Programming Digital Fun Into Science Education

via Education Week: Despite a lack of hard-hitting research linking games and simulations to learning gains, researchers and educators alike are showing increasing interest in the potential these multimedia-rich instructional tools bring to the classroom, especially in science education.

Short video games played on mobile phones reinforce biology lessons for students in Boston. Digital games played on the Nintendo DS help 8th graders in New York City overcome misconceptions about photosynthesis. A library of free online simulations lets middle schoolers in Texas better visualize physics concepts.

“So much of learning is mediated through textbooks, and we know that in this day and age in the 21st century, we in fact need learning to happen in much richer, much more authentic kinds of settings,” says Margaret Honey, the president and chief executive officer of the New York Hall of Science, a hands-on science and technology center in New York City. […]

The Newton, Mass.-based Education Development Center’s Center for Children and Technology has been creating a series of science and literacy games, Possible Worlds, designed to be played on the Nintendo DS.

The team started by identifying common scientific misconceptions, says Cornelia Brunner, the senior research scientist at the center. “It’s really hard for kids to [unravel those misconceptions] when they can’t even visualize or imagine what science teachers are talking about,” she says. “One of the big affordances of games is that they can make all kinds of things visible that aren’t normally visible.” […]

“Our whole focus is not on making the most wonderful, fabulous, best game, but to make something that actually fits [the classroom],” says Brunner. “We’re designing for regular teachers in ordinary classrooms with reluctant learners.”

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