Gaming technology complements the inquiry approach central to science education. Ken Eklund’s ScienceMystery.com as the title implies uses mysteries to engage students in science learning. Eklund boasts that teachers who have used the site found students captivated. Titles of his mysteries include “Strange Dead Bird,” “Poison Dart Frog,” “River of Venom,” “Angry Red Planet,” and “Croak”: clearly, Eklund is tareting the middle school student with these titles. Given the games are mystery stories, blending the science and language arts curricula holds promise.
For middle school students, Medical Mysteries teaches them about infectious diseases. The site is set up as a series of missions that students explore sci fi fashion. Again, pairing with the language arts is a natural. Check the site for details.
Another game, The River City Project, funded through the National Science Foundation, is also aimed at middle schoolers. The fictitious town, River City, is based on “authentic historical, sociological, and geographical conditions,” and is "besieged with health problems. Students work in “research teams ...to understand why residents are becoming ill” and “keep track of clues that hint at causes of illnesses, form and test hypotheses, develop controlled experiments to test their hypotheses, and make recommendations based on the data they collect,” according to the site's designers.
Teachers using gaming technology underscore the need for curricular materials to support the projects. Leslie Miller, of the Center for Technology in Teaching and Learning, has worked with a team of teachers to design packets with learning objectives, glossaries of terms, curricular standard matches, and worksheets for Medical Mysteries.
After checking one or more of the sites, let us know what you see as the potential of online gaming technology to attract students to understand scientific concepts. Do these sites also support inquiry-based learning, considered central to science learning? Do you think gaming technology with catch on not just in the science curriculum but also in other curricular areas? Let us know your thoughts on the potential of gaming technology to complement instructional goals.
First two Images from Ken Eklund’s ScienceMystery.com. Second two images from http://medmyst.rice.edu/ and http://muve.gse.harvard.edu/rivercityproject/ respectively.
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