Month: January 2014

Video Games and The Future of Learning – Review

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The following article is a powerful challenge to education to consider how games are the future of learning., Squire, Halverson, and Gee explain the benefits of games in learning through the lens of “epistemographies of practice.”  Professionals / Experts in a specific field have a way of unique way of thinking about facts, ideas, theories and applications in their specific field.  This way of thinking is called an epistemic frame.

  • Educators have a unique way of thinking about instruction,  learning, and how to measure understanding.
  • Engineers have a unique way of thinking about designing solutions.
  • FBI agents have a unique way of thinking about evidence and strategic pursuit.
  • Doctors have  a unique way of thinking about the human body.
  • Artists have a unique way of thinking about color and space.

At the end of the day, a novice can not teach another novice an epistemic frame, or way of thinking in a field.  A novice can teach facts and ideas about a field, but separate from the way experts in that field think about those facts and ideas.

For example, a novice chess player can teach another novice chess player the rules for how each piece can be moved. But as a novice they can’t explain or teach the strategic thinking behind combinations of moves or game strategy.  This is true because they themselves don’t possess the epistemic frame of the chess domain.

Although educators may have extensive knowledge of different topics, they are not experts in the fields that use that knowledge and thus don’t possess the epistemic frame of that field.   If we truly want to train our children in how to “think” then we need to put them situations where the epistemic frame is embedded in the experience such that the learner learns the facts and ideas in the context of the thinking that uses those facts and ideas.

Games can do that.  Designers can set up the world using an expert’s epistemic frame to create the tasks, the rules, the player’s choices etc. This is a more authentic way to “learn” the facts and ideas, as well as the thinking of a particular field.

It also is more fun.  (See Jill’s blog elaborating on this idea of epistemic frames.


Our First Prototype Test

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Prototype Test #1 –
In June of 2012 we conducted two initial prototype tests with the goals of observing the effects of the materials on engagement, identity, conceptual learning, and prototype strengths and weaknesses.
Here are some of the findings

  1. The younger children (average age 5.5) had a limited prior knowledge of the ideas before the lesson;  they came away with a basic understanding of the ideas and took greater risks during the post-tests in attempt to apply their new knowledge.
  2. While older students (average age 7.5) did not gain substantial new knowledge around the basic ideas of the lesson, they did understand and adopt more depth in the use of academic language of the topic, the synthesis of how the ideas worked, and the use of the reflection process, .
  3. Both age groups expressed that they liked the experiments the best, specifically when solving a problem.
  4. A substantial attitude change occurred in the children who wore the lab coats.  They identified themselves as scientists and their subsequent behavior reflected that identity shift.

Below are some pictures from our field tests.

Student thinking scientifically and recording ideas
Student thinking scientifically and recording ideas
Reading our MMB book
One of our test subjects engaged by the entertainment media
We know identity impacts behavior. Finding: Labcoats made the students feel more like scientists resulting in more focused scientific behavior.
We know identity impacts behavior. Finding: Labcoats made the students feel more like scientists resulting in more focused scientific behavior.


What is STEM? Why is it important?

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STEM stands for  Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Here are some statistics about Americans and the STEM fields of today and tomorrow.

  • Several reports have linked K-12 STEM Education to continued scientific leadership and economic growth in the US.
  • According to NAEP, ( roughly 75% of US 8th graders are not proficient in mathematics when they complete the 8th grade.
  • Employers in many industries lament that job applicants lack the needed mathematics, computer, and problem-solving skills to succeed.
  • International students fill an increasing portion of elite STEM positions in the US.
  • China and India, in Dec 2009, provided 47% of the approximately 248,000 foreign science and engineering graduate students in the US.
  • The talent pool to US employers is diminishing and will be a significant problem in the next 20 years if the condition of STEM education does not change in the US.

In simple terms, this means…

Our students are not learning the STEM ideas they should be by the time they exit our K-12 educational system. They are not choosing to pursue STEM careers. (We will address some specific STEM careers in future blogs) And with the 21st century job market demanding more STEM skills, they will not be employable.

This paints a dismal future both for our children and for the job market. With fewer individuals interested and trained for STEM careers, we will have businesses moving overseas as well as other countries making technological advances quicker than us.  This speculation of a jeopardized economic sustainability has led many American leaders to commission numerous research projects and reports addressing STEM education in the US.  (see attached)

Ask your child, today, what they are learning in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. I think you may be surprised by the answer.

(All data from the article “Successful K-12 STEM Education” by the National Academies Press)