Tag Archives: science education

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!

 

Growing the Video Game Industry in the US

Congressional Caucus for Competitiveness in Entertainment Technology, or E-Tech was formed in February by U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Kevin Brady.  You can read about the Caucus and see which members of the House have joined it on the Video Game Voters Network.  You can watch Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz speak on Technology and Education HERE at the Atlantic Forum on Technology in Education.

Why does Entertainment Technology need a caucus?  Why is there a Network of Video Game Voters?  Well, video games are big business, and the US is a big market for video games.  From The VGVN Blog:  In 2010, computer and video games contributed $24 billion in sales to the U.S. economy. The computer and video games industry employs 120,000 Americans in high-paying jobs in 34 states.  Computer and video games help soldiers rehabilitate, keep seniors active, and educate our children.  For more information on the roles of video games in our lives, see the Entertainment Software Association’s website.

Like any big business, everyone working and investing in it needs to anticipate growth in the future.  For growth in the video game market we need freedom to create and sell the games that will grow the market and we also need a local workforce trained for the jobs required.  Therefore, limiting regulation and enhancing education are key to increasing the strength of America’s video game industry.

Limiting regulation: Limiting what video games can contain is very similar to limiting what a book can contain, extremely similar.  Limiting the content of our stories and our speech should be resisted, regardless of the economic considerations.

Who is trying to limit what video game contain?  The State of California has had a law since 2005 that could be used (but never has) to restrict the sale of video games.  The Supreme Court will rule in the next two months on whether this law is constitutional.    The VGVN has an excellent FAQs page about the case. You can download the Supreme Court filing on the VGVN FAQ page, too. And here are the direct links:  Read the summary of ESA’s Supreme Court filing
Read the full Supreme Court filing.

Enhancing Education: We will need trained workers to keep up with the world video game and other technology related industries.  Rep Debbie Wasserman Schultzspoke about the E-TECH caucus at the Atlantic’s Forum on Technology in Education,March 30, 2011, see minute 4:30.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz spoke mainly not about regulation but about how we can use technology to enhance our education system.  For example, US students could debate with students in other countries.  It is easy to see how technology can enhance the education of student in every topic, not just technology related ones.  Rep. Wasserman Schultz’s example is simple:  debating economics with students in another country could enhance our students’ understanding of the topic.  Imagine learning about Roman ruins from students in Rome or debating the finer points of baseball vs cricket with students in India.  These kinds of interactions should be common place.

Moving forward locally… To make the innovative use of technology common place in our schools we need to speak up and demand it.  I suggest for starters, that we all go to your local middle school and see if their network allows access to Wikipedia.  You may be very surprised.  We could start by simply that our local tax dollars be used to give this free service available to curious 10 year olds.  See Wikipedia’s FAQ about Wikipedia in School. Then we can turn our attention to down loadable video games like Immune Attack, and blog sites where students could contribute to discussions on current events and science.

Additionally, their many opportunities for teachers, students and parents to get involved in projects that involve technology.  See our Science Games post for updates.

 

 

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.

Students at Shadow Mountain High School, Phoenix, AZ Recommend Immune Attack

Wonder whether your students will like Immune Attack? Wonder whether it is game enough to hold their attention? Well watch this video.

And oh, if you work for a AAA video game company you can reach me by email!

Thank you to Debbie Kovesdy, her students and the biology teachers who participated in our evaluation. If YOU would like your students to participate in our evaluation, please let me know! We need more students to strengthen our data… We have significant gains in LEARNING and CONFIDENCE. Be a part of a revolution in learning and in gaming!

Register 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).

USA Science and Engineering Festival!

At the USA Science and Engineering Expo, we had a great time introducing our “free Video Game” to 4000 people. While kids of all ages ran into our booth to see for themselves whether Immune Attack was any good or not, parents were happy to hear that our video game is about white blood cells fighting bacteria. The main character isn’t a military character, it’s a Microbot. It’s main weapon is a ray gun that activates proteins.

The crowd at the USA Science and Engineering expo was curious and eager to hear about real science! Some high school kids wanted to talk about careers in science. FAS is a science policy think tank, so we had plenty to talk about! Additionally, video game production requires many different types of scientific, mathematical and engineering related skills. Someone needs to design the game and designing means testing to find out whether the game is fun. Testing means experimental design! Which audience finds your game fun? And what is your control game? Then someone will program the game. Someone else is an expert at drawing three-dimensional objects using software like Maya, Studio Max, or Cinema4D. Then still another artist uses other software to create all of the backgrounds. Then another artist uses more technology to create the characters. And if you are making a realistic video game, then someone serves as a subject matter expert and makes sure the historical context is correct, or that the science in the Microbot is accurate… I could go on and on. See below for links to art and biological science in particular:

I enjoyed meeting all of you. Please support technology in our schools! Why? Because you can’t see viruses, you can’t see bacteria. You can’t see proteins. But you can see them in a video game! Imagine learning soccer, but never being shown the field. Previously, we did not have ways to see bacteria and proteins, but now we do! And the new data is being used by many people in the Medical Illustration Field to create videos and diagrams that explain the molecular science that affects our everyday lives.

Here are some examples of great medical illustration resources:

The Association of Medical Illustrators

The book: The Machinery of Life

The Biomedical Communications department at the University of Texas Southwestern.

Gamestar Mechanic released!

Gamestar Mechanic is now available.  Gamestar Mechanic is a game that you play that teaches you how to design video games.   Designed for 4th – 9th grade students, and intended to teach systems thinking, iterative design and collaborative skills, Gamestar Mechanic is lots of fun.  You can check it out on their website, or download the teacher’s guide, and the press release right here from our website.  And then let us know what you think!

Download the Teacher’s Guide

Gamestar Press Release

NIAID and Innovative Education Programs

Immune Attack 2.0 is being developed with funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).  The NIAID funds research in everything from basic viral replication mechanisms to innovative AIDS treatments, from basic

To read more about the NIAID and their work, you can download their PDF, or see their website.   Today, the NIAID published a report on the educational programs the fund.  And that includes, of course, Immune Attack 2.0.  So, go read the report on all the great innovative work the NIAID is sponsoring for educating the next generation of Scientists!