Category Archives: Teacher’s Guide

Taking best advantage of Learning Technologies.

Immune Defense Evaluation is NOW!

Immune Defense is a cool video game.  The title is blue, the white blood cells are blue, too. And they are eating green e coli bacteria.

Join the oldest battle on Earth.

If you are a teacher of kids ~12-18 years old, you are invited to participate in our evaluation!  We warmly, eagerly and happily invite you!  We have an Amazon gift certificate to pay you back for your time.

We will happily discuss the experiment and results with you and your students after the evaluation.  Please sign up!   (www.surveymonkey.com/s/LearningGame)

Video Games in Class; A Professional Development Course-Part Two

Game Design Document Outline

Part Two:  Integrating the design of a game into your lessons/Using video game design to get your students to interact and learn great amounts from a local scientist.

1.  Choose a topic you wish to address.  I chose “neurology.”   You can choose any topic, video game design works well in English, social studies, and   other classes.  Choose a length of time to devote to game design.  One class period, 4 weeks, or 8 weeks.  Have students turn in drafts after 1-2 days.  Iteration is very important.  So get them iterating quickly.

2.  If you are not an expert on the topic you wish to address, find an scientist to participate in this program with you.  National Lab Network, for example, is designed to connect teachers with scientists for an extended relationship.  Graduate students and post doctoral scientists are qualified to serve as experts for this purpose.  The expert should help you choose the core concepts of the topic, and provide an introductory lecture on the core concepts.  Let the students speak directly with the scientist as much as possible.

3.  The core concepts become the basis of each game.  I chose 4 concepts for my neurology lessons:  Myelin sheath creation and damage, Neurotransmitter reception and signal integration (whether the neuron fires of not after receding chemical signals from other neurons), Long term change in neurons (gene regulation in response to signals), synapse function such as neurotransmitter re-uptake).  The students choose a process and work in small groups or on their own.

4.  Schedule the program for 4-8 weeks.  Ask the expert to come once a week to discuss the details of the topic with the students.  Skype may work, as well as telephone + teamviewer.  But each group of students or each student will need 15-30 minutes per week to speak directly with the expert, and will also need to be able to communicate by email.  This level of commitment is possible to get from a graduate student, or post doctoral scientist.  They are experts in the concepts and principles of their fields and have the capacity to research facts and details on behalf of your students.

5.  Students will need to decide what they want to present in their game.  They should make a list of principles and concepts they hope to teach their players.  They may also choose to make a list of facts and vocabulary to teach.  Review this list of concepts, principles, vocabulary and facts for their relevance to the topic, for their overall importance in the field, and for their appropriateness for the target audience/your class.  For example, if your 10th grade English students plan to design a game that teaches 4 year olds to read, you may question whether that choice will teach your students the concepts and principles you expect them to learn in your class.  A better idea may be to have the 10th graders design a game for 6th graders that helps them identify metaphors and decipher them.

5. Game design documents.  Show samples, discuss what they are used for:  For the game designer to communicate to the programmer, for the designer to communicate to the funder, for a scientist to communicate with the designer.

6.  Iteration.  Just like essays, video games require editing.  Leave time for it, and also encourage students to keep track of the game ideas in a notebook, and to save their version of the game once a week.  40% of the scheduled time must be left for testing with focus groups (fellow students) and problems will arise in understanding and troubleshooting them is part of the learning process for the game designers.

7.  Paper prototypes and focus group testing.  Game design does not require computer programming.   Games are usually tested with a paper prototype anyway.  Many types of paper prototypes are used.  Additionally, PowerPoint presentations can be used to create a series of “screenshots” to describe the game.

8.  Discuss whether a different design would have presented the same ideas, whether the game misrepresents anything, how technology development is a team process, and how the final project varied from the original designs.

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End of the Paper Design version of Video Game Design.  The STEM Video Game Challenge has a Paper Design entry class, see their requirements here: http://www.stemchallenge.org/about/Default.aspx?Cat=MS

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9.  Programming.  Games can be programmed in many different programs with varying levels of programming skills required.  Game Maker, Small Basic, Unity3d, Kodu, Scratch, Game Salad, Atmosphir are a few inexpensive programming engines.  GameStar Mechanic is a commercial product that makes simple 2d games, but that does not require programming.

10.  Iteration increases engagement of target audience as well as the quality of teaching.

11.  Assessing learning.  Your students should create a 10 question survey based on the concepts they expected to convey as they began designing their game.  They can design an evaluation of learning, using principles of good experimental design:  controlled samples, an unbiased analysis, statistical analysis, etc.

12.  Discuss whether a different design would have presented the same ideas, whether the game misrepresents anything, how technology development is a team process, and how the final project varied from the original designs.

Video Games in Class–A Professional Development Course Part One

Part One:  Integrating a game into your lessons

1.  Decide what to teach.  Start with your list of Principles and Concepts you want to teach in the semester.  Games are good for conveying vocabulary and facts, but their true advantage is in conveying abstract or complex concepts.

2.  Find a game.  Consult the list of video games at the ScienceGameCenter.org.  Game suggestions welcomed, and your reviews and comments needed).  Choose the game that conveys the concepts and principles (sort games by subject).  Make sure that the chosen game will work on your classroom’s computers (sort games by platform).

3.  Design your lecture to draw on game’s graphics, situations and names.  Use the video game as an introduction to the concepts.  Choose vocabulary and graphics that highly correlate with those of the video game.  Our data shows that students who play Immune Attack are more confident in their ability to understand graphics that are similar to Immune Attack than different styled graphics of the same types of cells.

4.  Address misconceptions.    Every model is an imperfect representation of reality, so consider which aspects of the game (graphics or gameplay) may be misleading and that you may wish to directly address in your class.  For example, the cells in Immune Attack are drawn to represent the H&E stained cells we are familiar with in text books.  However, unstained cells, and live cells under a light microscope do not look this way.   After introducing H&E stained cells, that look similar to the ones in Immune Attack, you could follow up with live cells pictured through a light microscope, for example.

5.  Play related games/use related models.  Playing a related science game will show the students a different model of the same thing.  Cellcraft shows a different mRNA model than EteRNA.  Both games about mRNA, but Cellcraft puts mRNA in the context of a cell and players use mRNA to make proteins.  In EteRNA, players fold up the 2D RNA molecules and learn about base pairing.

6.  Show students the game objects are real.  Find relevant Wikipedia pages, research articles, and research labs that address the principles and concepts so that students can find more information about the topics and continue their own exploration.  This is similar to  reading the story behind your favorite characters/tools in video games and movies.

7.  Have your students review the game at ScienceGameCenter.org.  Give them extra credit for a critical thinking essay.  Give them credit for discussing the role of mRNA in a cell and whether the game simplified the roll or provided a good introduction.

8.  Some fun follow ups.  Have the students write a report on anything they discovered from the game that addresses a current research issue.  Maybe they learned mRNA is related to a disease….  Have your students re-design the game, design the next level, or add new tools/characters to the game.  Ask them to explain why they choose what they did and what the player should learn from their additions.

 

 

Video games in Class–a Teacher Development Course Introduction

Video Games in the classroom-A Professional Development Course 

Video Games like Immune Attack present scientific concepts in an intuitive format.  Watching a cell react to a chemical signal in a movie like Inner Life of the Cell is helpful in visualizing the concepts of cell biology.  But it is much more memorable if we must control the cell’s response to the chemical signal and know how it is required to vanquish the enemy bacteria that are multiplying out of control.  Additionally, many jobs involve adding art to science:  Medical Illustration, video game development, and human computer interaction are all growing fields.  Creating and even using a video game and then discussing it are excellent introductions to these fields.

 

Melanie Stegman, Ph.D. is a biochemist who is creating and evaluating the much anticipated sequel to Immune Attack.   Additionally, Dr. Stegman has served as a subject matter expert for high school students in a summer ITEST program in Washington D.C for the past two years.  Here, students enrolled in the “Be the Game” class were learning to program games in Game Maker.   Additionally, Dr Stegman has used game design to teach molecular cell biology to high school students at the American Museum of Ntural History.  Based on her extensive experience in learning games design and evaluation, Dr. Stegman has created some guidelines for getting the most out of a video games in the science classroom.

 

Two methods exist, each with their own benefits and challenges.  First, more and more games exist that address science topics, and many games exist that were not intended to address science but do.  See Dr. Stegman’s continuously updated Learning Technology Blog at The ScienceGameCenter.org for existing science-related video and card games.  Second, designing or programming a game can be an excellent project for students to work on with a collaborating scientist.  Below is an outline of what Dr. Stegman would like to present to any teacher interested in integrating video games into their science class.

 

Video Games and Historical Novels.

A serious video game is like a historical novel.  It is a story told in a setting that is somehow very accurate, but it is still a story, and it must operate under constrains similar to any other story.  A story must be engaging, or else it is not read and therefore useless.  To be engaging the story may be presented from a certain character’s perspective.  It may ignore some events.  It may misrepresent the passage of time.  Perhaps this is how the main character experienced the events.  A historical novel is different from the omniscient and disinterested voice in our textbooks, but it is a necessary addition if we are to create a deeper understanding of the past culture and history.

 

A video game can add such detail into science.  Just like a historical novel, a game may present the facts from a unique perspective, such as from the enzyme’s point of view.  This view may not be complete, but it can be enlightening and motivating to the student.  Additionally, games have a way of drawing us in and helping us process much complicated data while still making us feel like we are having fun.  Just play Angry Birds for five minutes.  You have learned about trajectories, momentum, and you have perfected by trial and error your skills (bird sling shot skills, in this case).  Because the game is well designed, you played through, longer that you may have read through a paragraph.

 

Kurt Squire writes that students learn a systemic of history from playing the game Civilization (1).  His work outlines a method, and a set of potential obstacles to account for, when introducing a video game into a classroom.  This workshop will discuss the use of video games in the classroom as a means of deepening student understanding and providing personalized relevance to facts to be learned.

 

1.  Designing Centers of Expertise for Academic Learning Through Video Games  Kurt D. Squire; Ben DeVane; Shree Durga.  Theory into Practice47:240 – 251. 2008.

 

2.  Students Designing Video Games about Immunology: Insights for Science Learning, Neda Khalili, Kimberly Sheridan, Asia Williams, Kevin Clark & Melanie Stegman.  Computers in the Schools, 28:228-240.  2011.

 

Immune Attack is free for everyone to download here:   www.ImmuneAttack.org  Watch our video of Immune Attack!

Our Learning Technologies Blog:  All of these materials are posted here.

blogs.fas.org/learningtech

Our list of video game and card games that teach science.  Please contribute!  Add games, your reviews, your students can review.  Share your experiences with other teachers and read about theirs.

ScienceGameCenter.org

Our current game is Immune Defense.  It will be a web based game, or a downloadable game for Mac and PC.   Ead more about it at

ImmuneDefenseGame.org
Stegman Video Game in the classroom Professional Development course

 

Welcome to Immune Defense

Our new game is a two dimensional strategy game called Immune Defense.  Seven kinds of white bloods cells can be bought and deployed in the never-ending, always-escalating war against 15 viral and bacterial pathogens.

Part 1 of Immune Defense to be released February 1, 2013.  Part 2 will be ready for beta testing In June, 2013.

Description for scientists:

Players must use the right combination of phagocytes, T-Cells and B-Cells for each combination of bacteria, viruses and parasites.  Players also regulate the type of proteins that appear on each cell’s surface and spend points to buy cells, to move drag cytokines and to activate white blood cells.  Surface proteins are required to recognize pathogens and receive signals.  Some signals cause cells to move, other cause activation, other tether cells to a location.  Activation is required for the most effective killing of pathogens… but it comes at a cost: more activated white blood cells raises your inflammation rate.  The game is over if your inflammation gets too high.  (Should have saved some points to buy a T-Reg!)

Description for Teachers:

Immune Defense is a simple, free game that anyone over 10 can play.  It is Macintosh compatible, can be played in a browser window if you have an internet connection and it can be downloaded and installed if you do not.  Low end computers can play this game.  A 30-minute period is sufficient, and a 60 minute period is not too long.  The game teaches many science standards that are appropriate for 5th through 12th grades; see below for Learning Objectives.  The game style and game play has been optimized for 9th and 10th grade students.  But we know that younger and older students enjoy the game.

Please contact me mstegman at FAS.org is you have any questions at all!  Or please add your comment below.

Evaluation of Immune Defense in Classrooms.

We are testing Immune Defense in classrooms this coming school year, and we need your help!   If you teach any subject to 9th or 10th grade and think our learning objectives, video game art, technology development, cells/proteins or nanotechnology, etc. fits into your curriculum and can give us three 45-minute periods, please see our evaluation collaborator’s website for more information on how you can join us!  Maine International Center for Digital Learning MICDL.org. 

These are the general Learning Objectives:

—Randomness of molecular diffusion
—Specificity of interactions between protein signals and protein receptors
—Low and high affinity interactions are different
—Cells have specific functions because of their unique complement of proteins
—Cells can signal to each other
—Cells respond to their environment if they have the correct receptors
—Regulating which proteins you have on hand is important for cell function
—Altering the proteins you have on hand is called cell differentiation
—Pathogens have evolved to thwart our immune system
—Viruses, bacteria and parasites have different ways of attacking and
—White blood cells, antibodies and complement factors all play different roles to combat different pathogens
—Structure and function of biologically relevant molecules and proteins
—The role of Oxidation and free radical chemistry in defense against pathogens
—Introduction to technology and nanotechnology
—Introduction to web based databases and resources
—Introduction to research methods and data presentation
—The player will see real data images of the cells and molecules presented in the game. The player will also be given their own online handbook of links to sites like Leica Microscope’s education page. Curious students can thus satisfy their quest for further information. Because links are presented in context of the game, this advanced information is meaningful to players.

 

Description for players:

Immune Defense takes place in the Immune Attack universe, chronologically, after the action in Immune Attack.  (Download our PC only, 3D game free on our site, ImmuneAttack.org!)  What we did not see in Immune Attack is that you, the new pilot who has no previous training in cell biology or immunology, accidentally and against the repeated advice of the artificial intelligence of the Microbot, gave a white blood cells a fly by.  Zooming down super close to the surface of an activated Macrophage, your Microbot was caught in an phagocytosis event.  Bitterly angry with you, the tiny, artificially intelligent Bot literally stewed for an hour in the acid and free radical oxidizing agents used by Macrophages to kill pathogens.

By the time the Bot was rescued, the acid and oxidation had done a lot of damage…  damage to your friendship with the little Bot!  However, artificial intelligence is more creative than you’d expect, and creative solutions are so much better than holding a grudge.  Every intelligent being knows that.

So the Microbot created a video game for you.  If you can master this game, Bot says, then it allow you to pilot it.  Until you master this 2D simulation of the Immune System, however, the Bot is refusing to heed your instructions.  So you’d better get busy and win this game, because your orders are to use this Microbot to heal patients… and explaining that you are having a personal disagreement with a Bot will be hard to explain to your superior.

Game Development notes:

Originally conceived as a tower defense styled game, Immune Defense originally had a Tower Defense style menu.  We found that the tower defense menu really did not help players figure out what to do.  When we thought about it, we decided our game had morphed into a real time strategy kind of game… so we spent some time working out what kind of game user interface (GUI).  We have a rough version you can play at our Testing Site.  This version still includes our tower defense styled GUI.  Soon, we’ll have a version of the game with a new GUI that matches its real time strategy mechanisms better.  You will be able to compare the two GUI’s and see for yourself what a difference they make.

Credits:

Immune Defense is a work in progress, but here are the credits so far.
Federation of American Scientists
………..Melanie Stegman, lead scientist, writer, designer, producer
………..—Jerold Council, intern and immunology text book interpreter
Cosmocyte, game development:
………..—Cameron Slayden, CMI
………..—Alec Slayden, Technical Lead
Scientific Advisory Group most helpful volunteer:
………..Howard Young, Ph.D.
Freelance programmer:
………..Ohad Frenkel

Here is the view from your Microbot cockpit.

Here is the view from your Microbot cockpit.

STEM Video Game Challenge and Teaching Youngsters to Program

Hi.  Do you have a kid at home who is 8?  Or are you a kid who is 8?  Perhaps you are a kid who is 14, or 34.   What would you like to do when you grow up?  Would you like to help the environment, work for major league baseball, or discover something about the human body that helps everyone live longer and happier?  Well, what could you learn to do that would help you with any of those goals?

Programming.

Programming computers is necessary for everything, from the giant scoreboard at the ballpark to discovering which mutated gene a group of cancer patients have in common.  Computer programmers help make weather stations function more effectively, help us analyze data more completely, and they can also program video games!

So, why doesn’t everyone program?  For the same reasons that not everyone plays the guitar:  Not everyone has a computer, or a guide to programming (book or person) and not everyone will look at moving pixels on a computer screen and think, “I want to learn how to move those pixels!”  Personally, I took an informatics class in my German high school, in 1988.  I took the class because all my friends were taking it: yes, I hung out with, and really enjoyed the company of a crowd of geeky boys.  But the class was boring, I didn’t like the projects we did and so I did not try to understand how to program.  We were making a receipt.  So that a store clerk could use a computer to type in the prices, and the receipt software would calculate a total, tax and put it all into a printable format.  OMG is was so boring!

When you are 17 (and when you are any age) it is very easy to get discouraged and think, “I don’t need to understand this, I will never use it.”  Learning anything always takes some effort.  Making an effort is always risky, because you may not triumph!  You may find out that you can’t figure out whatever it is, and 90% of the time you will be sitting next to someone who looks at you funny because you aren’t figuring it out!

The magic happens when your interest and curiosity wins out over your fear of failure.  So we all need interesting songs to play on our guitar, and we all need cool things to program!  Cool is defined by the user, so there is really no telling what will inspire each person to program or learn guitar…  we can just listen to as many songs as possible and check out as many computer programs as possible!

So what can you do to get your 8 year old to learn how to program?  What can you do as a 14 year old who would like to become a valuable crew member on a marine life observation station in the Pacific Ocean?  How can you learn to program?  You do the same as if you wanted to learn guitar.  Find a guitar you like, find a book or a mentor you like (or both) and practice.  Some mentors will be smart but not polite, some mentors will be nice but not smart, and your best mentors will be the mean kids who brag about how great they are and act like you don’t know anything.  Listen to what everyone tells you and then make your own decisions.  Let everyone talk, don’t waste time arguing with them about whether you are smart.

And then practice.  Make things.  Join a Game Jam, join a computer programming class or club, talk to your local biology lab and see what kinds of programs they need.Ask your teacher if she needs a spreadsheet that can calculate grades.  Make Things!

The STEM Video Game Challenge was started by a bunch of nice folks who wanted to give you all something to make. Next year in February there will be another chance to compete for prizes with kids all over the country (USA).  There are also likely competitions you can enter in your own country, or local city or state.  Enter all kinds of competitions!  Even if your thing is awful.  Enter!

The http://www.stemchallenge.org/

And then come back and tell me how you did it!  Did you use GameMakerSmall BasicScratch?  These are all good ways to start programming, with GameMaker being the most advanced.

You could also write your game designs on paper, and collaborate with your friends (or enemies) who know how to program.  They may show you a few programming details to get you started.  The STEM Video Game Challenge has a Design Category, too.  Not all winners have playable games, yet!  There are programs (Commercial = not free): Gamestar Mechanic, Little Big Planet, etc. for making games without programming.  Maybe you all know of some others?

OK.  Get busy!  And show me what you make!  Send me your links!  Share your triumphs.  Let me see how you made programming your thing.  Let me see what FUN you had!

 

Stop reading this post

And go get this free download.

www.videogamesandkids.com

Parents no longer have an excuse not to know what is up with video games these days.  Parents and teachers can also see what GOOD things video games can do!

Seriously, stop reading this and go get the download.  Stop back to discuss it if you’d like, though!

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Event: What Can a Video Game Teach?

Melanie Stegman, yours truly, will be presenting her research on Immune Attack, development of the sequal and all about using game to teach and learn.  April 23, 6PM.  At the FabLab on North Capitol at P.  If you have made a game, bring it with you!  Please Register Here.

Video Games can teach science by presenting and requiring your interaction with complex 3D models of things you otherwise need to imagine because they are too small, to rare, or too far away to see.

Video games can also teach science to you if you decide to MAKE your own video game.  If you design it on paper you are doing systems thinking, planning, designing, and considering human computer interactions.  If you program a game you are learning to convert a designer’s instructions accurately, how to creatively solve programming problems, and how to optimize your system.

Video Games can also be made about science, as well.  If you make a game about science, then you are learning the science yourself and everyone who plays your game may learn, to.

Have you made a video game?  Would you like to show it off?  Have you ever submitted it to a contest, like the STEM Video Game Challenge?  Have you almost created a game and want to get some feedback?  Are you just curious about what anyone could actually be learning from a video game?
Then come out and meet game developer and many other types of design and maker people at Fab Lab DC.

Melanie will talk about Immune Attack and what students are learning.  There will be time before and after the presentation to try out some other great science games:

History of Biology
Minesweeper
Fold It
Cellcraft
You Make Me Sick
EtRNA
You Make Me Sick

Please Register here!

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This event is an official part of the month long USA Science and Engineering Festival.  The Finale Expo will be April 29-30 in the DC Convention Center April 27-29th.  Come out and meet Melanie at the FAS booth, talk with scientists in the “Encounter’s with Scientists” booth (FAS hour is 11AM Sunday the 29th) and meet the Fab Lab people in their booth #3050!

Please Register here!

 

 

 

Please register here:http://learnfromgamesstegman.eventbrite.com/  

This event is an official part of the month long USA Science and Engineering Festival.  The Finale Expo will be April 29-30 in the DC Convention Center April 27-29th.  Come out and meet Melanie at the FAS booth, talk with scientists in the “Encouter’s with Scientists” booth (FAS hour is 11AM Sunday the 29th) and meet the Fab Lab DC people at their booth (#3050)!

NSTA Science Rocks Pictures

What does a scientist look like?  See above.

The National Science Teacher Association (NSTA) had a big Science Rocks event at their annual meeting last week.  A few of us lucky scientist types were invited to represent how cool being a scientist can be!

Cindy Hasselbring (Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow & Math Teacher) and  Science Rockstars: Leland Melvin, Anousheh Ansari, Corey Powell, Ken Ono, enjoying the show before they spoke. Not shown: Simona de Silvestro, Grand Hanks and Melanie Stegman.

You can meet Anousheh Ansari in person at the Science and Engineering Festival Expo April 28-29.

What does a chemistry experiment look like?  See below.

In the World’s Largest Chemistry lesson, we shook a highly absorbent polymer to see if it felt cooler after evaporation….  See what happens!  Turn down your volume!  Grand Hanks is the chemist who is teaching the lesson on the microphone and his partner is the DJ who is laying down an excellent polymer shaking beat.

NSTA Science Rocks March 2012 from Melanie Stegman on Vimeo.

 

Me betwen two astronauts!!

Here I am, Melanie Stegman, being a panelist at Science Rocks. I am sitting between two Astronauts! Anousheh Ansari and Leland Melvin.

Teacher made an Immune Attack Demonstration video!

Check out this great Immune Attack demonstration video!!

If you would like to see what Immune Attack is exactly like, watch video of himself playing Immune Attack!

Spoiler alert!  This video is better if you are a teacher, and less interesting if you are a PLAYER!  If you are a student and you are curious, then just download the game (free) and play for yourself!