CyberSTEM is developing and testing an integrated digital gaming network that spans homes, schools, and informal learning settings, offering a suite of digital games based on cutting-edge discoveries in the life sciences. The project asks if participation in CyberSTEM leads to increased learning in six areas: interest in science, conceptual knowledge, scientific reasoning, reflection on knowing, participating in science, and identifying as a scientist. The target audience includes youth in grades 6-9.
CyberSTEM is iteratively designed, developed, tested and rolled out to the public across the three year project. Each individual game (and subsequently, the entire learning system) is developed through an iterative, research-driven process starting with laboratory studies of players designed to uncover how game play shapes their thinking, classroom-based case studies of how participation in CyberSTEM changes classroom practice, controlled studies of how participation in CyberSTEM has an impact on classroom achievement, and then how articipation in CyberSTEM beyond the classroom (in museums, homes, or other settings) influences youth participation in science. In each phase, research designs, methods, and analyses procedures appropriate to the questions will be employed, including experimental studies involving think aloud protocols, case studies using responsive case methodology, pre- and post- tests using repeated measure ANOVAs, and exploratory data mining techniques using discourse and regression analysis. As an integrated research project, CyberSTEM will build the capacity for rapid development and deployment of science-based games through developing art and code assets, as well as a network of schools, teachers, and students who can be recruited for research. All code, art assets, and research instruments will be published online and be open sourced.
CyberSTEM will result in an integrated gaming platform consisting of 5 model games that can be the basis of integrated game-based curricula. Each game will have an associated curriculum that teachers, museums, and other science educators can use to educate the public about cutting-edge science. By year three, the project will be tested in 20 schools. The project will use informal gaming channels such as Kongregate, iTunes, and XBox Live to reach the general public who will ultimately create the community that sustains CyberSTEM. This model of education and outreach that cuts across homes, schools, and informal science institutions has the potential to lead to a dramatic rethinking of education. Partnering organizations include Wisconsin University, the Minority Students Achievement Network and the Morgridge Institutes for Research.