Saturday, May 31, 2008

Gaming Technology Makes Science Learning Infectious

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.

3 comments:

Mary Ann Oszurek said...

These sites are really cool. I spent the most time looking at the Medical Mysteries site because it is relavant to my subject area. I think the gaming technology can help keep students engaged in learning. It's no big surprise to middleschool teachers that students like games and these sites give educators the opportunity to make learning more fun. I think gaming technology will catch on in all subject areas if the materials are as interactive and exciting as I have seen on these sites.

Sherree said...

I agree with Mary Ann that the gaming component of the Medical Mysteries site will greatly attract middle school students. These games also allow students to see disease transfer in another way. One of the games is a spoof off Frogger, and you have to move a bacteria across a busy street of vaccines and antibiiotics heading for you. Once you get to the river, you are "transferred" across by items such as food, direct contact (represented by a hand), etc. to reach a person. Though it's done in fun, it shows students that these certain items/activities literally carry bacteria to bystanders. This site is very cool!

Nicki said...

It is amazing to me what things can spark the attention of students. The students that I work with in the homeschool enviroment love to find sites that they can do science experiments and not get there hands dirty, the parents love that we are not blowing up the house or even burning down the grass (okay so it happened once - the grass not the house). The students also know that religion wise I refuse to disect and they love finding sites that give them the oppurtunity to disect things. In college we used a program like this to do our lab work - which meant that I did not get kicked out of class for not doing it - bonus. Isn't the web amazing.

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