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FICSS Game



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The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics uses a unique approach to disseminate the results of its research to K-12 educators and drive its findings home, getting the word out about the key factors in science education that most impact college science success.


Hi, I'm Tobias McElheny, Media Producer at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. We're pleased to have our work featured in NSF's Media & Informal Science Learning website. The pre-production phase of this project was as tough as any other when we asked ourselves 'what is the best way to disseminate the results of FICSS?' The discussion caused us to come with an interactive approach we had not tried before, but has given us a template for other projects. I hope this discussion will lead to useful feedback for us on FICSS, as well as to new potential collaborations/partnerships going forward. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions.

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Nov 09, 2009 01:43 pm
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Hi Tobias, this is very interesting work for those of us that do research --getting audiences to really take in research findings is a perennial problem. I was curious to know how much creating the game added to the overall costs of your research effort--thanks in advance for any info.

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Nov 11, 2009 05:28 pm
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Grunwald, thank you for your comment. From the beginning of the project there was a budget for media dissemination. The interesting thing about the media component was our original idea was to illustrate the research findings though case studies. After a few reviews along the process it became evident that we couldn't 'control for variables' in video. The reviewing audiences always felt we were comparing apples to oranges. We stopped the case study approach before spending too much of the media budget and came up with this new idea.

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Nov 12, 2009 12:20 pm
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As a game developer, I love to see games used to accomplish new goals, and this is a great extension in that regard. I was wondering how you are getting the word out about the game (in addition to this site, of course) and how many educators (or others) have played so far? Based on your reply, I may have some suggestions for you.

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Nov 13, 2009 11:27 am
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NHermes, I neglected to say in my response to Grunwald that the promotional budget for this site was pretty dry at the end of the project. Other than some postcards, sending out the link to various lost serves, our main way of getting the word out was through the researchers at conferences. I would love to hear your suggestions about dissemination.

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Nov 13, 2009 01:17 pm
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Tobias--

If I were you, one thing I'd be thinking about is more ways to get the people who play the game to help you distribute it. For example, you could add a screen to the end of the game reporting the player's score and asking them to invite their friends to try and beat the score (this is how a lot of games get distribution on Facebook) or, if you think teachers may not be that competitive, give them a softer message as to why they should pass the game along, again providing them with a field to fill in friends' email addresses, which you'd then use to pass along a link to the game (ideally with an automated cover notice that you allow your players to modify as they see fit). It's a pretty old-fashioned approach, but it still works, and makes a significant difference between people passing along what you've created and not.

In future, you might want to use the Facebook or LinkedIn API to create versions of the game (I know some school districts have forbidden their teachers to use Facebook, but...) in order to make it easier for players to share with their Facebook or LinkedIn friends [i.e. without having to enter their email addresses]). Beyond this, you could turn pass-alongs into a game, too, by crediting each user for the number of individuals who come play as a result of their emails (by making the game link in each email you send out on behalf of a player trackable back to the originator). I know you probably don't have much in the way of budget to take steps like this, but they've gotten so cheap to do, you might be surprised at what you can afford (not to mention how competitive your user base actually turns out to be).

There's also the more direct approach. For example, if you add a leaderboard to the game (to record the usernames with the top scores), you can reach out to those users (assuming you require them to provide an email address to be added to the leaderboard, which you'd indicate [when you ask for it] will only be used by you, and for what purpose[s]) to see if they'd be willing to evangelize the game (generally speaking, your best players are going to be more likely to be willing to spread the word). You could also incentivize them to do this by offering another DVD or letting them be involved in some way in your next research effort (again, the kind of user who is good at your game is likely to be the kind of user who would actually be interested in and want to impact any further research you might do). There are, of course, some costs associated with taking these steps, but again, you might be surprised at how inexpensive it could be. Hope this helpful--I'll keep thinking about it.

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Nov 13, 2009 05:08 pm
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Nhermes, thank you very much for your detailed suggestions. I especially appreciate that your ideas for dissemination take very little out of the budget, and get teachers to pass the site along. I'm sharing your ideas with our web team. I wish we had consulted with you before we first launched this site!

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Nov 30, 2009 11:31 am
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Hi Tobias, Great work! I was so impressed with the interactive method of sharing research results that I posted a review on my blog: http://stemeducators.blogspot.com/2010/03/keep-your-audience-awake-interactive.html. This feels like the next generation of A Private Universe.

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Mar 10, 2010 08:07 am
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--Doug





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