This project will study the design features of an experimental gaming environment called Arcadia: The Next Generation. Researchers working with a group of formal and informal educators to study the connections between scientific inquiry in Arcadia and STEM learning. The project provides a dynamic and evolving place where gamers, educators, parents, and citizen scientists can come together to share, rate, and build knowledge through a variety of fun science inquiry games.
Designers and researchers from the Educational Gaming Environments group (EdGE) at TERC are studying the design features (e.g., tools, media platforms, facilitation) of an experimental gaming environment called Arcadia: The Next Generation. This gaming environment supports high-quality scientific knowledge building in a diverse, public audience. EdGE and its partner, GameGurus are integrating web-based social networking, augmented reality, and data sharing apps on smartphones into Arcadia and are working with a group of formal and informal educators to study the connections between scientific inquiry in Arcadia and STEM learning. EdGE is also examining various economic models that can support the long-term sustainability of STEM gaming environments that bridge home, community, and formal and informal learning. The project provides a dynamic and evolving place where gamers, educators, parents, and citizen scientists can come together to share, rate, and build knowledge through a variety of fun science inquiry games.
The research associated with Arcadia looks specifically at how game design (tools, environment, storyline, reward system) can support and sustain scientific inquiry. Researchers will relate these design features to the extent and nature of scientific inquiry in Arcadia, the impact the gaming experience has on players' sense of science identity and behaviors, and how this varies for different types of players. Researchers are using methods from netnography (Kozinets, 2002, Hine 2000) where digital records of avatar activity are incorporated along with participant observations, surveys, and interviews. A group of players recruited through colleagues' programs in informal and formal science education settings are the subjects for a smaller sub-study that looks at how to help transfer the science skills and knowledge gained in social games to classroom and other forms of science education. EdGE has two small advisory groups: a group of formal and informal educators to help with formative evaluation and a group of experts in the areas of research to help guide the interpretation of the research findings.
Arcadia: The Next Generation is an important step in working towards a vision of future learning environments that span schools, homes, community settings, and social entertainment sites where transmedia learning networks integrate real-life components such as indoor and outdoor classrooms with free-choice Internet experiences and citizen science programs. The primary deliverable of Arcadia: The Next Generation is a model game environment that attracts and retains a player audience and engages them in high quality scientific inquiry. The associated research informs the field on how to leverage the tremendous amount of time the public spends in social digital games, and how to direct that time towards productive science learning. EdGE is partnering with youth and adult programs at informal and citizen science centers to recruit and select the research sample that is representative of the US population, including minority youth and adults, so that researchers can learn how to sustain inquiry for a broad and diverse population of social game players.