National Science Foundation Phase I Grant for a Group STEM Challenge
We have some exciting news today!
Immersed Games is being awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation for development of a new innovation to work with Tyto Online.
The official title of the grant is, “A Group Video Game Challenge for Integrated Applied Science Learning.”
This innovation pulls from the experience of dungeons or raids in video games, where groups of players team up to defeat “bosses” in epic battles. Except in our case, student will be able to apply learning in groups to solve challenging applied problems that utilize the learning they accomplished across multiple science modules of science in order to earn group rewards.
The overall concept of this grant’s research and development work is that after students have learned science content in Tyto Online or at school, they’ll be presented with a challenge that integrates learning across their units or topics. Groups of ~5 students will travel to a location on the alien planet where the drakons, a dragon-like creature, have undergone devastation! Their population is in turmoil due to a variety of potential factors that the students must solve.
The students will use skills from multiple areas of science as they work to solve the problem together. After they are introduced to the problem, they’ll jump into problem exploration: collecting data like blood samples from the drakons, setting population devices out, and sampling water quality. They will be able to generate graphs of their data, propose hypotheses, and together figure out what they think is hurting the drakons.
Then, following an engineering practice model, they’ll move into solutions — generating possible ideas, supporting the best ones, testing them, seeing results, and determining the best possible solution for fixing the problems they identified. Solutions may include selective breeding to reduce the prevalence of the genetic predisposition, creating a vaccine, environmental changes, or other potential solutions.
We are also building this with a scalable framework so that we’ll be able to use this basis to create more challenges, in the future building it into an expansion to our back-end content authoring system to use more regularly in students’ gameplay.
Integrated STEM Learning. Students will have already individual learned the content areas utilized (cells, ecology, heredity, and evolution) in silos, with isolated instruction in each content area. One of the goals of the proposed innovation is to focus on integrated STEM learning, addressing the subjects together in a way more similar to real world problem solving (Roberts & Cantu, 2012). Integrated STEM learning has been argued for by educators who argue that it provides contextual, deeper knowledge which will help students be more competitive as they actively engage and connect their learning areas into cross-domain skills (Boy, 2013; Relan & Kimpston, 1991; Sanders, 2012).
Problem Based Learning. The proposed innovation also utilizes a problem based learning approach, which is a form of constructivist learning. In problem based learning, students are introduced to a setting, start a problem, research and set their own hypotheses, and engage in self-reflection as they work to solve problems. The benefits of problem based learning include situating learning in context, encouraging accessing of prior knowledge for high-road transfer, improving metacognitive awareness, and long-term retention (Hmelo & Evensen, 2000; Gavriel & Perkins, 1989). Students who use problem based learning are even more likely to use basic science as a tool for problem solving than students in a traditional curriculum (Hmelo & Evensen, 2000).
Cooperative Learning. Another benefit of the proposed innovation is the focus on cooperative learning. According to Terwel (2003), the general aim of cooperative learning is how to think for oneself. Some researchers, such as Gillies and Ashman (2003), argue that cooperative learning has the broadest set of diverse, positive outcomes for learners. Cooperative learning has been shown to lead to more productivity, better communication, improved motivation, and even feelings of acceptance and inclusion among group members (Gillies & Ashman, 2003).
Using the structure of video game raids for cooperative learning as an extension also encourages more acceptance of failure, as in video game raiding, failure is seem as progress as long as the raid group is able to reflect and improve strategies in their next attempts (Chen, 2009). In terms of developing 21st century skills, raids also require cooperation and communication, not just content or skill areas, which helps develop those skills further (Chen, 2009).
Interested in participating?
We will be conducting a small study towards the end of the project, around April/May, in order to analyze how well the design has worked, the student’s use of tools, etc. If you’re interested in your child participating, please fill out this form to get on our interest list!
Boy, G.A. (2013). From STEM to STEAM: Toward a human-centered education. Proceedings of the 31st European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics; Toulouse, France, August 26-28.
Chen, M. (2009). Communication, coordination, and camaraderie in World of Warcraft. Games and Culture 4, 47-73. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1555412008325478
Gavriel, S., & Perkins, D.N. (1989). Rocky roads to transfer: Rethinking mechanics of a neglected phenomenon. Educational Psychologist, 24(2), 113-142.
Gillies, R.M., & Ashman, A.F. (2003). An historical review of the use of groups to promote socialization and learning. In R.M. Gillies and A.F. Ashman (Eds.), The social and intellectual outcomes of learning in groups (1-18). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.
Hmelo, C.E., & Evensen, D.H. (2000). Problem-based learning: Gaining insights on learning interactions through multiple methods of inquiry. In. D.H. Evensen & C.E. Hmelo (Eds.), Problem-based learning: A research perspective on learning interactions (1-18). New York, NY: Routledge Falmer.
Relan, A., & Kimpston, R. (1991). Curriculum integration: A critical analysis of practical and conceptual issues. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association; Chicago, IL, April 3-7.
Roberts, A., & Cantu, D. (2012). Applying STEM instructional strategies to design and technology curriculum. Proceedings of the Technology Education in the 21st 29 Century (111-118); Stockholm, Sweden.
Sanders, M. (2012). Integrative STEM education as “best practice.” Presented at the 7th Biennial International Technology Education Research Conference; Queensland, Australia, Dec 8.