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Project Update

I remain interested in video games as teaching tools.  In a New York Times blog, James Gee imagines a learning environment where students are doing math by designing virtual roller coasters and space ships.  In James Gee’s conception of learning and assessment of learning, the two should be indivisible; active learning should produce work products that are evidence of growth and achievement.  This of course is very different than the current practice of using valuable teaching time to prepare for standardized exams that lack contextual meaning beyond the test.  I believe educational games have the potential to reshape the practice of math education.  Given the 21st century demands on student achievement, it’s entirely necessary that we revamp math education to align better with 21st century skills. Wolfram, the creator of Mathematica, gives a visionary TED talk regarding how software should change how we practice math.

I have investigated a handful of these games, and though I’ve found some good ones, I have not found anything that would be particularly relevant for a high school curriculum.  Most popular high school math games seem to be using software to motivate engagement with the medium, but not immerse students in deeper level inquiry.  I hope that for my project I can write a draft of a video game script that is both engaging and relevant to topics in a high school curriculum.  I do not have any of the technical skills to program a game, but I would like to try my hand at conceptualizing one.

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One Response

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  1. Joseph Ugoretz says

    The concept is definitely the hardest part, and the most valuable. So the script is a perfect project, and the programming can wait for a programmer.

    I wonder if you have any thoughts yet about even the basic framework of the script? What would make the game both engaging and relevant (and the intriguing term you also used–“immerse” students in deeper level inquiry). Core concepts (like from the exercise we did in class) might be the way to get to this framework, but there are some very practical choices to make–and you will need to explain why you make them. A role-playing game? Simulations? A “casual” game? Multi-player?

    Another step (which might have to come later on, after this conceptual part of the project is all done) will be even a lower level of practicality–funding, resources, and, most important, rationale/justification…how will you “sell” the game to teachers who have more traditional approaches, or schools or districts or systems which know how to purchase textbooks but haven’t really gone beyond that?

    Again, core concepts might be a place to get to those kinds of practicalities. Generally, teachers in specific disciplines have a good deal of agreement on which core concepts are the most troubling–where the “gateways” for their subjects are–and if you can clearly show them how a tool (including a game) will address those core concepts, you’ve got them “sold” from the start.

    I’m also thinking about the story you told of your students working with the astronomy software (basically a game, right?) and how engaged and excited and active they were…until it had to be translated into more traditional test- and assessment-oriented tasks.

    Could you build your game so it will help with the process of challenging traditional assessments? So it has its own assessments built in? I guess this would be a grail-type quest, but if you could avoid the problem of losing the exciting and effective game-based learning when you turn to the task of translating it into something that will help on a standardized test, that would be fantastic!

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