NEW YORK, NY | September 10, 2008
Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) has been awarded $9.2 million by the U.S. Department of Education to serve as a National R&D Center on Instructional Technology, investigating how video games can be used in middle school classrooms. EDC will develop and pilot-test a series of game modules—built to be used with the very popular Nintendo Dual-Screen (DS)—that capitalizes on youth’s fascination with electronic games.
EDC’s Center for Children and Technology in New York and EDC’s Center for Science Education in Boston will develop a year-long curriculum for grade 7 science students, with four game modules supplementing traditional instruction. Known as Super Sleuths, the curriculum will offer teachers and students in-depth explorations of scientific problems, countering students’ scientific misconceptions, reading difficulties, and lack of motivation that often complicate science teaching.
“We see a lot of excitement around this technology for use in classrooms,” says Shelley Pasnik, who directs EDC’s Center for Children and Technology. “We see educational potential in the experience of gaming as students test strategies, discover mistakes and successes, and then use that experience to make progress,” she said.
Each game module for Super Sleuths will open with an animated video featuring a scientific challenge or investigation. For instance, Organisms and Ecosystems may start with a natural disaster. Players may be assigned to teams where they work on extended problem-solving games that call on and build their scientific know-how.
In the process, students use the Nintendo DS as a combination portable lab, field notebook, scientific instrument, and communicator. The devices enable student groups to collect and analyze data and build hypotheses for solving problems posed by the unit. The games will also build literacy skills, with mini-games that ask students to discern word meanings from the context of a passage.
“The real potential of this kind of game is not so much in delivering content and facts as permitting the kind of inquiry-driven investigations that are difficult to accomplish in real life classrooms,” says EDC’s Cornelia Brunner.
Super Sleuths will undergo an extensive evaluation phase, tested in a variety of classroom settings. While the research focuses on 7th graders who are struggling academically, especially those in urban schools, EDC anticipates that the games and supporting materials will have broad application. In addition to designing and testing Super Sleuths, EDC will also be researching the effectiveness of the video games, with plans to share its development process and lessons learned with educators and game developers.
The new R&D center and its work are funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences.