Integrating computing into science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education at the K-12 level is critical to creating a competitive, innovative workforce that is capable of the computational thinking needs of the future. Efforts to increase intrinsic interest in math and data science have proven difficult to apply evenly across gender, race, and socio-economic factors. This research project will assist in creating a more stable, ethical, and inclusive data science workforce by broadening interest in data science to a more diverse population of students. This research spans the fields of game design, human computer interaction, machine learning, curriculum design and educational assessment by integrating a STEM+C based curriculum directly into Minecraft. It advances knowledge in game-based learning and produces an infrastructure that will serve as a vital computing resource for middle and high school educators that will be sustained beyond the current project. As computing has become integral to the practice of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), the STEM+Computing program seeks to address emerging challenges in computational STEM areas through the applied integration of computational thinking and computing activities within STEM teaching and learning in early childhood education through high school (preK-12).
A key initiative of STEM+C is to cultivate the skills for the next generation of data scientists, information scientists, and engineers in the nation. A virtual world provides a technique to engage the next generation of students in a fun and intuitive manner. A virtual world is developed around fundamental activities, or gameplay atoms, which reflect the experiential learning process through a trial and error feedback loop. These atoms are combined in multiple ways with slight variations to form a group of related activities referred to as game mechanics. These activities will be mapped to education standards to introduce or reinforce various STEM+C concepts. This project uses design-based research methodology to iteratively develop and refine the activities through meaningfully integrating feedback from educational stakeholders, including teachers and students. Key outcomes from this research include changes in students' interest, attitudes, beliefs, and self-efficacy in STEM+C, engagement in collaborative open-ended solution making, and achievement in related computing and mathematics concepts. This research will help broaden interest in computing to a more diverse pool of students.
This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.