Category Archives: Teacher’s Guide

Taking best advantage of Learning Technologies.

Teachers role in a high tech classroom

Everyone seems to have an opinion about teacher’s role in the classroom of the future.  Some claim that teachers should get out of the way and let kids simply have unfettered access to the internet.  Others imagine a classroom in which teachers curate the vast world of information that is available and facilitate students’ understanding.  Certainly, there is more to learn in any subject than any one person could be an expert in.  How can we take the best advantage of technology in the classroom?

Please share your comments below!  I am preparing a blog post addressing the role of teachers in the future, and I would appreciate your thoughts and any resources!

 

2011 is the Year of Chemistry

www.moleclues.org is a website where you can learn about the things molecules do… like make us fall in love, for instance.

The people behind Moleclues and the Year of Chemistry are The Molecular Frontiers Foundation.

Moleclues wants you to know that 2011 is the international YEAR OF CHEMISTRY!  Watch their videos about chemistry, there will be a new one every month of 2011.  http://www.moleclues.org/chemistry-calendar Teachers can also get some teachers guides for each month… topics range from fashion, to weather, to love…

Molecular Frontiers is collaborating with Chalmers University of Technology, University of Gothenburg, Universeum and the film company Untamed Science to produce 12 videos during the International Year of Chemistry 2011. The topic of the monthly videos follows the themes set up by Swedish Chemical Society.

 

STEM Video Game Challenge!

STEM Challenge!

 

 

 

This fall the first  National STEM Video Game Challenge invited professional, collegiate, and youth developers to submit prototypes of games to inspire STEM learning for kids pre-k to 4th grade.  The winners will be announced soon.  You can get your students or yourself involved next year!

Read about the contest at the http://www.cooneycenterprizes.org

I served as a judge for this year’s contest.  I played every game submitted in the STEM game category.  I can tell you that we have many smart, and free thinking young minds out there.  Encourage the minds you know to compete next year!  I will be discussing software that middle school and High School students can use to design and create games.

You can read what another STEM Challenge game judge wrote Here.

Find the fun in immunology

To build appreciation for the science of immunology, we need to find the fun in it.

Many thousands of people spend their lives in windowless laboratories, standing day in and day out, barely speaking to their silent lab mates, often working in a 4°C room, or holding their arms up for hours while they conduct their experiments inside the awkward, but sterile cell culture hood.

Why are they doing this?

They are immunologists. Immunologists address the problems of the immune system that their fellow humans have to live with, like Leukemia, AIDS, allergies and autoimmune disorders. Immunologists use biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and genetics to look for ways to help patients and prevent disease.

So, we could simply say that these immunologists are serving their fellow man. But their motivation is not simply to help mankind. Something else drives them to spend those days in a tissue culture hood counting thousands of white blood cells.

Why did these immunologists take the lab path? Why didn’t they become social workers, firemen or even medical doctors? Well, I’ll tell you. Immunology is fun. Immunology involves watching cells identify and destroy other cells. These cells appear to be very similar to every other cell in the universe. These cells have outer membranes, nuclei, DNA and proteins that are almost indistinguishable from every other cell.

The questions are why this particular cell kills bacteria. Why doesn’t this cell kill all types of bacteria? Why does this cell in some people, not kill bacteria? The answers involve making endless comparisons between healthy and sick patients, between pathogenic and non-pathogenic bacteria, between humans and mice and between mice and flies.

So, Immunology is a puzzle. How does the puzzle work? We collect up as many clues as we can, we make a guess, we do an experiment and we try to figure out whether our idea was correct. We compare what we thought would happen to what did happen.

We have tools we can use. And we have rules for addressing these puzzles. We have several paths that others have taken before us that guide our way: We have biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, chemistry and physics. Each of these paths have their own rules and their own tools.

If you could jump in and try out these tools, and attempt a few of the puzzles yourself, then you would understand how immunology works. You would experience the fun! This is what we are doing with Immune Attack 2.0: we are letting you play Immunology… without the hours of standing in a windowless lab.

Serious Game Design: Maximizing Engagement

A friend of mine just referred me to a great blog on education, training and learning technology…  by Richard N. Landers, Ph.D.   Dr. Landers is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA, USA.  The blog is called Thoughts of a Neo-Academic.  Richard wrote a series of blogs in September 2010 about a series of research papers published in Journal of General Psychology that are focused on video games.

Today’s post is about how we might create more engaging video games.  This paper is the subject of the post:  Rodrigo, M. (2010). Dynamics of student cognitive-affective transitions during a mathematics game. Simulation & Gaming, 42 (1), 85-99. doi: 10.1177/1046878110361513.

Dr. Rodrigo observed 7th grade boys while they played an math game.  She and her colleagues paired up to take note of the cognitive affect states of the students as they played the math game, Math Blaster.  The team assessed how the students’ states changed while they played the game.  The states the team defined and noted were
1.  Boredom
2.  Confusion
3.  Delight
4.  Engagement
5.  Frustration
6.  Surprise
7.  The Neutral state  (No affect discernible)

She noted that students often transitioned from confused to engaged.  She noted that boredom was the only state that persisted.  My post here is just a quick one, and if you want more details, please read Dr. Lander’s post for a nicer description.  What I would like to point out is that confusion is not a bad thing….  confusion may draw us in.  Confusion, I think, is a necessary step to learning anything.  This research is unique and powerful, I believe.  If you know of more, please let me know.

Rodrigo, M. (2010). Dynamics of student cognitive-affective transitions during a mathematics game. Simulation & Gaming, 42 (1), 85-99.  doi: 10.1177/1046878110361513.         You can download the paper here.

 

Making science video games: Spore and the misrepresentation of science.

A friend said to me,
“I am trying to make a video game to create interest in engineering.  Someone told me Spore taught a lot about evolution.  What do you think?”

I did play Spore and I was very disappointed.  I was angry, actually, because the things that are so cool about evolution were not present.  Playing Spore was like expecting an excellent new baseball game and instead it was a soccer game.  The worst part is, that real evolution would make a great game!

The real problem with Spore was that Maxis and EA advertised it as being about evolution, and bragged about it being a real science video game.  However, anyone who knows about evolution knows that isn’t true. The problem is that so many people do not know how evolution actually works, and could easily be confused by the version of “evolution” presented in Spore.

Science journalist John Bohannon assembled a team of scientists to give Spore a report card on all the subjects its claimed to present.  You can see this report card here: http://scienceguild.org/wiki/index.php?title=Spore You can read John’s review of Spore in Science Magazine, here:  http://www.sciencemag.org/content/322/5901/531.3.full

Why am I writing about it?  Because science can be explained by playing games, but only when the core of the science must be used to win the game.  For example, a game about evolution should require the player to overcome that fact that random events may wipe out your offspring at any moment.  That would be exciting and teach real science.  I am writing about this because we (learning technology folks) are still struggling with this concept.  I believe we have learned the theory: we know we want a game that requires the player to use real science to win.  The struggling is coming from the question, how do we make that game?   Working closely with the scientist, or having the scientist be the game writer is the answer.  For examples, see Metablast, Cellcraft and Surge (and Immune Attack, of course).

My school will not let me download Immune Attack

Dear Melanie,
Our school has a filter which blocks the Immune Attack download site. Could you perhaps send the game an email attachment?
Sincerely,
Karl
aka, teacher at a K-12 school anywhere in the US

Dear Karl,

Yes, I am familiar with that arch enemy of educational software progrIt does fit on a CD. You may download it at home, burn it to a CD, then copy that CD as many times as you like, and then insert the CD into any computer you would like to install the game on. You have to install the program. This may lead to another common and equally huge problem: permission. There is currently a debate between whether holding your breath or kicking and screaming works better. Please let us know what works for you.

I hope humor gets you though this moment of frustration! I can make a CD for you if you would like, and mail it to you. No problem, just send me your best snail mail address.

Here is a big Happy Note! Immune Attack 2.0 is now funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. We will take advantage of brand new technology: IA2.0 will be programmed in the Unity Engine, and it will be Mac, PC and BROWSER playable! Yiiihaw! No downloading and no installation! However, installing onto PC or MAC will be supported, so that an internet connection will not be necessary to play IA2.0.

IA2.0 won’t be ready until next school year.  In the meantime, here is some more joy to tide you over:
Metablast
is a fantastic looking new 3D game that is also about a microbot! This bot is inside a plant cell in which photosynthesis is failing! This game is also funded by the National Institutes of Health, also uses real proteins structures and other actual data and also turns real science facts into a real cool adventure. Level one will be released and week now…..
mygameIQ
is a program that you can install on your PC that will let you easily find and download and install many learning games. Instead of searching for 100 different games on your computer, you just open to the mygameIQ, and click play on which ever of your games you wish to play. The best part is that we here at FAS Learning Tech get a report on how many people played IA through mygameIQ, how many times they played. So we can find out how popular the game is, which helps us design the sequel! It is also vital to get renewed funding.
PS: mygameIQ is PC only. Please let them know if you want a MAC version!
LearningTech Blog
I maintain a list of the excellent learning games that I know about. So keep up today on my blog. You can also sign up there for my monthly
Learning Technologies Newsletter.

Please let me know if I can help you out in anyway. I support the use of Immune Attack as a model for students who are designing their own games, for the study of the intersection of art and science, and to drive up interest and knowledge of molecular science in the general adult public.

Sincerely yours,

Melanie

Melanie Stegman, Ph.D.
Director, Learning Technologies Program
Federation of American Scientists
1725 DeSales Street, NW 6th Floor
Washington, DC 20036
mstegman at fas.org
www.fas.org/immuneattack

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Mice Needed

Dear Faithful Blog Readers. I need your help! Immune Attack the video game is best played with a mouse, but many schools have laptops with trackpads. Do you have an old two-button mouse laying around? If you send it to me, I’ll put it to good use! I’ll give it to teachers who are evaluating Immune Attack and don’t have mice for their laptops. Roller ball mice are fine!
The mice will get used for many applications! Send your mice (please pay for the shipping) to me at
1725 DeSales Street NW
6th Floor
Washington, DC 20036

Thank you very much! Your help bring technology to schools is appreciated!

Want to Design Science Video Games?

We need you!

FAS Educational Technology Program is collaborating with Muzzy Lane Software to create a series of video games that help middle school students and teachers prepare for middle school science proficiency exams.  The collaboration is intended to draw in teachers, students, game designers and anyone interested to contributing to the design of the games.  Since middle school science covers a wide range of topics (Physical, Chemical, Earth and Life sciences) there is something to interest everyone.  The collaboration is called The Clear Lab Project, and is funded by a SBIR grant from DARPA to Muzzy Lane.

To get involved, go to the project website, http://clearlabproject.com/

Soon, you will be able to access our very first draft of a game design.  You can also find a “Game Design Template,” which is a list of the necessary components of an excellent video game design draft.

I look forward to many rewarding interactions with many of you as we design games for science together!