Science Online New York (SoNYC) encourages audience participation in the discussion of how science is carried out and communicated online. To celebrate our first birthday, we are handing the mic over to the audience so that anyone who would like to participate will get five minutes to show off their favourite online tool, application or website that makes science online fun. To complement the celebrations, we’re hosting a series of guest posts on Soapbox Science where a range of scientists share details about what’s in their online science toolkits. Why not let us know how they compare to the tools that you use in the comment threads?
Mike Biocchi is currently a PhD student focusing his research on Education Technology and E-learning. His research is aimed at using video games as an educational tool inside the classroom, instead of a means of just entertainment. Mike has an MSc in Computer Games Technology and is the founder and owner of Chamfered Technology. He is also the Academic Specialist at Algoma University in the IT Department and a part-time faculty member at Algoma University with the Computer Science Department.
Mathematics is an essential part of the computer science curriculum and many other curriculums. In order to gain employment in computer related industries, applicants must have a strong background in physics, calculus, algebra, and other mathematics courses. This all relates to what I call the “mathematics problem” that plagues much of North America. In the United States of America, 18% of Grade 4 students (9 or 10 years old) scored below the basic level of achievement for mathematics (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). This problem continues in that 28% of Grade 8 students (13 – 14 years old) fall below the basic level of achievement in mathematics as well (U.S. Department of Education, 2011). In the most recent Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), it was found that the average test score for a Grade 4 student has increased only 11 points from 1995 to 2007 (518 to 529) (Gonzales et al., 2009). Other counties such as England and Hong Kong have improved 50 or more points in the same period of time. While other countries are progressing forward, the United States is only slowly improving.
The problem for educators is to figure out how to make mathematics courses enjoyable; this is where using new technologies may be effective. The goal of an educational game is to positively change how a subject is taught, allow students to learn in new ways and to make the learning experience both interesting and exciting. These games have a chance to help raise the test scores in many different subjects and help students stick with these subjects through high school and beyond.
I am currently in development of an educational game and a research study to determine if a change in teaching styles for mathematics, from traditional teaching to teaching with technology, will allow students to learn just as effectively – but to also have the learning be enjoyable and motivational. The game has a fun story to it and it very interactive. It is also being developed so that it can run on a PC or tablet. This game is in no way a ‘teacher replacement’ and should not be viewed as such. Instead, it should be thought of as a complimentary tool, for both teachers and students. It is expected that the students will learn about the basics of mathematics from their teacher and then be able to practise these methods through the use of a game.
Screen shot from the game (not yet released)
This study will be taking place in the next school year and the results will be finalised by the end of this year. It will be interesting to see if in fact gaming had an impact on learning. A positive result, in favour of learning via gaming does not have to be that the students involved had significantly higher marks than those who did not. In fact, even if the students from the control group and experimental group walked away with the same grades, that would be perfectly fine. This would demonstrate that you can have fun while still obtaining the same learning skills.
Learning through new technologies and more importantly, online technologies, allows creativity to spread worldwide and allows students to learn not just from inside the classroom walls, but from anywhere they want. The educational game I am working on is hopefully just one piece to a bigger puzzle that will help improve the education levels worldwide.
Screen shot from the game (not yet released)
You can follow the online conversation on Twitter with the #ToolTales hashtag and you can read Mary Mangan’s Tool Tale here, Dr Peter Etchells’s Tool Tale here, Alan Cann’s here, Jerry Sheehan’s here, Boris Adryan’s here, Anthony Salvagno’s here, Daniel Burgarth and Matt Leifer’s here, Zen Faulkes’s here, Jenn Cable’s here , Susanna Speier’s here, Derek Hennen’s here, Musa Akbari’s here, Benedict Noel’s here, Chris Surridge’s here and Gerd Moe-Behrens’s here.