Research shows that educational games can enhance students' science learning, but current work leaves teachers dependent on researchers and games companies to provide good games and game-based curricula. This project aims to study how teachers can be involved in making science learning games more effective, and how educational science games can better support good teaching. This project is building a set of software tools, including a tool for annotating screen recordings of activities in games, a teacher data dashboard for information about students' in-game learning, and tools to help teachers customize activities in games to better align with curricular standards. It will conduct studies with successful research-based educational games for learning science, and popularly available educational games from websites such as BrainPop, in a network of teachers who have experience using 'canned' games in their classrooms. The project will find out whether these new tools can enhance teaching and/or learning. It will also help develop a list of the types of customization options teachers need in order to be able to effectively use educational games in their classrooms. If successful, this research could point the way towards new tools that let teachers create activities that turn any game into an educational game, and to better use existing educational games in their classrooms. This could greatly speed up our ability to deliver high-quality learning experiences through educational games.
This project involves a participatory design process in which a small number of experienced teachers will feed into a principled, iterative refinement of prototypes of the tools (annotation, data dashboard, and level-builder) to be prototyped within the Brainplay suite. In the beta testing phase, a hierarchical linear model analysis will be conducted on both student and teacher outcomes in 25 classrooms. In addition to the quantitative analysis, qualitative studies involving classroom observations, focus groups, and teacher journaling will be conducted to examine impact on teaching practices and refine the functional specifications. Project dissemination will take place through the community around the previously-developed Leveling Up games (played around 10,000 times per week), and through existing professional networks such as Edmodo. The project will also work within the games community to help inform possible approaches to logging learning data and allowing teacher customization across all games.