Watchworthy Wednesday: How Video Games Amplify Learning

[Over the past ten years I’ve done research into game-based learning as part of my teaching at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition,  I’ve spent time with schools that have tapped into game-based learning. It works! Here’s an article about Constance Steinkuehler from Mimi Ko Cruz on the Digital Media Learning blog that highlights some of the benefits as well as the myths. ]

As a leading scholar of video games, game culture and game player behavior, Constance Steinkuehler argues that games amplify learning and academics.

In fact, video games and esports “leverage and require an incredible amount of cognitive intellectual labor,” she said at last week’s University of California, Irvine eSports Symposium. “Video game play actually leads to higher problem-solving skills. And, those higher problem-solving skills actually lead to higher academic grades…. You can start to see where games, rather than being in competition for so-called intellectual pursuits or academic performances, actually are enhancers.”

The UCI professor of informatics and president of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance gave an overview of research findings from studies conducted over the past decade. Among the results:

  • Video gaming has significant positive effects on reading, reasoning skills and mathematics achievement.
  • Games align well with STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics). For example, one study showed improvement in STEM performance of more than a grade of difference when using games to learn instead of textbooks.
  • Video gaming results in 20% higher self-efficacy, 11% higher declarative knowledge, 14% higher procedural knowledge and 9% better retention.
  • Video games have a positive impact in areas like perception and attention, systemic thinking, ethical reasoning, collaborative problem solving and computer and technology fluency.

Stereotypes that video game players are anti-social are untrue, emphasized Steinkuehler, who is part of UCI’s Connected Learning Lab. “Game play is done in collaboration and in tandem with other people. Even when you play on one screen, you tend to rely on a community of interests that actually drives your performance.”

When looking at athletics and academics, she said, research shows that athletic motivation predicts academic performance. In other words, Steinkuehler said, “kids who really want to be good at competitive athletics tend to be really good and competitive in school. You see higher GPA (grade point average) for high school students. Team sports are associated with a long list of positive impact, such as personal growth, motivation toward degree completion, persistence, grit, tenacity, internal locus of control, the belief that your performance is based on how much work you do and that it’s a skill you can improve. Sports amplify academic success.”

As for esports, she said, not much is known. That’s why she and her UCI research team is launching a study of UCI’s video gamers in the fall. The study will be asking how students’ game play aligns with what they’re doing in school and how it amplifies in ways that endure. Scholars interested in helping conduct the research are invited to contact Steinkuehler by email at const@uci.edu.

Her UCI eSports Symposium talk is available online.

What the coming educational VR revolution teaches us about the tech’s future

[It seems like I’m on a VR/AR roll. In this TechCrunch article, Peter Sena outlines a variety of ways that VR is already changing the K-20 landscape. He highlights tools like zSpace and Engage. In previous articles I’ve shared my first-hand impressions of zSpace. I agree with what Peter Sena has described. It really does engage students and allows new opportunities for learners to investigate situations like frog dissections or machine manipulations that would have been dangerous or cost-prohibitive in the past. I’m especially interested to find schools who have looked at Engage. I want learners to be creative producers, not creative consumers.]

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

Photo by Norton Gusky CC BY 4.0

 

by Pete Sena, CRUNCH NETWORK CONTRIBUTOR

Imagine the following scenario: A fifth-grade science class has just begun and the teacher makes a surprise announcement — today the students will be dissecting a frog.

I’m sure you remember dissecting a frog as a kid — the sour-pickle odor of formaldehyde, the sharp scalpels slicing into rubbery skin. You don’t have to be an animal rights activist to grimace a bit thinking about it.

But here comes the paradox. In this scenario, like-minded fifth-graders who are queasy about cutting open animals are excited to participate in this dissection. Indeed, no animal was harmed when the specimens were collected. What’s more, the teacher promises the students that they won’t have to clean up a messy station afterward.

How? Thanks to the paradigm-shifting creations of zSpace, an educational VR/AR company, students can harmlessly dissect an animal on an interactive screen known as the zSpace 200. Students wear a special pair of glasses equipped with sensors and use a stylus that allows them to engage with a virtual image that can be turned or even disassembled.

By importing VR/AR into the classroom, one minute students can explore the anatomy and organs of an animal without harming it, and the very next build and test circuits or set up experiments that test Newton’s laws.

For young students who have been inundated by tech in almost every other domain of their lives, this form of learning comes naturally.

“Kids say, ‘Well of course it should be like this.’ They believe they should be able to reach into a screen, grab something, pull it out, and interact with it,” said Dave Chavez, chief technology officer of zSpace.

While VR is often discussed as a gaming technology, the gaming applications of VR are simply the first wave in a sequence that will profoundly shape the way we experience content over the next five years. Educational startups have been working on VR material for classrooms ranging from kindergarten through medical school. Current estimates project that the global edtech market will reach $252 billion by 2020; VR will capture a big chunk of this pie.

Read more…

For Digital Natives, Appreciating Shakespeare’s Words with Performances

[It’s not often that I come across a very innovative use of educational technology, but in this Mindshift article you’ll discover how digital technology can make Shakespeare come alive to a new audience. The initial research is quite impressive. ]

While we may not exactly know all the ways Shakespeare was taught to classrooms 200 or even 100 years ago, we do know that many of today’s high schoolers, increasingly engaged in the more visual communications of the digital world and the language of texting, find Shakespeare difficult to read and even more difficult to comprehend.

And while today’s teens have become more tethered to visual and digital means of communication, the teaching of Shakespeare in US classrooms hasn’t changed much, according to secondary English Language Arts curriculum specialist Kristen Nance, who facilitates resource use for one of the largest school districts in Texas.

“A lot of very traditional instruction goes along with teaching Shakespeare,” she said, such as reading the plays, showing movie clips to help with visualizing, or reading parts in class to read out loud. “Getting it new and fresh sometimes is a struggle.”

Nance also said keeping kids engaged in the text can also be demanding; between understanding the archaic language and deciphering the vocabulary, and teachers trying to fill in the gaps as best they can, some kids find it a challenge to keep up.

Then last year, Nance’s superior brought in Alexander Parker, who had developed a digital product for teaching Shakespeare that appeared to bring the best of two worlds together. Parker’s invention, a series of web-based ebooks called WordPlay Shakespeare, offered something Nance had never seen before: Shakespearean text alongside a performance of the play. Instead of just studying the text or watching the performance, the ebook provided a way for students to do both at the same time side-by-side, which enhanced both the reading and the watching. The performances were simple and stripped down, so as not to distract from the text, and the text had some helpful features built in to help students, like a built in dictionary, scene-by-scene synopsis, on-page annotations, and even a modern translation.

Read more…