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GMU ITEST



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GMU's ITEST gets at-risk kids involved in science through videogame creation, generating deep understanding of key scientific principles and processes. Next up: can it increase students' interest in pursuing STEM-related careers?


Hi, I'm Kevin Clark, Associate Professor of Instructional Technology at George Mason University. We're pleased to have our work featured in NSF's Media & Informal Science Learning website, and hope this discussion will lead to useful feedback for us on our project, as well as potential collaborators in other locations and potential funding partners for us as we seek to expand the program.

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Oct 09, 2009 02:22 pm
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I think this is wonderful work, but have some questions about it for the creators. The first is: how much expertise does the instructor need in game design or with respect to the various programs you used in order to set something like this up? The second, related question is, do you really need all these different software programs to do the program, or are there 1-2 that work particularly well that an instructor can focus in on (and potentially get their school to pay for, if they aren't all free)? The third question is--I know from reading the study that the kids created a wide variety of games, which is great, and that the games didn't need to be about science to be successful, but are there particular *types* of games that, when created, lend themselves better to scientific understanding and inquiry than others (e.g. if an instructor only has limited bandwidth for the program and wants to get the most bang out of it by steering the kids to particularly fruitful directions)?

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Oct 11, 2009 08:59 am
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Thanks Kevin! It is an interesting project, I'm glad to know of it. Can you tell us a little more about the goals of your project? I'm interested in whether the technology literacy skills are the primary goals, or whether you are also looking at scientific habits of mind or STEM transference? What sort of project outcomes have you experienced so far? I'm associated with another project, IMLS-funded called Media MashUp, out of Minneapolis Libraries and the Science Museum of Minnesota. It is similar to yours in that the target audience is teens and they hope to encourage technology literacy skills. They use Scratch to create project and animations. The difference is that these are drop-by programs at libraries nationally. (http://mediamashup.ning.com/)

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Oct 11, 2009 07:29 pm
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To answer Haley Goldman's question. The primary goals of our project are to use engaging instruction in the popular area of game design to create awareness of, and interest, self-efficacy and skills in STEM fields. We're not as focused on media literacy skills although it is address as part of the instruction.

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Oct 13, 2009 01:22 pm
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To answer NHermes questions The instructors in our program also work at the school teaching these skills during the school day. So, yes it helps that they know the content, but also that they know many of the students. We chose to work primarily with Maya and Game Maker because those are the tools we have access to and that are being used in the industry. We may include or exclude software packets depending on the needs of our students. We're not sure if particular games are better than others for students to create, but what we are seeing is that the process of designing and creating a game is a powerful cognitive activity.

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Oct 13, 2009 01:27 pm
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Hi Kevin, thanks for sharing your project. As the Media Producer documenting the work of an after school astronomy program, I am wondering if you have plans to extend your program to other sites? I ask because my job is to provide video that will help facilitators at new sites for after school astronomy. Another question I have is do you ask your students if they have learning goals for users who would play their games? This might be an interesting way to have students become more aware of the content and science that is inherit in their designs.

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Oct 16, 2009 12:23 pm
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Tmcelheny, We are interested in applying the findings and products from this projects to other environments, but we are not actively trying to take this to other schools. We do invite other schools to join our current efforts in the hopes of assisting them in establishing their own program. The learning goals from the designers focus heavily on game pistons and goals rather than learning goals; that's not to say that students don't have learning goals associated with their games.

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Oct 16, 2009 10:17 pm
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Kevin-- Thanks for your quick response to our latest poster, who comes to us from our Linked In group. FYI, Tobias (Tmcelheny) works at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Laboratory; the after-school astronomy project he mentions is an innovative, NSF-funded collaboration aimed at urban youth: http://epo.mit.edu/programs/yaa.html

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Oct 17, 2009 06:21 am
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What a great project! I would imagine that the activities involved with designing a game would be very engaging and stimulating, helping students develop many different skills and broaden their knowledge of scientific principles. What kinds of changes have you seen in the children who have been involved? I, like Haley Goldman, am curious about what types of outcomes you are studying to determine in what way this program is a "powerful cognitive activity." I am also curious about is whether, overall, you have noticed any differences between how girls and boys, or children of different ages, interact with this program. Thanks for sharing such an interesting approach to science education.

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Nov 11, 2009 12:18 pm
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--Tos22



Tos22, Sorry for the delayed response. We primarily focus on student motivation and exposure to STEM careers and disciplines. We have seen increased knowledge of STEM careers, based on a pre-post survey that we administer. We have also seen increased interest in careers and disciplines related to game design and development. Regarding gender, initially we saw similar interest in game design for girls and boys, but recently we've seen girls lose interest; while boys continue to be interested. Thanks for your interest in our program.

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Nov 17, 2009 01:46 pm
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This sounds like a great program. I designed and taught the Youth Leadership and Technology Project in St. Louis Public School District in St. Louis, MO. I also found that my urban students were very interested in using and understanding technology. I believe that new immersive virtual learning environments are a source of empowerment for diverse students in educational systems and can be a transformative technology for educational programs.

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Dec 23, 2009 12:49 pm
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Students showed positive attitudes, strong interest, and high self-efficacy for Technology, Math and Science. When asked, students replied in the following manner: I am good at playing video games (93 %); I enjoy computer games (91%); I wish we used computers more in my classes at school. (84%); and I would like to learn more about technology in college (80%). Students also reported a high percentage of "Not at all like me" for negatively worded technology items: I do not think learning about technology is useful (95%); I do not like to work on the computer (85%); I do not do well when I have to use a computer for a class assignment (84%) and I feel nervous when I have to use a computer (82%).

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Apr 06, 2010 06:07 pm
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Just spoke with Kevin, and in case it's not clear to anyone, the results he is reporting (from this school-year's implementation of the program) represent a measure of its impact, i.e. they are what participants are saying about math, science, and technology *after* participation in ITEST, in post-program surveys.

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Apr 06, 2010 09:56 pm
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