 
Mon, 09/01/2014 - Fri, 08/31/2018
Full Description: 

This project is unique in targeting arguably the most vulnerable learners in the American education system: youth confined in juvenile corrections facilities. Three primary problems confronting science education in these settings are: (1) inadequate curriculum and resources; (2) inadequately prepared and supported teachers; and (3) a heterogeneous group of learners, many of whom have disabilities, are disengaged, and/or lack reading and mathematics skills. Failure to address these challenges and the broader educational needs of incarcerated juveniles has broad implications for society, so this project is timely and has high potential for broad impacts.

To address these problems project personnel will employ an iterative development process to develop a curriculum designed to increase access to and mastery of science content, concepts, and inquiry skills critical for careers in the 21st Century STEM workforce. They will then prepare teachers to implement the program in pilot testing in juvenile corrections facilities in Massachusetts. Specifically, the investigators will: (1) align and adapt an existing biology curriculum using Common Core State Standards and Universal Design for Learning principles; (2) develop all materials, digital supports and scaffolds, virtual learning environments and labs, assessments, and teacher professional development materials for one curriculum unit; (3) conduct usability evaluation of all materials and use the results to refine and finalize two curriculum units; (4) prepare teachers to implement the biology program in juvenile corrections education settings; (5) conduct a quasi-experimental study to examine the impacts of the biology program on the content knowledge and inquiry skills of students, their interests, and their levels of engagement; and, (6) disseminate the findings to various constituency groups. The final product will be a Universal Design for Learning, project-based inquiry science program that includes virtual learning environments, virtual laboratories, and digital scaffolds and supports that promote scientific learning for incarcerated youth.

Reclaiming Access to Inquiry-based Science Education (RAISE) for Incarcerated Students

EarSketch: An Authentic, Studio-based STEAM Approach to High School Computing Education

This project will study the influence on positive student achievement and engagement (particularly among populations traditionally under-represented in computer science) of an intervention that integrates a computational music remixing tool -EarSketch- with the Computer Science Principles, a view of computing literacy that is emerging as a new standard for Advanced Placement and other high school computer science courses.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1417835
Funding Period: 
Fri, 08/01/2014 - Tue, 07/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Mary Moriarity
Full Description: 

This project will study the influence on positive student achievement and engagement (particularly among populations traditionally under-represented in computer science) of an intervention that integrates a computational music remixing tool -EarSketch- with the Computer Science Principles, a view of computing literacy that is emerging as a new standard for Advanced Placement and other high school computer science courses. The project is grounded on the premise that EarSketch, a STEM + Art (STEAM) learning environment, embodies authenticity (i.e., its cultural and industry relevance in both arts and STEM domains), along with a context that facilitates communication and collaboration among students (i.e., through a studio-based learning approach). These elements are critical to achieving successful outcomes across diverse student populations. Using agent-based modeling, the research team will investigate what factors enhance or impede implementation of authentic STEAM tools in different school settings.

The researchers will be engaged in a multi-stage process to develop: a) an implementation-ready, web-based EarSketch learning environment that integrates programming, digital audio workstation, curriculum, audio loop library, and social sharing features, along with studio-based learning functionality to support student presentation, critique, discussion, and collaboration; and b) an online professional learning course for teachers adopting EarSketch in Computer Science Principles courses. Using these resources, the team will conduct a quasi-experimental study of EarSketch in Computer Science Principles high school courses across the state of Georgia; measure student learning and engagement across multiple demographic categories; and determine to what extent an EarSketch-based CS Principles course promotes student achievement and engagement across different student populations. The project will include measures of student performance, creativity, collaboration, and communication in student programming tasks to determine the extent to which studio-based learning in EarSketch promotes success in these important areas. An agent-based modeling framework in multiple school settings will be developed to determine what factors enhance or impede implementation of EarSketch under conditions of routine practice.

EarSketch: An Authentic, Studio-based STEAM Approach to High School Computing Education

Advancing Science Performance with Emerging Computer Technologies (ASPECT)

This project combines Unity (a cross-platform game engine and integrated development environment) with cutting-edge haptic technology to provide upper elementary students with a new way of accessing core science content. The core research question that undergirds this exploratory project is: How does the addition of haptic feedback influence users' understandings of core, often invisible, science content?

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316473
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 - Wed, 08/31/2016
Full Description: 

Advancing Science Performance with Emerging Computer Technologies (ASPECT) combines Unity (a cross-platform game engine and integrated development environment) with cutting-edge haptic technology to provide upper elementary students with a new way of accessing core science content, reaching beyond what is typically done in today's classrooms. Haptic feedback may engage embodied knowledge that would otherwise lie untapped. This affordance becomes important when one considers the invisible aspects that undergird many school science concepts (e.g. buoyancy, magnetism, and intermolecular forces.) Haptic interfaces provide learners access to invisible forces (often difficult or impossible to create in real-world scenarios) and may help fill gaps in an individual's chain of reasoning about abstract science content. The core research question that undergirds this exploratory project is: How does the addition of haptic feedback influence users' understandings of core, often invisible, science content?

The work is conducted by a cross disciplinary team from North Carolina State University, the Renaissance Computing Institute a local school system. The projecct includes experts in education, computer science, and art and design. The project uses an informant design approach; actively engaging children and local expert STEM teachers in the development and testing of simulations to help students learn about buoyancy, magnetism, and molecular forces emphasizing crosscutting concepts like cause and effect, systems, and energy. The simulations support student scientific inquiry with in-simulation cognitive tools including the just-in-time presentation of ancillary background information and a virtual science notebook planning tool.

Evaluation and testing includes focus groups with children and STEM teacher informants using low-tech versions of the simulations to elicit feedback on artwork, character features, storyboarded instructional sequences, and potential measures of performance and learning. Usability testing generates data on task performance (including success rate, completion time, and workload) user behavior, and user preference and feeds the iterative development process. Preliminary estimates of the impact are being made through a series of small-scale classroom-based pilot tests near the end of the design cycle for each simulation. These pilot studies employ a randomized pre-test-post-test control group research design with convenience samples of 40-60 grade 3-5 students each year. Participants are split into four groups (based on the haptic and visual rendering of the underlying forces being taught): none (just basic rendering of the objects in the simulation with no visual or haptic forces), visual rendering (including visualization of the forces involved), haptic rendering of forces (with no visualization of forces), and visual plus haptic rendering of forces. A mixed-methods approach is used to garner both quantitative and qualitative data regarding subjects' conceptions of the target content. Measures include open-ended questions, drawing tasks, concept mapping, objective close-ended questions, and retrospective probing.

A main thrust ASPECT is to lay the groundwork for a more inclusive cognitive model of how children integrate and use visual and haptic information in multisensory learning environments. The immediate product of ASPECT's exploratory work is the proof-of-concept that haptics can be successfully integrated with the Unity platform to build simulations that enhance and deepen upper elementary students' science learning. The study will also contribute to the development of design guidelines for the haptic-augmentation of science simulations that can be used by other researchers.

Advancing Science Performance with Emerging Computer Technologies (ASPECT)

Next Generation Preschool Science: An Innovative Program to Facilitate Young Children's Learning of Science Practices and Concepts

This project is developing, iteratively refining and evaluating a science curriculum for Pre-K classrooms with units on Plant Growth, How Things Move, and What Makes Shadows by integrating traditional classroom resources (large and small group activities, hands-on activities, read-alouds) with digital media (touch screen tablets, photos and short videos, and games/simulations).

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1316550
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/15/2013 - Thu, 08/31/2017
Full Description: 

SRI is developing, iteratively refining and evaluating a science curriculum for Pre-K classrooms with units on Plant Growth, How Things Move, and What Makes Shadows. Working with EDC and WGBH, the project is integrating traditional classroom resources (large and small group activities, hands-on activities, read-alouds) with digital media (touch screen tablets, photos and short videos, and games/simulations). The importance of this approach is that it facilitates the implementation of quality science instruction in pre-schools by reducing the resources and commitment needed. The project is also producing professional development resources for teachers. Project evaluation is by the Concord Evaluation Group. The products of the project are being distributed by PBS Media.

Using an Evidence Centered Design approach, the project is doing a Phase I development and pilot study during the first two years, followed by a Phase II field study in year 3, with 10 classrooms in California and 10 in New York, half of which will be for comparison purposes. Ten children from each classroom are being selected through a stratified randomization process for a more detailed examination of student outcomes. There are 8 research questions covering the three phases of the project; development, implementation, and sustainability. Data collection on child learning is using the project developed science assessment as well as a standardized assessment of children's science learning LENS on Science. Evidence on teachers' confidence is being collected with the Preschool Teachers Attitudes and Beliefs about Science scale (P-TABS). In addition, the project is conducting interviews and observations in the 10 classrooms where teachers are implementing the curriculum units.

Next Generation Preschool Science: An Innovative Program to Facilitate Young Children's Learning of Science Practices and Concepts

Cross-Sector Insights Toward Aligning Education Research and Real-World Impact

The goal of the project is to inform the development of an impact-based research methodology (IBR) to enable a more direct and overt connections between academic research on games and the development of educational products and services that are sustainable and scalable.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1349309
Funding Period: 
Sun, 09/01/2013 - Sun, 08/31/2014
Full Description: 

This EAGER proposal is a partnership among the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, an independent R&D organization associated with the Sesame Workshop, E-Line media, a publisher of game-based learning products, and the Center for Games and Impact at Arizona State University. The goal of the project is to inform the development of an impact-based research methodology (IBR) to enable a more direct and overt connections between academic research on games and the development of educational products and services that are sustainable and scalable. Through consultation with other researchers and developers, the team is conducting series case studies to identify promising practices from three communities: 1) the tech-enabled services sector, particularly the idea of lean start up, 2) the social impact sector; and 3) the learning sciences and educational research sector.

Cross-Sector Insights Toward Aligning Education Research and Real-World Impact

High Adventure Science: Earths Systems and Sustainability

This project is developing modules for middle school and high school students in Earth and Space Science classes, testing the hypothesis that students who use computational models, analyze real-world data, and engage in building scientific reasoning and argumentation skills are better able to understand Earth science core ideas and how humans impact Earth's systems. The resulting online curriculum modules and teacher guides provide exciting examples of next generation Earth science teaching and learning materials.

Project Email: 
HAS@concord.org
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1220756
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 - Fri, 09/30/2016
Project Evaluator: 
Karen Mutch-Jones
Full Description: 

We have entered the Anthropocene, an age when the actions of seven billion humans have increasing influence on the Earth. The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project is developing modules for middle school and high school students in Earth and Space Science classes, testing the hypothesis that students who use computational models, analyze real-world data, and engage in building scientific reasoning and argumentation skills are better able to understand Earth science core ideas and how humans impact Earth's systems. The Concord Consortium in partnership with the University of California Santa Cruz and the National Geographic Society are co-developing these modules, conducting targeted research on how the modules enhance students' higher order thinking skills and understanding of human-Earth interactions, and broadly disseminating these materials via far-reaching education networks.

The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project is creating online, middle and high school curriculum modules that feature computational models and cover five topics: climate change, fresh water availability, fossil fuel utilization, resource sustainability, and land use management. At the same time, the project team is conducting design studies to look at how specific features, prompts, argumentation and evaluation tools built into the modules affect student understanding of core Earth science concepts. The design studies promote rapid, iterative module development and help to identify features that support student learning, as well as scientific reasoning, scientific argumentation with uncertainty, systems thinking, and model-based experimentation skills. For each module, pre- and posttest data, embedded assessments, student surveys, classroom observations, teacher interviews and surveys, provide important information to rapidly improve module features, content, and usability. The final, high-quality, project materials are being made available to a national audience through the National Geographic Society as well as through the High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability website hosted at the Concord Consortium.

It is essential that students graduate from high school with a solid understanding of the scientific concepts that help explain how humans impact Earth systems, and conversely, how Earth processes impact humans. The High-Adventure Science: Earth Systems and Sustainability project provides a unique, research-based approach to conveying to students core Earth science content, crosscutting concepts, and fundamental practices of science. The resulting online curriculum modules and teacher guides provide exciting examples of next generation Earth science teaching and learning materials, and the research findings provide new insights on how students learn core science concepts and gain critical scientific skills.

High Adventure Science: Earths Systems and Sustainability

Improving Capacity for Game-Based Research to Scale: A Conference

This workshop addresses the need to connect a range of experts involved in game development and research to develop and disseminate best practices. The workshop will also establish a network hub where educators and developers can find tools for implementing game-based curricula. The project will bring together approximately 100 early contributors, including researchers, teachers, game designers and publishers, to inform the next phases of research, development, and production in the field of games and learning.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1258679
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 - Mon, 09/30/2013
Full Description: 

A growing number of educators are looking to game-based learning approaches to increase interest in and understanding of major science mathematics, engineering and technology (STEM) concepts. Serious games have demonstrated the capacity to engage learners in complex domains through role playing and problem solving. A key hypothesis driving many educators' interest in serious games is that they might reach broader scale than previous educational innovations because of their capacity to engage learners, give teachers highly polished learning resources, and provide parents, teachers, administrators and students tools for assessing learning. As examples of empirically-tested game-based learning materials proliferate, the field might benefit by connecting researchers, teachers, developers and policy makers so as to increase the field's capacity to reach scale.

This workshop addresses the need to connect a wide range of experts involved in game development and research to develop and disseminate best practices. The workshop will also establish a network hub where educators and developers can find tools for implementing game-based curricula. Specifically, the project will bring together approximately 100 early contributors, including researchers, teachers, game designers and publishers, to inform the next phases of research, development, and production in the field of games and learning. A closed beta experience will launch in late winter 2013 to support participants preparing for the workshop followed by a public workshop at the annual Games+Learning+Society in June 2013. The goal is to build the basis for a nationwide network of teachers, developers, academics, and industry leaders. If successful, this model will be held at other campuses, including Boston / MIT, Arizona State, and Vanderbilt.

Improving Capacity for Game-Based Research to Scale: A Conference

FUN: A Finland US Network for Engagement and STEM Learning in Games

As part of a SAVI, researchers from the U.S. and from Finland will collaborate on investigating the relationships between engagement and learning in STEM transmedia games. The project involves two intensive, 5 day workshops to identify new measurement instruments to be integrated into each other's research and development work. The major research question is to what degree learners in the two cultures respond similarly or differently to the STEM learning games.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1252709
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 - Tue, 09/30/2014
Full Description: 

As part of a SAVI, researchers from the U.S. and from Finland will collaborate on investigating the relationships between engagement and learning in STEM transmedia games. The members of U.S. Team for this project come from TERC, WGBH and Northern Illinois University. The project involves two intensive, 5 day workshops to identify new measurement instruments to be integrated into each other's research and development work. The major research question is to what degree learners in the two cultures respond similarly or differently to the STEM learning games.

FUN: A Finland US Network for Engagement and STEM Learning in Games
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