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Gaming/Virtual Environments

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

GeniVille: Exploring the Intersection of School and Social Media

This project examines the design principles by which computer-based science learning experiences for students designed for classroom use can be integrated into virtual worlds that leverage students' learning of science in an informal and collaborative online environment. GeniVille is the integration of Geniverse, a education based game that develops middle school students' understanding of genetics with Whyville, an educational virtual word in which students can engage in a wide variety of science activities and games.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1238625
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 - Tue, 09/30/2014
Full Description: 

This project examines the design principles by which computer-based science learning experiences for students designed for classroom use can be integrated into virtual worlds that leverage students' learning of science in an informal and collaborative online environment. GeniVille, developed and studied by the Concord Consortium, is the integration of Geniverse, a education based game that develops middle school students' understanding of genetics with Whyville, developed and studied by Numedeon, Inc., an educational virtual word in which students can engage in a wide variety of science activities and games. Genivers has been extensively researched in its implementation in the middle school science classroom. Research on Whyville has focused on how the learning environment supports the voluntary participation of students anywhere and anytime. This project seeks to develop an understanding of how these two interventions can be merged together and to explore mechanisms to create engagement and persistence through incentive structures that are interwoven with the game activities. The project examines the evidence that students in middle schools in Boston learn the genetics content that is the learning objective of GeniVille.

The project uses an iterative approach to the modification of Geniverse activites and the Whyville context so that the structured learning environment is accessible to students working collaboratively within the less structured context. The modification and expansion of the genetics activities of the project by which various inheritance patterns of imaginary dragons are studied continues over the course of the first year with pilot data collected from students who voluntarily engage in the game. In the second year of the project, teachers from middle schools in Boston who volunteer to be part of the project will be introduced to the integrated learning environment and will either use the virtual learning environment to teach genetics or will agree to engage their students in their regular instruction. Student outcomes in terms of engagement, persistence and understanding of genetics are measured within the virtual learning environment. Interviews with students are built into the GeniVille environment to gauge student interest. Observations of teachers engaging in GeniVille with their students are conducted as well as interviews with participating teachers.

This research and development project provides a resource that blends together students learning in a computer simulation with their working in a collaborative social networking virtual system. The integration of the software system is designed to engage students in learning about genetics in a simulation that has inherent interest to students with a learning environment that is also engaging to them. The project leverages the sorts of learning environments that make the best use of online opportunities for students, bringing rich disciplinary knowledge to educational games. Knowing more about how students collaboratively engage in learning about science in a social networking environment provides information about design principles that have a wide application in the development of new resources for the science classroom.

GeniVille: Exploring the Intersection of School and Social Media

Laboratory for the Study of Extra Solar Planets: Fostering Data Literacy

This project provides a virtual environment in which high school physics students can engage in the cutting edge science of studying exoplanets. Using online telescopes and learning software, students gain a deeper understanding of science inquiry, including reasoning from models, gathering assessing, and interpreting authentic data, and drawing conclusions from multiple line of evidence. The research advances our understanding of ways to increase students' knowledge of data literacy.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1222588
Funding Period: 
Mon, 10/01/2012 - Tue, 09/30/2014
Full Description: 

The Laboratory for the Study of Extra Solar Planets: Fostering Data Literacy provides a virtual environment in which high school students in physics classes engage in the cutting edge science of studying exoplanets. The project builds on previous work and serves as an example and test bed for integrating science practice, crosscutting concepts and science content as called for in the Framework for the Next Generation Science Standards. The project produces seven mini-labs that scaffold students in the detection of orbits of exoplanets around their stars. These include learning to use models, learning to use the telescope, working with data, applying concepts to interpret data and creating a 3-D interactive model based on their data. In three more laboratories on infrared and spectroscopy, students learn to apply core concepts and modeling to identify some of the properties of the exoplanets. Using online telescopes and learning software, students gain a deeper understanding of science inquiry, including reasoning from models, gathering assessing, and interpreting authentic data, and drawing conclusions from multiple line of evidence. Teacher support includes in-class support on start-up, online professional development, and interaction with the scientific community. The previous work has been shown to have strong potential for engaging girls and also students in underserved communities in urban areas.

The overarching research question is how students learn to make sense of data. What are the tools that can help them move efficiently from their initial ideas to more sophisticated understandings? The research focuses on three areas that are fundamental to data literacy: reasoning from models, assessing the quality of the data and interpreting data and understanding uncertainty. Qualitative data are gathered in the first year and scored using a rubric developed by experts. In year two, more quantitative measures are employed. Assessment instruments, using items from validated assessments, are created and psychometrically validated.

The outcomes of this project are a unique online Laboratory that is universally accessible to all classrooms and that engages students in meaningful scientific data collection, analysis, visualization, modeling and interpretation at one of the most exciting research frontiers in current science. The activities and assessments transform astronomy into an inquiry-based subject that significantly increases students' understanding of science practice and content as well as their science attitudes, interest, and identity. The research advances our understanding of ways to increase students' knowledge of data literacy, which is widely useful in science education across all disciplines.

Previous project title: Laboratory for the Study of Alien Worlds: A National Resource for Students and Teachers

Laboratory for the Study of Extra Solar Planets: Fostering Data Literacy

CAREER: Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT)—Exploring the Development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking Capabilities in African-American Middle School Girls

The project at Spelman College includes activities that develop computational thinking and encourage middle school, African-American girls to consider careers in computer science. Over a three-year period, the girls attend summer camp sessions of two weeks where they learn to design interactive games. Experts in Computational Algorithmic Thinking as well as undergraduate, computer science majors at Spelman College guide the middle-school students in their design of games and exploration of related STEM careers.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1150098
Funding Period: 
Sun, 07/15/2012 - Fri, 06/30/2017
Full Description: 

The Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT) project at Spelman College includes activities that develop computational thinking and encourage middle school, African-American girls to consider careers in computer science. Over a three-year period, the girls attend summer camp sessions of two weeks where they learn to design interactive games. They participate in workshops, field trips, and game-design competitions. Experts in Computational Algorithmic Thinking as well as undergraduate, computer science majors at Spelman College guide the middle-school students in their design of games and exploration of related STEM careers.

Research on the development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking is an integral part of the project. The researcher is investigating how middle-school girls develop computational thinking and problem solving skills. Game design has been shown to be an area that is attractive to adolescents and it requires extensive problem solving and computational algorithmic thinking. Within the context of designing games individually and within groups, the researcher is assessing how the girls develop computational algorithmic thinking, and what difficulties they experience. Researchers are also assessing how the project experiences influence the students' self-perceptions of themselves as problem solvers. At the same time, the girls engaged in educational experiences where they are expected to gain knowledge in mathematics, programming, and reasoning, as well as game design. Research data consists of artifacts that the students have created, observations, participant journals, and interviews.

Computational Algorithmic Thinking is an essential skill for most STEM careers. African-American women are underrepresented in many STEM fields and especially in computer science. The goals of the project are to prepare girls with these essential skills and to increase their confidence in participating in STEM education. The project is also exposing participating girls to a wide variety of STEM careers. In addition, the materials, lesson plans, and activities generated in the project are available to be used, without charge, by other groups interested in designing similar programs.

CAREER: Supporting Computational Algorithmic Thinking (SCAT)—Exploring the Development of Computational Algorithmic Thinking Capabilities in African-American Middle School Girls

CyberSTEM: Making Discovery Visible Through Digital Games

CyberSTEM is developing and testing an integrated digital gaming network that spans homes, schools, and informal learning settings, offering a suite of digital games based on cutting-edge discoveries in the life sciences. The project asks if participation in CyberSTEM leads to increased learning in six areas: interest in science, conceptual knowledge, scientific reasoning, reflection on knowing, participating in science, and identifying as a scientist. The target audience includes youth in grades 6-9.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1119383
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 - Sun, 08/31/2014
Full Description: 

CyberSTEM is developing and testing an integrated digital gaming network that spans homes, schools, and informal learning settings, offering a suite of digital games based on cutting-edge discoveries in the life sciences. The project asks if participation in CyberSTEM leads to increased learning in six areas: interest in science, conceptual knowledge, scientific reasoning, reflection on knowing, participating in science, and identifying as a scientist. The target audience includes youth in grades 6-9.

CyberSTEM is iteratively designed, developed, tested and rolled out to the public across the three year project. Each individual game (and subsequently, the entire learning system) is developed through an iterative, research-driven process starting with laboratory studies of players designed to uncover how game play shapes their thinking, classroom-based case studies of how participation in CyberSTEM changes classroom practice, controlled studies of how participation in CyberSTEM has an impact on classroom achievement, and then how articipation in CyberSTEM beyond the classroom (in museums, homes, or other settings) influences youth participation in science. In each phase, research designs, methods, and analyses procedures appropriate to the questions will be employed, including experimental studies involving think aloud protocols, case studies using responsive case methodology, pre- and post- tests using repeated measure ANOVAs, and exploratory data mining techniques using discourse and regression analysis. As an integrated research project, CyberSTEM will build the capacity for rapid development and deployment of science-based games through developing art and code assets, as well as a network of schools, teachers, and students who can be recruited for research. All code, art assets, and research instruments will be published online and be open sourced.

CyberSTEM will result in an integrated gaming platform consisting of 5 model games that can be the basis of integrated game-based curricula. Each game will have an associated curriculum that teachers, museums, and other science educators can use to educate the public about cutting-edge science. By year three, the project will be tested in 20 schools. The project will use informal gaming channels such as Kongregate, iTunes, and XBox Live to reach the general public who will ultimately create the community that sustains CyberSTEM. This model of education and outreach that cuts across homes, schools, and informal science institutions has the potential to lead to a dramatic rethinking of education. Partnering organizations include Wisconsin University, the Minority Students Achievement Network and the Morgridge Institutes for Research.

CyberSTEM: Making Discovery Visible Through Digital Games
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