Tag Archives: science games

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!

 

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.

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).

Games we’re playing: Rocket Science

While searching on Kongregate.com the best place to find free games, I found Rocket Science. An interesting game that has the player shooting a number of rockets at a group of targets while factoring in angle, thrust, drag, and gravity. This game can teach you realistic physics with rockets.

I had fun playing the game and beating the levels, varying in difficulty from easy to extremely challenging. The first few levels can be beat quickly, but the later levels have you using several rockets to get to your targets. One level has you using rockets to power a car and this showed me that the developer put a lot of work into creating fun and interesting levels. You can learn more about the developers on their website at MoFunZone.com. Also, MoFunZone.com has a great educational games section don’t miss that!

Please try Rocket Science and leave me a comment with your thoughts on the game! If you have any games I should try don’t hesitate to recommend them.

Where to find Science Games

Here is the list of science games that we are continuously updating for you.

 

Flash Games played over the web:

MedMyst (about hunting down infectious diseases)

CSI:The Experience (just like the show, only you need to use your own brain!)

N-Squad You take on the role of a forensic scientist, solving crimes and investigating mysterious deaths.

Cellcraft is a real time strategy game in which you play the role of a cell trying to defeat a virus before they defeat you.  An excellent intro to cell biology for middle school.

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Downloads for PC and Mac:

The Curse of Brownbeard is Middle School game about pirates who need someone to figure out why they are getting sick… The Curse of Brownbeard.  Teaches experimental design.  How cool is that??

Metablast! at Metablast.org is still in development, but it promises to be a fantastic journey into a plant cell…  in a microbot (which is our favorite way to travel) and will present proteins in their accurate form…..  Very exciting!  Their Educator’s community if very nice, too.  http://www.metablast.org/community

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Available through My Game IQ (free download manager program that is PC only).

Immune Attack  (We are in the top 8 games on My Game IQ right now!  (4/01/2011).  Free PC download.

Surge harnessing the power of video games to help students build a strong intuitive/tacit understanding of the physics involved.  Free PC download through MyGameIQ.

Science Pirates: The Curse of Brownbeard helps students understand science processes to better change food safety behavior.

Re-Mission a third person shooter game about killing cancer cells.  Find on mygameiq, too.

Enercities is a game created to teach the importance of energy and conservation by the European Union.

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Games being built–that you can contribute to!

Our collaborators at Clear Lab, where we are creating a battery of fun SCIENCE! games for middle school students!  Sign up to be a part of the development team!

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Other Fantastic Sites with some science games available:

Molecules is a site with great videos about chemicals in our everyday life and some games.  See what Sweden is up to!

Games for change has several game about the environment.

http://www.gamesforchange.org/play

NISE has some games about nanotechnology.  Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.

http://www.nisenet.org/

Science Netlinks has many things for teaching… some are games, some are not…   Immune Attack is described at Netlinks, too!  (Still downloads at Immuneattack.org)

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Tablet Games!

A link to ALL EDUCATIONAL GAMES on Apple’s App Store.

ImmunityHD is a fun game in which you need to keep the intestinal epithelium clear of infection.  Good luck!  This intestine belongs to an adventurous eater!  On iPad…  at iTunes App store.

Virulent is an experimental game by the cool guys at Madison Wisconsin, and the Morgridge Institute for Research.  In the game you play a virus, and you have to infect your host cells to win.  The game is still underdevelopment, so check it out and keep up with the updates!

 

Other sites you really should know about.

Harvard Biovisions has created beautiful videos of the molecules inside of cells.  Xvivo is the company who actually makes them…  great career inspiration for your young computer programmers and 3D modelers.

Stem Video Game Challenge! Get your students involved in the next middle school STEM Video Game Challenge! Watch the video of the inaugural winners!  Kids submitted video games in Gamestar Mechanic, Game Maker, Small Basic, and some submitted written game design documents.  All the games submitted were fun to play, innovative and educational.

And contact Melanie Stegman, yours truly, if you have High School students interested in entering a Molecular Biology video game competition in Spring 2012.