Posts tagged ‘EdGE@TERC’

July 10, 2013

Post-ISTE Musings: Small Fish, Huge Pond, But Lots of Bites…

Kacy Karlen for TERCtalks

Our recent trip to sunny San Antonio to exhibit at the ISTE 2013 Annual Conference and Exposition was somewhat of a ‘wild card’ venture—and not in the least bit because the mercurial summer weather. We hadn’t exhibited at the conference in several years. We had very little sense as to whether the tech-hungry ISTE audience—teethed on the numerous big name hardware, software, publishing, and product exhibitors—would react favorably to our research endeavors, thought leadership, and prototypes, many of which are available for free or at very nominal costs (we are a not-for-profit org, after all). At the cavernous Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, it wasn’t so hard for our team of two to start feeling like the smallest fish in the biggest pond…

A small fry culled from a big pond. By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A small fry culled from a big pond. By U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We shouldn’t have worried. We quickly lost count of the number of attendees who stopped by our humble in-line booth to say, “hey, I’m so glad TERC is here! What are you guys up to?” And excitingly, we had lots to share—because in the interim between our last ISTE appearance, we’ve engaged in robust assistive technology development; extensive online community building and designing for digital delivery models; and game research, design and development. We may have been the little guys in the big pond—but we still got lots of bites.

TERC's booth at ISTE 2013

TERC’s booth at ISTE 2013

Here’s what was luring ‘em in:

EdGE games1:  The EdGE team was demoing their addictive particle physics game, Impulse!, in tandem with their captivating laser light game, Quantum Spectre. Both games are in beta versions and currently being pilot tested among high school audiences for efficacy in developing students’ implicit understanding of Newtonian laws of motion and optics. We invited booth visitors to try the games on our laptops and iPad, but versions are also for the Kindle and Android.  On Tuesday of the conference, Impulse!  went live on Apple’s App Store (for free), and by Friday, was one of AppAdvice’s “Best Apps”.

Signing Math and Science2: Judy Vesel’s signing math and science apps for deaf and hard of hearing students were eye-catchers for booth visitors interested in assistive technologies, and for good reason—the portable dictionaries and pictionaries are uniquely interactive learning supports. The flagship Signing Science Dictionary (SSD) is an avatar-based dictionary of science terms and definitions in American Sign Language (ASL) or Signed English (SE) for deaf or hard-of-hearing students in grades 4-8.  A full selection of K-12 Signing Math and Science dictionaries and pictionaries is available for tablets, iPods, and iPhones from www.signingapp.com.

TERC’s Online Communities & Digital Delivery Models: From the successful third year of the IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition3 facilitated for NSF’s flagship Integrative Graduate Engineering and Research Traineeship to the expansion of the CLEAN Network4 of climate science and literacy stakeholders and resources, TERC’s reputation as a thought leader in online community development and facilitation precedes us—it even did at ISTE. Visitors to the booth also picked our brains about new digital delivery models for curricula and professional development—with The Inquiry Project ‘s grades 3-5 physical science curriculum5 and Talk Science PD available entirely online; new online coursework being served up from Investigations Workshops; and even more digital deliverables on deck; we felt—if not entirely MOOC-conversant—in-line with the times.

So here’s to taking the plunge and heading downstream to ISTE 2013. It was well worth the visit, and we should be seeing you as we come up for air next year!

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Quantum Spectre and Impulse are part of EdGE’s Leveling Up project, funded by the National Science Foundation (DRK-1119144).

The Signing Science Dictionary (SSD) is funded in part by grants from NEC Foundation of America, the National Science Foundation (HRD-0533057), and the Department of Education (H327A060026)). The Signing Science Pictionary (SSP) was funded in part by  grants from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, Disability Inclusion Initiative and the Department of Education (H327A080040). The Signing Math Dictionary (SMD is being funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (HRD-0833969). The Signing Math Pictionary (SMP)  is being funded in part by a grant from the Department of Education (H327A100074). The Signing Earth Science Dictionary (SESD)  is being funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (GEO-0913675).The Signing Life Science Dictionary (SLSD) and Signing Physical Science Dictionary (SPSD) are being funded in part by a grant from the National Science Foundation (DRL-1019542).

3   The IGERT Resource Center and the NSF IGERT Online Video and Poster Competition are funded by the National Science Foundation (DGE-0834992).

CLEAN is funded by grants from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NA12OAR4310143, NA12OAR4310142), the National Science Foundation (DUE-0938051, DUE-0938020, DUE-0937941) and the Department of Energy.

The Inquiry Project and Talk Science are funded by the National Science Foundation (DRL-0918435A).

April 9, 2013

Thoughts from the Field: A Non-Gamer in a Gaming World

What is it like being a non-gamer at the largest gaming event on the east coast? Particularly, what’s it like being a non-gaming, STEM education writer whose idea of a ‘good game’ started and ended with Myst at the largest gaming event on the east coast?

Three words: complete sensory overload.  Energy stores depleted. Game over!

Suffice it to say that PAX East was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The typical education conference trajectory of an orderly check-in followed by easy session scheduling did not apply…at all. Instead, taking in the PAX exhibit hall, play areas, and panels at the Boston Convention Center was like being thrust into Times Square on New Year’s Eve—if Times Square was overrun with fast-moving, fast-talking youngsters wearing backpacks and whizzing into lines amidst booming sound effects, flashing camera bulbs, and the smells of stale pizza and sugary carnival fare.

Games, gamers, and more gamers at PAX East...

Games, gamers, and more gamers at PAX East…

If I had been attending PAX for user research purposes, I would have been far too intimidated to even begin the process of conducting interviews. In actuality, I was attending PAX in the company of the EdGE team—TERC’s in-house group researching and designing robust science games that gamers like to play. This year, EdGE was checking PAX East out to examine the gaming landscape —and search out any  points of intersection between the education and gaming spheres.

As we learned from the not one; not two; but THREE packed panels that examined gaming and learning, there is widespread colloquial agreement among developers and gamers alike that games should be vehicles for meaningful learning, alternative assessment, and augmenting self-efficacy in underserved populations (including those with physical and cognitive disabilities ). However, we also learned that the development pathways, empirical research, and salient examples of educational, accessible, and fun-to-play games are few and far between…

…so what does that mean for TERC, and EdGE? Well—three panels about education-driven design at a trendy gamer-focused conference just served to solidify the value and prescient orientation of EdGE’s research and game development.

In fact, EdGE is about to release a couple of wireless games to engage high school students in physics and evolutionary biology while they play games like the ones they download from the App Store. EdGE collects data from these games to research learning, and recently joined an international team of U.S. and Finnish researchers investigating engagement in game-based learning (Project FUN).  They also attended and presented at GDC  a week or so ago.  It’s clear that their playable body of work truly is at the cutting-edge cusp of gaming and education. And now, excitingly, the hippest-of-hip gamers and developers are catching on!

For news, new games to test, and more goings-on from the EdGE team, be sure to check out: edge.terc.edu.

 

March 5, 2013

Girls Are the Newest Game Designers at TERC!

How many developers does it take to roll out six versions of engaging online games in 3 days?

It takes six…11-12 year old girls.

The researchers behind the girls’ energy conservation badge program for Girl Scouts and the EdGE transmedia games are now investigating how girls think about energy conservation through interactive game design for their peers.  In this exploratory endeavor, project researchers are evaluating how SCRATCH-familiar girls apply their engagement around computer programming to promote understanding of energy saving and the connection of energy use to climate change.

From the desk of a game design guru...

From the desk of a game design guru…

Over the course of a three-day on-site pilot, TERC researchers mentored the six 6th grade game designers as they brainstormed, storyboarded, animated, and pushed live their six respective games. The girls were already active members of the SCRATCH community, having learned about the programming technology either through school or tech-savvy parents and friends (several had been designing games in SCRATCH since first or second grade).

While the girls had varying degrees of familiarity with energy issues coming into this pilot, their on-site exposure to some of the complexities of this topic led them to produce demo games uniting interactive story lines with issues of climate change, energy tradeoffs, and sustainability. Their demos included challenges ranging from rescuing fish from environmental hazards against the clock to answering energy tradeoff questions to save a penguin from a melting iceberg—and featured imaginative characters spanning a recycling and composting cat and an energy-tradeoff-wise talking flower.

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Hard at work…

Said one of the designers after showing her game, “This project at TERC was really great. I got to learn more about climate change and think about making a game that would appeal to other people my age—and also younger kids too—so they could learn about global warming at younger ages.”

Said another, “designing with SCRATCH means that kids anywhere around the world can learn about climate change and play our games.”

All six gaming gurus agreed that designing a game that was both fun AND educational was the hardest part of the equation—those categories still have the stigma of being mutually exclusive—and that there was inherent difficulty in addressing lots of ‘tweaks’ and ‘bugs’ in the game design process while not diluting the educational content in their games. But judging from the responsive and compelling games demoed by these girls, their game designing efforts paralleled how one participant described a ‘good’ game experience—“challenging, but definitely not impossible”.

February 14, 2013

Beat the Winter Doldrums With…the ‘EdGE’ of Science!

This week, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is convening in Boston for the 2013 Annual Meeting—bringing together scientists, educators, and research luminaries to share the latest innovations in (and applications of) scientific research.

And speaking of the applications of science—AAAS has organized a fun, free, family-centric event called the Family Science Days, happening this Saturday and Sunday (2/16 and 2/17) from 11:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. at the Hynes Convention Center. The AAAS Family Science Days showcase interactive tabletop exhibits, hands-on demonstrations, kid-friendly activities, and stage shows from experts in the fields of biology, chemistry, nanoscience, earth and space science and more. This event open to all, but organized especially for students in grades 6 to 12. And TERC will be there!

Play Impulse, a new particle propelling challenge from EdGE@TERC!

Play Impulse, a new particle propelling challenge from EdGE@TERC!

Have a son or daughter who loves gaming, science, or solving puzzles? Be sure to check out the Educational Gaming Environments (EdGE )@TERC’s exhibit booth on Saturday or Sunday at the Family Science Days. The EdGE team of scientist-game designers and developers will be showing their newest ‘Leveling Up’ learning games, Impulse and Quantum Spectre. Stop by, play the games, ask questions, share your ideas, and learn more about how EdGE is creating compelling science-rich game experiences that gamers like to play.

Play Quantum Spectre, EdGE's new laser puzzle game!

Play with lasers in EdGE’s new Quantum Spectre at AAAS’ Family Science Days, but watch out for the spectres!

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For more information about where the EdGE team and other TERC staff will be presenting this spring and summer, be sure to visit: TERC’s newsroom.

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July 27, 2012

Post-GLS 8.0: The Recap

A few months ago, I was rather gutted that I couldn’t justify (much of) a reason to attend GLS 8.0. I was pretty certain it would be a) one of the most fun “professional” conferences I could attend; b) a good opportunity for some covert iPhone video coverage; and/or c) an excellent opportunity to exercise pent-up enthusiasm—manifested as frenzied clapping—for TERC presenters. But despite my not attending, here’s the vicarious recap—straight from the presenters and attendees themselves!

This June marked the 8th annual Games + Learning + Society (GLS) conference—the most prolific event dedicated to the intersection of high-quality digital media design, learning, and public interest. Experts from disciplines including game studies, education research, learning sciences, industry, government, educational practice, media design, and business gathered at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to share research, network, and propose solutions to catapult learning (both in-school and out) into the 21st century using games and simulations.

Judging from their substantive R&D work and expertise on the frontiers of games and education, it was only natural that GLS 8.0 included a banner session from the EdGE team. Lis Sylvan and Jamie Larsen presented “The Canary’s Not Dead, It’s Just Resting: The Productive Failure of a Science-Based Augmented-Reality Game”, co-authored by EdGE-rs Teon Edwards and the Director of EdGE, Jodi-Asbell-Clarke.

Another very exciting feather-in-the-cap for TERC? Jessica Simon of TERC’s Evaluation group netted a “Best in Show” award for her contributions to the “Vanished” evaluation poster and session. “Vanished” was a curated game co-developed by MIT’s Education Arcade and the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies. TERC evaluators Simon, Jim Hammerman, and Jonathan Christiansen analyzed and summatively evaluated player demographics, game ubiquity, and the qualitative impact of “Vanished”. And It’s fairly safe to say that when exposed to “Are We Having Fun Yet?” (see below) by Simon and MIT’s Caitlin Feeley and Scot Osterweil—the audience’s response was a resounding “yes”!

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A worthy “Best in Show” audience winner at GLS 8.0!

Want to know which conferences TERC is headed to next? Stay tuned for the Winter 2012/Spring 2013 Conference announcement on www.terc.edu!

March 14, 2012

Games for Thought

“What is your favorite game?”

That question caught me entirely off-guard when I recently attended an after-hours user testing event hosted by EdGE (Educational Gaming Environments) @TERC with the sole intention of jotting down a few notes for this web feature.

After a quick scan of my memory, I was at an impasse. I hastily blurted out “Scrabble. I’m a lexophile”. Blank stares from the young, hip, and connected console and mobile players around me. In that very moment, time caught up and lapped me. “But on the iPhone as well,” I added. It was already too late. The world had moved on. Generation Y, meet Generation Z. There’s no need to shake hands or exchange contact info—just bump Androids. And definitely download the Temple Run app—it’s going viral.

There had to be something I was forgetting.

I worked my way around the room multiple times after that, recording (with a pen and paper) gamers chatting over Where’s My Water?, Angry Birds, Physics 101, and Limbo. And then it happened—I remembered something. I heard a gamer say, “I like it when I can learn about topics and try new things that would be impossible in real life—and pick up and try again if I make a mistake”. Strangely, I could almost hear a lone bongo drum, and then the rattle of maracas…was that the distant yowl of a black panther? There I was, photographing the fauna of the forest floor, consulting my guidebook, searching for the elusive, near-magical cinchona…but was I running low on supplies? Would I stave off malnourishment and get to the next level before dinnertime?

The Amazon Trail. Memories came rushing back, carried on a swift current. Propelled by an in-game glimpse of the Blue Morpho butterfly, I took it upon myself to catalogue the Monarchs and Swallowtails in our backyard. I would sneak out of bed to the window when my dad took our puppy out at night—hoping to catch a glimpse of an errant Luna moth by the floodlight. My world—and that of the digitized Amazon jungle—blurred together around the edges.

I didn’t realize then that I was learning (let alone learning a lot). I certainly didn’t realize that I’d remember researching Blue Morphos only to discover that they live for a mere 115 days. That broke my heart at the time, and still pulls at my heartstrings.

Check out ‘Games and Ubiquitous Science Learning Environments’ from EdGE’s Director Jodi Asbell-Clarke for the 2012 Cyberlearning Research Summit

In a dizzying time where the allure of many technologies doesn’t last much beyond 115 days, the R&D work that the EdGE team is doing has lasting implications for the intersection of meaningful science content and gaming. More specifically, they’re researching and developing the kind of gripping, highly-visual transmedia experiences that cutting-‘EdGE’ gamers like to play (and will likely continue to like to play in the future) and measuring these games’ impact on science learning.

Suddenly, it’s not so difficult to imagine a future where we’re all engaging in science-centric gaming and real-world learning through our various devices. Even as a lexophile/Luddite, I guarantee that I’d be doing a lot more mobile gaming and Lepidopteran observation if MECC made an app version of The Amazon Trail

So I leave you with two questions—what’s your favorite game to play? And what did you learn from it?

I bet it’s more than you think.