31 July 2011

Instructional Design Project Report #1

Title of my project: Incorporating games and simulations into biology curriculum***

Project Description: In the process of updating the biology curriculum, educational games and simulations will be incorporated into each unit covered in class. This will help engage students while giving them an opportunity to “learn by doing” or apply the lessons they have learned. By completing a gaming/simulation lesson, students will practice the concepts of the biology lesson. Since games and simulations can be considered a form of assessment (i.e., you must achieve something to get to the next level), succeeding in the game/simulation would mean the mastery of the lesson.

Learner Analysis: Students who attend this school have withdrawn from public school for various reasons. Some are over 18, but the majority of students are under 18 years old. There are a variety of social and cultural backgrounds and learning levels. For example, some are poor, some are rich, some are Caucasian, some are African –American or another minority, some dropped out of public school because classes were boring or going too slowly, some dropped out of public school because they had fallen behind and couldn’t catch up, and so on. One major difference from public school is that all students must TABE at least at a level 9. This means that all the students in class can read, at the very least, at a 9th grade level, which isn’t always true of public school classrooms. Any curriculum has to be varied to fit a variety of learning styles and attention spans. Technology is promoted at my school and most students really seem to enjoy technology infused curricula.

Needs Assessment & Summary/Outcome of Needs Analysis:
The immediate need (felt and anticipated) is to incorporate lessons that use technology while addressing various learning styles, levels of motivation, and academic levels. Educational games and simulations are new vehicles for education by providing a form of assessment, problem-based learning, a fail-safe environment, and a highly motivational learning environment.

Interviews with students led to complaints about “boring” lessons. Students also said they had a hard time applying the lessons on tests when they had no other form of practice. This illustrated a gap in mastering biology lessons because students had no practice of applying lessons before taking their tests. Also during the interview, students were asked their opinion of gaming. Most students considered themselves gamers. When asked if they would like some of the biology lessons to incorporate gaming, 100% of the students replied positively.

By implementing an intermediary lesson that incorporated technology, the lesson must use technology that is already found in the classroom (like computers and the internet, for example) and it must be able to be accessed by more than one person at a time. There must not be any financial cost to the implementation of the new lessons. Lessons, games, and simulations must be challenging enough to engage the student, but not too difficult to encourage quitting. Each lesson, game, or simulation implemented must follow the biology curriculum.

Learning Environment: The biology classroom has five computers with Windows and internet access. The classroom has 6 large tables with two chairs at each table. The classroom is bright and warm enough to be comfortable with lots of science equipment. Students have their own notebooks and text book. They are allowed to listen and use electronic devices such as Ipods or MP3 players. Students are only asked to turn them down or off if they are bothering other students. Students do their book work or reading at the tables and use the computers for research or computer labs. Students may go to the restroom when needed. They are allowed to have food and drink in the classroom as long as they don’t make a mess.

Goal analysis & development plan:
1) Determine the topics of games/simulations that I need (for example, a game involving natural selection/evolution)
2) Find free games and simulations on the internet that fit the topics chosen in step #1.
3) Write curriculum that uses the game/simulation following an instructional design model involving gaming (Kiili’s Revised Experiential Gaming Design Model, see Kiili 2005, and Shih's SMSE model, see Shih 2005).
4) Try the new curriculum out on students.
5) Interview students for their opinion.

6) Reassess and refine the curriculum.

Goal statement: By incorporating technology, in the form of games and simulations, into biology lessons, I will create curriculum that students consider highly motivating, but that will also, at the same time, improve student content knowledge, build student conceptual knowledge, and increase student problem-solving skills.

List of entry competencies:
Technology Skills – students should have very basic technology skills (i.e., know how to turn on and off a computer, how to use a mouse, how to go on the internet). These lessons assume students have these skills. If they do not, the teacher will be available to assist them.

Attitude – students should have enough motivation that they want to complete the class and lesson. That should be sufficient to get them to earnestly try the new curriculum.

Student knowledge – students will have needed to start the unit to have a background/foundational knowledge to be able to run the game or simulation smoothly. The information from the book chapters will be enough to understand the new curricula. Students will not be given the new lesson until they have progressed sufficiently in the unit.

Aptitude – all students test, at the very least, at a ninth grade learning level. This will be sufficient for the new lessons.

Learner interview:
Summary of an interview of three students currently in biology class:
1) Q - What do you like about the class? A – The class mixes up tasks so that you are never doing the same old thing. I like the computer labs because you can see what is happening.

2) Q - What don’t you like about the class? A – The class is so much work. Sometimes it is difficult to understand. I don’t like the book, it makes things too complicated.

3) Q – So, you really like the computer labs? How would you feel about games incorporated into lessons? A – Wow! Yeah, that would be so cool! I love games, I play them all the time.

4) Q – What about simulations? A – What are those? Don’t we do those already on the computer? As long as it’s not reading in the book, I’ll do it.

5) Q – So, you don’t think you get much from the book? A – No, it’s just so boring. I dread reading it. I don’t read it because I just look for the answers.

6) Q – If you just look for answers, and don’t read the book, how do you understand the ideas? How do you pass the tests? A – That’s my hardest part. I never do well on the tests because I’m just not understanding what they are saying.

7) Q – So you think a computer game or simulation would help you more? A – Yes, I could see what is happening instead of reading about it.

Relevant current references:
Kiili, K. (2005). Educational Game Design: Experiential gaming model revised. Tampere University of Technology. Pori, Research report 4, 1-12. Retrieved 22 May 2009 at http://amc.pori.tut.fi/publications/EducationalGameDesign.pdf

Morrison, G. R., Ross, S. M., & Kemp, J. E. (2007). Designing Effective Instruction, Fifth Edition. New Baskerville: John Wiley & Sons.

Shih, Y., E. (2005). Seize Teachable and Learnable Moments: SMSE instructional design model for mobile learning. Paper presented at the International Association for Development of the Information Society International Conference Mobile Learning June 28-30, Malta. Retrieved 22 May 2009 at http://www.iadis.net/dl/final_uploads/200506L012.pdf

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