12 November 2011

Instructional Design Project Report #4


Theoretical framework:For Natural Selection – This task is experiential in nature, so constructivist theory is more compatible. Students are actively taking new information and applying it to the task of trying to get their species to live a million years. Therefore, they are active participants in this simulation where by applying their knowledge allows meaningful learning to take place.

For Blood Typing – The instructional design task is clearly defined performance objectives (i.e., blood transfusion and blood typing), so behavioral theory with its principles of practice and reinforcement (i.e., patients die unless treated properly) are more compatible. The positive reinforcement is that the patient gets better with the correct transfusion blood types. The negative reinforcement is that the patient’s condition worsens, and the patient may die, unless treated with the correct blood type.

The context and need for the instruction:
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.

Your goals:Overall Goal - 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.

Specific Student Learning Goal For Natural Selection – Students will play the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about natural selection and evolution. Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.15.3 (which states: Describe how biological diversity is increased by the origin of new species and how it is decreased by the natural process of extinction (FLDOE 2009)) by playing the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years?” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.

Specific Student Learning Goal for Blood Typing – Students will play “The Blood Typing Game,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about the genotypes that make up the blood phenotypes. Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.1 (which states: Use Mendel's laws of segregation and independent assortment to analyze patterns of inheritance (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.2 (which states: Discuss observed inheritance patterns caused by various modes of inheritance, including dominant, recessive, codominant, sex-linked, polygenic, and multiple alleles (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.34 (which states: Describe the composition and physiology of blood, including that of the plasma and the formed elements (FLDOE 2009)), and Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.35 (which states: Describe the steps in hemostasis, including the mechanism of coagulation. Include the basis for blood typing and transfusion reactions (FLDOE 2009)) by playing “The Blood Typing Game” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.

Your objectives:
Specific Instructional Objectives for Natural Selection:

- Students will explore how several varieties of a species can, through natural selection, evolve into one new species with the most successful and heritable traits to help students comprehend and apply Natural Selection and Evolution.


- Given the information, students will conclude that Natural Selection is a primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change (i.e., survival of the fittest / those with the traits to live pass those traits on to their offspring). This will allow them to apply, analyze, and synthesize their own species to try to succeed, evolutionarily speaking.


- Students will identify the natural processes in the environment and interactions with other species may cause extinction (i.e., disease, climate change, predation, and so on) so that they can evaluate the situation and possibly synthesize their own preventions of extinction for their species.

Specific Instructional Objectives for Blood Typing:
- Students will analyze the genotypes involved in phenotypic blood types (i.e., AO genotype results in Type A phenotype, and so on) so students can determine where blood types originate.


- Students will recognize characteristics (traits) that offspring inherit from parents (i.e., inheriting an O from Mom and a B from Dad results in a BO genotype and Type B phenotype, and so on) so that students can deduct where the genes for each blood type originates.


- Students will identify that blood cells have characteristic structures and functions that make them distinctive (i.e., antigen A, antigen B, and so on) so that students can comprehend the differences in blood types.


- Students will evaluate the process of blood typing and determine how to interpret the results (genotype and phenotype) so that the student can apply this information to patients in the game.


- Students will analyze the process of blood transfusions and the problems that can occur if done incorrectly (i.e., patient may die) so that students may apply this information to patients in the game.

A brief summary of the strategies and materials:
Necessary materials – students are given a prescription and list of instructions for each unit of Biology class. These items are attached. The instructions clearly identify the objectives and the Sunshine State Standards involved in that particular unit. The two new lessons are placed in the instructions to allow students to obtain background information from various reading assignments and worksheets. Once students have this information, they can do the new lesson. The students can also see from the prescription when they should do the new lesson. The prescription also tells them how many points the lesson is worth. When the student is ready, they request the lesson. Each lesson is attached. The student uses the work they have already done in the class, their textbook, the computer, and the internet to complete the assignment. The teacher may also be considered a resource. These are all the materials necessary for the new lessons.

The new lessons – each lesson begins with an introduction. This preinstructional material will help introduce the topic and draw the student into the assignment. Motivation will be high because games/simulations and technology have been incorporated into the new lessons. The objectives are clearly stated so that the student understands the purpose of the lessons. Materials are also listed so students can gather what they need to successfully complete the assignments. A list of procedures, step-by-step instructions, and diagrams help guide the student and reduce confusion. Questions are designed to assess pre-lesson knowledge, post-lesson knowledge, and engaged knowledge during the process. Please see each lesson for more specific information.

A short synopsis of your assessment experiences:
I’ve had 7 students try the Blood Typing lesson and two students try the Natural Selection lesson. I also had two biology instructors review the lessons. One English teacher, one social studies teacher, and one administrator also reviewed the lesson and watched my demonstration. I got very good feedback from everyone and addressed their concerns. The students were a great source of constructive feedback as well. All students were highly motivated and completed the lesson rather quickly compared to the time they took to complete other assignments. Some students also ran the game/simulation extra times. I am assuming they did this because they were highly engaged and wanted to see the outcome when trying different scenarios and options.


Pre-lesson and post-lesson questions were designed to match the benchmarks set up by the Florida Department of Education. Please see the list above for specific benchmarks.

Considerations for planning implementation of instruction:Configuration and Linkages – the lessons and the answer keys were printed for all the biology instructors. I then demonstrated the lessons and the websites. Instructors (and one administrator that was present) were allowed to access the websites on their own while I walked around answering their questions.

Environment – I offered technical support if they needed it. The lessons were incorporated into class units so instructors and students would know when to do the lessons. I made sure each computer in the classroom had internet access and the websites were accessible.

Resources – I am a good resource for the biology instructors. We have good communication and they approach me with all their problems and concerns. Also, the answer key to the assignment may be used if they get stuck on a specific question.

First Offering – I offered the lesson to students first so that I could catch any problems or inconsistencies. The other biology instructors watched my examples, so that they could familiarize themselves with the process.


References
Florida Department of Education. (2009). Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://www.floridastandards.org/Standards/FLStandardSearch.aspx

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

Ulrich, Kathy. (2004). Designing Constructivist Lessons Using the 5 E Model. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://cte.jhu.edu/techacademy/fellows/Ullrich/webquest/mkuindex.html

Wetzel, D. R. (2008). How to Design an Effective Science Lesson: Developing lessons which engage students in critical thinking. Suite 101.com. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://teachertipstraining.suite101.com/how_to_design_an_effective_science_lesson

02 October 2011

Instructional Design Unit Plan for Natural Selection


Unit plan for Natural Selection includes:

Educational goals and a statement of rationale for the goals:
Overall Goal - 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.

Specific Student Learning Goal For Natural Selection – Students will play the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about natural selection and evolution. Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.15.3 (which states: Describe how biological diversity is increased by the origin of new species and how it is decreased by the natural process of extinction (FLDOE 2009)) by playing the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years?” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.

Description of learners: social background, experiential background, developmental level, motivation, knowledge level, and learning style:
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.

Instructional objectives for Natural Selection:
- Students will explore how several varieties of a species can, through natural selection, evolve into one new species with the most successful and heritable traits to help students comprehend and apply Natural Selection and Evolution.


- Given the information, students will conclude that Natural Selection is a primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change (i.e., survival of the fittest / those with the traits to live pass those traits on to their offspring). This will allow them to apply, analyze, and synthesize their own species to try to succeed, evolutionarily speaking.


- Students will identify the natural processes in the environment and interactions with other species may cause extinction (i.e., disease, climate change, predation, and so on) so that they can evaluate the situation and possibly synthesize their own preventions of extinction for their species.

Performance measures that evaluate student learning outcomes, including that learning which occurs prior to, during, and following the instruction:
I will ask students pre-lesson questions. I will also ask them procedural questions within the game/simulation to help them pay attention to how the game/simulation works. I will ask them questions about how their game/simulation is working and why “this or that” (will be specific to a game/simulation and event) has occurred. I will also ask them post-lesson questions to assess their gain in knowledge and abilities after completing the game/simulation. Please see the attached lessons for specifics.

Strategies and materials for each objective:The game/simulation sets up the scenario for each objective to be obtained. The questions asked during the lesson will help clarify student thought and hopefully measure student gain in knowledge. Please see attached lesson for specific strategies and materials for each of the objectives.

25 September 2011

Instructional Design Unit Plan for Blood Typing


Unit plan for Blood Typing includes:

Educational goals and a statement of rationale for the goals
Overall Goal - 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.

Specific Student Learning Goal for Blood Typing – Students will play “The Blood Typing Game,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about the genotypes that make up the blood phenotypes. Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.1 (which states: Use Mendel's laws of segregation and independent assortment to analyze patterns of inheritance (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.2 (which states: Discuss observed inheritance patterns caused by various modes of inheritance, including dominant, recessive, codominant, sex-linked, polygenic, and multiple alleles (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.34 (which states: Describe the composition and physiology of blood, including that of the plasma and the formed elements (FLDOE 2009)), and Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.35 (which states: Describe the steps in hemostasis, including the mechanism of coagulation. Include the basis for blood typing and transfusion reactions (FLDOE 2009)) by playing “The Blood Typing Game” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.

Description of learners: social background, experiential background, developmental level, motivation, knowledge level, and learning style
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.

Instructional objectives for Blood Typing:- Students will analyze the genotypes involved in phenotypic blood types (i.e., AO genotype results in Type A phenotype, and so on) so students can determine where blood types originate.


- Students will recognize characteristics (traits) that offspring inherit from parents (i.e., inheriting an O from Mom and a B from Dad results in a BO genotype and Type B phenotype, and so on) so that students can deduct where the genes for each blood type originates.


- Students will identify that blood cells have characteristic structures and functions that make them distinctive (i.e., antigen A, antigen B, and so on) so that students can comprehend the differences in blood types.


- Students will evaluate the process of blood typing and determine how to interpret the results (genotype and phenotype) so that the student can apply this information to patients in the game.


- Students will analyze the process of blood transfusions and the problems that can occur if done incorrectly (i.e., patient may die) so that students may apply this information to patients in the game.

Performance measures that evaluate student learning outcomes, including that learning which occurs prior to, during, and following the instruction:
I will ask students pre-lesson questions. I will also ask them procedural questions within the game/simulation to help them pay attention to how the game/simulation works. I will ask them questions about how their game/simulation is working and why “this or that” (will be specific to a game/simulation and event) has occurred. I will also ask them post-lesson questions to assess their gain in knowledge and abilities after completing the game/simulation. Please see the attached lessons for specifics.

Strategies and materials for each objective:The game/simulation sets up the scenario for each objective to be obtained. The questions asked during the lesson will help clarify student thought and hopefully measure student gain in knowledge. Please see attached lesson for specific strategies and materials for each of the objectives.

03 September 2011

Instructional Design Project Report #3


Project title: Incorporating games and simulations into biology curriculum

***
Revisions since Report 2: Incorporated many more questions into the lessons. After the trials, I then edited the lessons (reworded, added, subtracted, etc.) to enhance the learning experience.

***
Goal statementOverall Goal - 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.


Specific Design Goal For Natural Selection – Students will play the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about natural selection and evolution.


Specific Design Goal for Blood Typing – Students will play “The Blood Typing Game,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about the genotypes that make up the blood phenotypes.
Specific Student Learning Goal For Natural Selection – Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.15.3 (which states: Describe how biological diversity is increased by the origin of new species and how it is decreased by the natural process of extinction (FLDOE 2009)) by playing the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years?” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.


Specific Student Learning Goal for Blood Typing – Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.1 (which states: Use Mendel's laws of segregation and independent assortment to analyze patterns of inheritance (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.2 (which states: Discuss observed inheritance patterns caused by various modes of inheritance, including dominant, recessive, codominant, sex-linked, polygenic, and multiple alleles (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.34 (which states: Describe the composition and physiology of blood, including that of the plasma and the formed elements (FLDOE 2009)), and Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.35 (which states: Describe the steps in hemostasis, including the mechanism of coagulation. Include the basis for blood typing and transfusion reactions (FLDOE 2009)) by playing “The Blood Typing Game” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.
***

Task analysis
I plan on using topic analysis for understanding the facts, concepts, and principles tied to understanding the science concepts. But I also will tie in parts of a procedural analysis because I want the students to apply those facts, concepts, and principles in games and simulations so that the students will understand and learn those lessons well.


For a task analysis specific to both games – Most of the facts, concepts and principles will be addressed in the prep-work, before the students play this game. The rules and procedures of the game must be addressed in the accompanying worksheet (see procedural analysis, below). I will try to make the lesson fun and attractive to help motivate the students.


For a procedural analysis specific to both games – I will need to cover the game rules and player instructions in this section. Once students are playing the Evolution game, I will need to cover the procedures and processes of Natural Selection & Evolution. This will help them to understand the concepts and lesson. While students are playing the blood typing game, I will ask questions to help them understand why blood types are specific and the inherited genes that cause those specific blood types. Also, they will need to understand the procedures for blood transfusions and blood typing.

***
Instructional objectives
General Instructional Objectives:Cognitive – students will need to understand the facts, concepts, and principles associated with each lesson. The games will provide intellectual activities that will help them demonstrate these concepts and help them predict future situations in the games.
Psychomotor – students will be actively manipulating the games, using psychomotor skills, in order to play.


Affective – students will hopeful learn an appreciation and value for the lessons and the species/patients involved in the game. Also, the incorporation of game will be highly motivational for the student.


Specific for Natural Selection and Evolution:To explore how several varieties of a species can, through natural selection, evolve into one new species with the most successful and heritable traits to help students comprehend and apply Natural Selection and Evolution.


To understand that Natural Selection is a primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change (i.e., survival of the fittest / those with the traits to live pass those traits on to their offspring) so that students can apply, analyze, and synthesize their own species to try to succeed, evolutionarily speaking.


To understand that the natural processes in the environment and interactions with other species may cause extinction (i.e., disease, climate change, predation, and so on) so that students can evaluate the situation and possibly synthesize their own preventions of extinction for their species.


Specific for Blood Typing:
To analyze the genotypes involved in phenotypic blood types (i.e., AO genotype results in Type A phenotype, and so on) so students understand where blood types originate.


To recognize characteristics (traits) that offspring inherit from parents (i.e., inheriting an O from Mom and a B from Dad results in a BO genotype and Type B phenotype, and so on) so that students understand where the genes for blood types originate.


To understand that blood cells have characteristic structures and functions that make them distinctive (i.e., antigen A, antigen B, and so on) so that students can comprehend the differences in blood types.


To understand the process of blood typing and how to interpret the results (genotype and phenotype) so that the student can apply this information to patients in the game.


To understand the process of blood transfusions and the problems that can occur if done incorrectly (i.e., patient may die) so that students may apply this information to patients in the game.

***
Plan for one-to-one formative evaluation:

For both lessons:
Learners: students are between the ages of 15 and 19. All have at least a ninth grade reading level (requirement for our school). All students are taking Biology (Ref#2000310) 1A.
Materials: students will use their textbook, worksheet, writing utensils, and lab computers. The students will access the internet from the lab computer. Students will be given an oral interview, after they finish, about what they thought of the game/simulation and lesson.
Procedures: students, one at a time and at their own pace, will complete background work (required reading and assignments) before attempting the new lessons. When students think they are ready, I will give them the new lesson. Students can then go to the computers and bring up the internet/website. The lesson will have detailed procedures for the students, in case they are not comfortable using the computer/internet. Students can use their textbook and worksheets as reference materials. While they are working on the lesson, I will periodically go talk to them to see if they are in need of assistance. I will also ask them some easy questions about whatever is on their screen, to help them feel more secure about asking questions and perhaps get some preliminary feedback about the lesson. When students have completed the lesson, I will grade it and give them feedback on their work. During this time, I will interview them about the lesson and the game/simulation so that I can get feedback on my lesson.
***

Results of one-to-one formative evaluation:Blood Typing:
Grades on the assignment: 70% (45/64), 72% (46/64), 77% (49/64), 83% (53/64), 86% (55/64), and 92% (59/64).

Natural Selection:
Grades on the assignments: 94% (64/67) and 100% (67/67)

Revisions for both assignments: After seeing the students’ answers and talking to them about the assignment, I revised several questions to make them a bit more clear. Also the directions needed revising in a few spots because the students were unclear about how to go on to the next step. All students liked the lessons and playing the games/simulations. They really liked that they could “see” what they were learning about in action. I was most interested in the fact that everyone passed the assignment the first time. It is our school policy that students must pass every assignment with at least a 70%. If students don’t pass something, they must re-do the assignment until they get a passing grade. Several of these students have needed to re-do assignments because they weren’t comprehending the material. So, I find it very interesting that those same students who were challenged by other assignments passed these assignments on the first try.

***
Materials and assessments for small-group evaluation:N/A - I am unable to work with small groups at my school. It is a self-paced learning system, so no students are working on the same lessons at the same time.

However, if I were able to do a small learning group of students at my school, I would have gave them all the worksheets and done a small presentation on the SMART board with student volunteers. Then I would have taken them to the computer lab and had them do the lessons on their own too.

***
Characteristics of small-group learners:N/A - I am unable to work with small groups at my school. It is a self-paced learning system, so no students are working on the same lessons at the same time.


However, if I were able to do a small learning group of students at my school, the students are described in the one-to-one formative evaluation.

***
Instruments for small-group evaluation:
N/A - I am unable to work with small groups at my school. It is a self-paced learning system, so no students are working on the same lessons at the same time.


However, if I were able to do a small learning group of students at my school, the students are described in the one-to-one formative evaluation.

***
Procedures for small-group evaluation:N/A - I am unable to work with small groups at my school. It is a self-paced learning system, so no students are working on the same lessons at the same time.


However, if I were able to do a small learning group of students at my school, the students are described in the one-to-one formative evaluation.


Summary of small-group evaluation:N/A - I am unable to work with small groups at my school. It is a self-paced learning system, so no students are working on the same lessons at the same time.

***
Discussion of small group data:N/A - I am unable to work with small groups at my school. It is a self-paced learning system, so no students are working on the same lessons at the same time.

***
Revisions for instruction and assessment:I’m not entirely sure that I’m demonstrating every Sunshine State Standard efficiently. So, I want to rehash the questions to make sure I incorporate everything necessary. Also, I’m not sure the pre-game/pre-simulation questions are corresponding to the post-game/post-simulation questions well enough. I think I may need to re-word a few of the questions to obtain clearer results about the effectiveness of the lessons. Also, the students really seemed to enjoy the playing of the game/simulation. I will put in some more prompts to get them to continue playing.

***
Relevant current references:Florida Department of Education. (2009). Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://www.floridastandards.org/Standards/FLStandardSearch.aspx

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

Ulrich, Kathy. (2004). Designing Constructivist Lessons Using the 5 E Model. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://cte.jhu.edu/techacademy/fellows/Ullrich/webquest/mkuindex.html

Wetzel, D. R. (2008). How to Design an Effective Science Lesson: Developing lessons which engage students in critical thinking. Suite 101.com. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://teachertipstraining.suite101.com/how_to_design_an_effective_science_lesson

14 August 2011

Instructional Design Project #2



Project title: Incorporating games and simulations into biology curriculum
***
Revisions since Report 1: I chose one game for demonstrating Natural Selection and Evolution. It’s called “Who Wants to Live a Million Years?” and is found online (for free) at http://science.discovery.com/interactives/literacy/darwin/darwin.html

I chose one game for demonstrating the genotypes that give you the phenotypic blood types. It’s called “The Blood Typing Game” and is found online (for free) at http://nobelprize.org/educational_games/medicine/landsteiner/index.html
***
Goal statement:Overall Goal - 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.

Specific Design Goal For Natural Selection – Students will play the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about natural selection and evolution.

Specific Design Goal for Blood Typing – Students will play “The Blood Typing Game,” in addition to their prescribed lessons, to learn about the genotypes that make up the blood phenotypes.
Specific Student Learning Goal For Natural Selection – Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.15.3 (which states: Describe how biological diversity is increased by the origin of new species and how it is decreased by the natural process of extinction (FLDOE 2009)) by playing the game “Who Wants to Live a Million Years?” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.

Specific Student Learning Goal for Blood Typing – Students will address Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.1 (which states: Use Mendel's laws of segregation and independent assortment to analyze patterns of inheritance (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.16.2 (which states: Discuss observed inheritance patterns caused by various modes of inheritance, including dominant, recessive, codominant, sex-linked, polygenic, and multiple alleles (FLDOE 2009), Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.34 (which states: Describe the composition and physiology of blood, including that of the plasma and the formed elements (FLDOE 2009)), and Benchmark: SC.912.L.14.35 (which states: Describe the steps in hemostasis, including the mechanism of coagulation. Include the basis for blood typing and transfusion reactions (FLDOE 2009)) by playing “The Blood Typing Game” and completing the corresponding lessons & worksheets.
***
Task analysis tied to the goals: I plan on using topic analysis for understanding the facts, concepts, and principles tied to understanding the science concepts. But I also will tie in parts of a procedural analysis because I want the students to apply those facts, concepts, and principles in games and simulations so that the students will understand and learn those lessons well.

For a task analysis specific to both games – Most of the facts, concepts and principles will be addressed in the prep-work, before the students play this game. The rules and procedures of the game must be addressed in the accompanying worksheet (see procedural analysis, below). I will try to make the lesson fun and attractive to help motivate the students.

For a procedural analysis specific to both games – I will need to cover the game rules and player instructions in this section. Once students are playing the Evolution game, I will need to cover the procedures and processes of Natural Selection & Evolution. This will help them to understand the concepts and lesson. While students are playing the blood typing game, I will ask questions to help them understand why blood types are specific and the inherited genes that cause those specific blood types. Also, they will need to understand the procedures for blood transfusions and blood typing.
***
Instructional objectives:
General Instructional Objectives:Cognitive – students will need to understand the facts, concepts, and principles associated with each lesson. The games will provide intellectual activities that will help them demonstrate these concepts and help them predict future situations in the games.

Psychomotor – students will be actively manipulating the games, using psychomotor skills, in order to play.

Affective – students will hopeful learn an appreciation and value for the lessons and the species/patients involved in the game. Also, the incorporation of game will be highly motivational for the student.

Specific for Natural Selection and Evolution:To explore how several varieties of a species can, through natural selection, evolve into one new species with the most successful and heritable traits to help students comprehend and apply Natural Selection and Evolution.

To understand that Natural Selection is a primary mechanism leading to evolutionary change (i.e., survival of the fittest / those with the traits to live pass those traits on to their offspring) so that students can apply, analyze, and synthesize their own species to try to succeed, evolutionarily speaking.

To understand that the natural processes in the environment and interactions with other species may cause extinction (i.e., disease, climate change, predation, and so on) so that students can evaluate the situation and possibly synthesize their own preventions of extinction for their species.

Specific for Blood Typing:
To analyze the genotypes involved in phenotypic blood types (i.e., AO genotype results in Type A phenotype, and so on) so students understand where blood types originate.

To recognize characteristics (traits) that offspring inherit from parents (i.e., inheriting an O from Mom and a B from Dad results in a BO genotype and Type B phenotype, and so on) so that students understand where the genes for blood types originate.

To understand that blood cells have characteristic structures and functions that make them distinctive (i.e., antigen A, antigen B, and so on) so that students can comprehend the differences in blood types.

To understand the process of blood typing and how to interpret the results (genotype and phenotype) so that the student can apply this information to patients in the game.

To understand the process of blood transfusions and the problems that can occur if done incorrectly (i.e., patient may die) so that students may apply this information to patients in the game.
***
Instructional sequence:
For both games:

Interest: The student will be interested in playing a game. One game is helping patients which students may find interesting since they play the part of a healthcare worker. The other game is picking variations of a species and trying to get it to survive, which students seem to like competition and animals.

Development: Students must TABE at a level 9 (9th grade learning level) to be able to attend this school. Therefore learners can read and comprehend this material.

Content/Identifiable Prerequisite: Students will read their text and complete corresponding worksheets to obtain background knowledge of the information.

Familiarity: On the assignment, there will be pre-instructional information to refresh the prereq.’s and specify which concepts the lessons will cover.

Task/Difficulty: The student will ease into the lesson by first obtaining the necessary materials, followed a list of procedures beginning with light activities that progress into thought-provoking questions (i.e., turn on the computer, find the website, read the background info, answer questions about the background info, progress further into more cognitive material while answering more thoughtful questions, and so on). The last questions will involve the higher order thinking levels like analyze, apply, synthesize, and evaluate those concepts covered in the lesson.
***
Strategies for objectives:
For both games:
Recall – students must first recall the information that is being covered in that particular unit (i.e., definitions of natural selection and evolution, what is a blood type, how genes are inherited, and so on). This will incorporate primarily cognitive procedures.

Integration and Organization – the students will apply these concepts while playing the game. By applying the information, students will be “streamlining” the information into more easily remembered ways. Also they will interrelating key ideas/concepts by analyzing their applications. This will incorporate cognitive and psychomotor procedures.

Elaboration – students will be asked to apply their own ideas to the games (i.e., choosing their own varieties in the species and seeing how natural selection/evolution worked on their choices). This will incorporate cognitive and psychomotor procedures.
***
Details on objectives:
Specific for Natural Selection & Evolution:
Cognitive – students will need to understand the facts, concepts, and principles associated with each lesson. There will be general questions that correspond to the introduction of the game/simulation and Charles Darwin that the students will answer. This will insure that they are refreshed with the ideas and concepts involved. As they continue in the game/simulation, they will apply this knowledge of natural selection and see the outcome of their choices. This application will allow them to analyze their choices within the parameters of the concepts. They can go further by evaluating their choices and try new parameters to see the outcome. This form of game/simulation lets them synthesize their own situations, predicting a certain outcome, and evaluate their decisions. This will help them thoroughly understand each of the instructional objectives and Sunshine State Standards for this topic.

Psychomotor – students will be actively manipulating the games, using psychomotor skills, in order to play. They will have to choose the variations of the species, so they will have to manipulate the mouse and use hand-eye coordination to run the game/simulation.

Affective – students will hopeful learn an appreciation and value for the lessons and the species/patients involved in the game. Also, the incorporation of game will be highly motivational for the student.

For Blood Typing:
Cognitive – students will need to understand the facts, concepts, and principles associated with each lesson. There is an excellent source of information available before starting the game/simulation. Students will be asked questions about this information to help them recall the concepts/ideas involved in this lesson. Students will have several links to a variety of information with questions and directions to guide them through this refresher. Once the learners have started the game/simulation they will get to apply these concepts to patients. There they will analyze and evaluate their decisions of giving blood transfusions. This process will help drive home the concepts involved in each instructional objective and the Sunshine State Standards.

Psychomotor – students will be actively manipulating the games, using psychomotor skills, in order to play. They have to manipulate the mouse on the screen and maneuver to several webpages. They will have to use hand-eye coordination to run the game/simulation by doing blood tests and transfusions.

Affective – students will hopeful learn an appreciation and value for the lessons and the species/patients involved in the game. Also, the incorporation of game will be highly motivational for the student.
***
Practice for objectives:
For Natural Selection & Evolution:Practice & Feedback – students will choose varieties of a fictional species. Students are given a guide to the varieties they choose (i.e., furry is good for cold weather, but bad in warm weather, etc.) so that they can make informed decisions about their choice in varieties. Once they run the game/simulation, the students see if their variety choices will succeed in creating a species that would last a million years. Of course there are problems that challenge the success of the species, just like in real life. And students get a real dose of what is involved in succession of a species, natural selection, and evolution. They can take what they learn and go back to the drawing board, choose new variations, and watch their progress. The game/simulation gives them feedback in the form of success or failure by their species living a million years or not. If they fail, the game /simulation tells them why they failed (i.e., a predator, climate change, a disease, and so on).

For Blood Typing:Practice & Feedback – students will do blood typing on patients that have survived a car crash. Based on the results of the blood typing, they will choose the types of blood needed for a transfusion. As soon as the student starts the transfusion they will receive negative feedback, if necessary. For example, if the patient has Type B blood and the student gives them Type A blood, the patient immediately goes into shock. The game/simulation tells them what the problem is and requires the student to choose another type of blood. If the student continues to get it wrong, the patient dies. If however, the student chooses the right blood type, the game/simulation gives them immediate positive feedback and tells the student if the patient requires more blood or not. If not, that patient is taken away. If so, the student must choose another blood type for transfusion.
***
Preinstructional activities:
Motivation for both lessons:Graphics - lessons will include graphics to help students feel more comfortable in playing the games/simulations.

Headings – clearly defined headings will cut the lessons into sections so that students can take the lessons step-by-step, which will make the lessons less intimidating.

Preinstructional material – or introduction will help draw the student in. By posing a question or giving a paragraph introduction, students will likely begin the first step of the lesson, which will hopefully encourage them to continue.

Technology – because of the use of technology, most students, who seem to like technology, will be motivated to complete the lesson more so than lessons that just involve worksheets and textbooks. Also, the fact that the lessons involve games/simulations may be quite motivational to students who enjoy playing games on their own.
***
Groupings and media:
Student Groupings – are not really applicable. Students are all on different paces and topics since the whole school promotes self-paced learning. Therefore, students will do this lesson by themselves, whenever they get to that point of the unit.

Instructional Media – the preinstructional worksheets will be done by the students using a textbook and worksheets. In both cases, there is a computer lab that will be done before completing these new lessons. So, a computer and some technology (either software or internet) will be used to prepare for these lessons. Once the student begins this lesson, they will use the worksheet that contains the instructions and questions for the lesson and the computer to do the lesson. They will also need something to write with and perhaps their textbook for reference. Of course, an instructor will be in the room as a resource, if needed.
***
Sample assessments:
For Natural Selection & Evolution:Pre-test (before running the game/simulation) Sample Questions – Darwin’s logic states “every species exhibits variations.” What does that mean? What eventually happens to a variety? What does “survival of the fittest” mean? What will eventually happen to the whole species that follows “survival of the fittest”? What causes evolution and natural selection?

Post-test (after running the game/simulation) Sample Questions – What are the varieties that you chose for your species? After the first event, are your varieties still present? Did the species change? What about after the second event? What about after the third event? Did your species survive…why or why not? How did your species survive the first (second &/or third) event? What causes evolution and natural selection?

For Blood Typing:Pre-test (before running the game/simulation) Sample Questions - Can a person with Rh+ blood receive blood from a person with Rh-? A patient has type A blood. You give her type B blood. What will happen? If a patient has type AB blood, what four types of blood can you give him? If the blood clots in the A tube, and the B tube and the Rh tube, then what blood type does the patient have?

Post-test (after running the game/simulation) Sample Questions – Can a person with A blood receive B blood? What would happen? What type of blood can a universal donor receive? Why are they called a universal donor? What type of blood can a universal receiver receive? Why are they considered a universal receiver?
***
Relevant current references:Florida Department of Education. (2009). Next Generation Sunshine State Standards. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://www.floridastandards.org/Standards/FLStandardSearch.aspx

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

Ulrich, Kathy. (2004). Designing Constructivist Lessons Using the 5 E Model. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://cte.jhu.edu/techacademy/fellows/Ullrich/webquest/mkuindex.html

Wetzel, D. R. (2008). How to Design an Effective Science Lesson: Developing lessons which engage students in critical thinking. Suite 101.com. Retrieved 12 June 2009 at http://teachertipstraining.suite101.com/how_to_design_an_effective_science_lesson

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

10 July 2011

Instructional Design Model Report

ID Model Report

Location and selection: Dick and Carey’s, Gerlach-Ely’s, and Schank’s models and the Rapid Prototyping model all appealed to me because my research is problem (project) – based learning and educational gaming. So, I started running internet searches with combinations of these models. When I ran across an article that seemed helpful in describing models, but didn’t have its own model, I read through the bibliography to see if the articles or authors listed may be helpful. In this method, I found the author of the ARCS (integrating learner motivation) model, John Keller. While running a search of his name in combination with the key terms educational gaming, I found the two articles I am using for this assignment. The article on an experiential educational gaming model appealed to me since my research interest lies with gaming and I am currently trying to incorporate gaming into my curricula. The second article appealed to me because I was introduced to using cell phones in (and out of) the classroom at FETC. After reading the SMSE model and paper, I realized that the FETC speaker was using this model with the assignments he had us (the audience) doing.


Citation:
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

The Revised Experiential Gaming Design Model (REGDM) proposed by Kiili is complex. The author explains that his main purpose in proposing this model is to help designers to understand the mechanism of learning with games. The author thinks that currently the use of educational gaming is more as tools for supporting factual information then utilize the power of gaming as an interactive context free media.

The author tries to explain his model by likening the model to the cardiovascular system of a human. The human cardiovascular system has two loops, one from the heart to the lungs and then back to the heart (pulmonary) and the other loop goes from the heart to the body and then back to the heart (systemic). Kiili’s analogy likens the pumping of a human heart to the challenges, gamefulness, or playability of the educational game. His thought behind this is that the drive to play the game pumps the rest of the process. His solutions loop is likened to the human pulmonary loop. The experience loop is likened to the human systemic loop. The “heart beat” is the challenges the game player is faced with in the process of playing the game. Each challenge forces the gamer to generate solutions and the trial of each solution generates experience and learning. Of course this is just a simple overview of Kiili’s REGDM. Kiili breaks each of the loops into steps, just as you could break down the pulmonary loop into blood vessels, lungs, and alveoli. The aim of this game design model is to guide and facilitate the work of game designers. Unfortunately, because games are so variable and abstract, there is no one recipe to make a good educational game. Kiili suggests starting with a needs analysis, then solution generation, and then fast prototyping to refine game features. Of course the final step is evaluation, and Kiili recommends two phases of evaluation: game world (gaming features) analysis and experience (gamer’s experiences, feelings, and perceptions) analysis. Again, this is a very basic overview that fits into Kiili’s complex REGDM.

Kiili states that the three main goals of this model are: 1) describe the learning process through games; 2) support design of flow inducing educational games; and 3) describe the educational game design process in an abstract form. I tend to agree with his goals. In my opinion, most educational games are skill and drill which don’t allow the students to think for themselves. His model for making educational games would allow the player to think in strategic and problem-solving ways. In my opinion that is more important than factual knowledge that can easily be looked up in this digital age. His model was very complex, but I won’t use most of it because I’m not looking to design games, but implement them. I can use the foundations of his model to design curriculum around games. By modifying his model slightly, it allows me to create curriculum that doesn’t focus on fact-based knowledge, but allows the “heart” to generate lessons in each loop of experience and problem-solving. It will be a process without a single recipe because of the variability of games and learners.



Citation: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

The SMSE model is a new instructional design model to facilitate mobile teaching and learning in education. The introduction of mobile handheld devices (such as cell phones, PDA’s, Pocket PC’s, etc.) enables learners to participate in a learning environment at anytime and in any location. As a model, SMSE has four crucial parts: Scenario, Message, Synchronization, and Evaluation. Scenario means creating a situation where students can learn through their mobile devices. The teacher creates a lesson, webpage, survey, or other assignment. This is anytime and anywhere learning since the lesson can be sent at any time and the student can be anywhere. Message refers to the process of notifying the students which could be by texting, instant messaging, or by sending an audio/video file. Messaging also encourages interactivity and collaboration. Synchronization refers to the coordination of the mobile learning assignment to the lessons of the class. This process promotes self-reflectiveness and transformative learning for students. Finally, evaluation refers to the assessment of the assignment and learning outcomes so that improvements can be made to ensure authentic learning and knowledge construction.

The author’s objective is to effectively combine mobile technology and learning environments to enhance the learning experience. According to Shih, the SMSE model is designed to maximize the effectiveness of mobile learning applications while integrating mobile learning into existing learning activities. I agree that Shih’s model has the potential to succeed in this combination of traditional learning and new technology. Shih created his model primarily for distance education, but I plan on adapting his model for face-to-face classes. His model is relatively simple and straight-forward, so I don’t anticipate any problems on creating mobile device lessons for my own classes. I think linking lessons to handheld technology is a great idea. Based on my own experiences, students have a hard time turning off or putting away handheld devices. By tapping into their interests, using mobile devices may be a vehicle for education.

05 June 2011

Book Review: Teach like your hair's on fire

Esquith, R. 2007. Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56. Penguin Books: New York, New York.



This is a great book for new teachers or parents. It gives you approval to do things outside the norm. The more experienced teacher or parent could think the author's tone is arrogant, but I believe it is his enthusiasm, not arrogance, that gives him such a tone.



The book introduces the idea that classrooms don't need to be strictly guided by standardized tests or school bells. He suggests to new teachers that they should allow their creativity to run free before they get it dragged out of the by the system. He suggests that experienced teachers try to re-capture that creativity.



Rafe Esquith teaches a middle school classroom, so I couldn't find everything he suggests useful, since I teach secondary and post-secondary. But some of his ideas got me thinking about how I could apply them to my own classes. I would recommend this book as required reading for elementary and middle school teachers. For anyone else, I would recommend this book because I think it celebrates thinking outside the box and keeping the ultimate goal (the kids) in mind.



The author discusses and gives examples of teaching strategies that he finds useful. For example, his Shakesperean plays are a remarkable lesson in learning styles. Unfortunately the author never continues with other examples of his various teaching strategies. He completely cheers on other teachers, but gives no suggestions of how they could do it.

08 May 2011

My Autoethnography

An image that represents me at this stage of my professional life:

I have chosen a video on YouTube. Please watch “Monarch Metamorphosis”:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cZWZNByoJNY
The diagrams below emphasize what can be seen in the video. I will reference certain stages in the life of a butterfly, please refer to the diagrams for assistance. As for myself, I would say that I am currently in the pupa/chrysalis stage in my professional life. When I finish my doctorate, a whole new world will be available to me; therefore I will no longer be a caterpillar crawling around, but a butterfly that can fly.


Reflections on the past: How did I come to be here as an education professional seeking my doctorate? I have included key influences, pivotal early experiences, earlier adult life events/transitions, and academic and career history.
Well, in the life of a butterfly, all individuals begin as an egg. I would equate my egg stage as my childhood and my freshman, sophomore, and junior high school years. I considered many possible careers in this stage of life. Basically I ate and slept, as a larva in an egg does, and remained fairly na├»ve about life and careers. One big transition was the move from a Detroit suburb to a very small town in Georgia during my senior year of high school. This move really opened my eyes to the “big, wide world” that is out there. It really changed my perspective about life and people (especially culture shock). Unexpectedly, it prepared me for the transition to college. Many of the people I graduated high school with could not make the transition from high school/hometown to college/new town. I made the transition relatively easily. I attribute this ease from facing the same challenge by moving to Georgia in the first place. For this reason, I would equate this experience to the next stage of the butterfly life cycle where the caterpillar (larva) hatches from the egg.

My undergraduate and graduate years would be consistent with the caterpillar stage of the butterfly life cycle. Caterpillars lumber around, eating everything they can. I would say that was me in college; not necessarily eating food, but consuming all the knowledge that I could. I just soaked in everything, academic and first-hand experiences. It was during my graduate school years that I found out that teaching was the right career for me. In graduate school, the college I attended had teaching assistantships available for their graduate students. This was my first experience teaching. It was like a “drug” and I couldn’t get enough. At the time, I was a pre-med student, with hopes of becoming a medical doctor. The combination of teaching experiences and the boredom I was feeling with pre-med curriculum had me facing the facts that medicine wasn’t for me. You know, caterpillars molt as they become too large for their skin. I guess this transition was me “molting” into a career that was right for me. One of my professors, Mike Moulton, also was a huge influence. He was one of the few professors that I’ve had that made class fun. He was great at timing his jokes with the notes so that just about the time you were losing your attention span, he would crack a joke about the material that would make you able to focus again. His classes always had a relaxed atmosphere and he always emphasized learning over testing. He became my mentor. I wanted to be able to teach as he did. So, as I “molted” out of pre-med and into teaching and science, I became one of Mike’s graduate students. When Mike left my college to become a professor at UF, I followed him after I finished my Masters degree. I began working on a PhD in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, but within a year I realized that I was on the wrong path. I found out the hard way that having a PhD doesn’t enable you to teach. Research is the main focus of careers requiring a PhD. I thought that I would be able to primarily teach and throw in a bit of research, but as things progressed, I realized that very little time is dedicated to teaching. This wasn’t me. I wanted the opposite, to teach most of the time and do some research. So, I “molted” again. I left UF with another Masters degree, instead of a PhD. I went directly into teaching at public schools. This, I would say, is where I entered my chrysalis.

The next stage of a butterfly’s life cycle is to construct a chrysalis (similar to a cocoon) where it enters the pupa stage – a transformation stage. I have been in this stage for almost 12 years, but I feel that it will be over when I finish my doctoral degree. I have been changing from a caterpillar to a butterfly. I have 9 years of teaching experience in the public school system. I have 11 years of teaching experience as a college adjunct. I have switched to a high school outside of the public school system, an adult high school, which is more concerned with curriculum than FCAT scores. This has helped me concentrate more on learning rather than testing (thank you Mike Moulton). And finally I began working on my doctoral degree, a degree that has taken me years to start due to financial and time constraints. I feel like I am in the final stages of becoming a butterfly. When I have my degree, I will completely switch worlds. You see, a caterpillar is tied to gravity; constrained to the plant on which it lives; seeing the world from one perspective (i.e., me teaching students). I feel that when I become a butterfly, I will be free of gravity and able to see the world from a new perspective (i.e., me teaching teachers). This is when I will truly fly!


Reflections on the present: How would you describe yourself currently in terms of what you are like as an adult learner (for example: what recent life events or transitions have been important? What are your learning preferences and strengths? What aspects of learning cause you anxiety? What are your learning habits?) and as an education professional (for example: what are recent career experiences, interests, challenges, responsibilities, etc.)
The college where I work has a motto that “the primary enemy of great is good.” In other words, you must constantly be trying to better yourself and never be happy with status quo. They really want their employees to be life-long learners and so they set aside time and money specifically for this purpose. For this reason, I have been an adult learner for over 10 years now. I think the biggest transition in becoming an adult learner is to NOT believe that you know everything and won’t get anything out of a class. I have taken classes where I have more education about the subject than the teacher, but I still can learn something from the teacher. It may not necessarily be about the subject, it may be about teaching or life, but it could also be about the subject too. No one knows absolutely everything about a subject and the attitude that an adult learner must take is that something, no matter how big or how small, can be gained from the class if you are open to learning. So, I believe that is the key to being an adult learner, to be open to learning.

As for my learning habits, I think those are more person-specific. I mean everyone learns differently and only that person can tell you the best way for him or her to learn. Personally, I realized that I no longer could read something and have it instantly memorized, as I did when I was young. Now, I read something and take notes on it or from it, and this helps me really comprehend the point the article or book is trying to make. Also re-organizing the material into an outline or flowchart helps me get my ideas in order. Because I know me and how I learn, I no longer have any classroom anxiety. No testing anxiety or worrying over projects, either. I think my strength comes from my confidence. I do things in a timely manner, never the last minute, and I make sure I thoroughly understand the material. For these reasons I am confident in my learning and don’t stress.

I have done a lot of transforming as an education professional. When I first started teaching in public school, I had no experience or training in K-12 teaching. I remember that when I received my first lesson planner, I had no idea what to do with it since I had never before written a lesson plan. When I first began teaching, my main goal was trying to please my administrators. When I left public school teaching, my main goal was what I should be teaching my students. This was a main reason for me leaving public school. I couldn’t handle how the focus was no longer on learning, but mainly on testing (FCAT). We were flat-out told to teach to the test. I couldn’t see how that philosophy would help any of my students in the “real” world. My interests in teaching and my confidence as a teacher had shifted to the point where I could stand up for myself and my beliefs in teaching. So, I left public school and found a high school at the local college campus where teaching and learning were the focus, not testing. I’ve never looked back.


Projections into the future: How do you see the doctorate as helping you achieve certain goals and aspirations? What alternative visions of the future do you hold? How will you continue to engage in lifelong learning? Name professional organizations and publications central to your professional goals.
As I previously said, this doctorate will be the finishing touch in my transformation into a butterfly. I will have transformed from a teacher who taught science to students into a teacher who teaches teachers how to teach. I want to teach these potential teachers that it isn’t all about paperwork and FCAT scores. I want them to know that teaching students how to think is the best gift you can give them. I mean looking up facts and figures today is easy when you have technology. But, teaching students how to solve problems, to think critically, and be innovative is what will help them really succeed in life. THAT is what teachers should teach. THAT is what will never show up on any FCAT score. This degree will help me open the eyes of these potential teachers so that they will have their priorities straight about teaching vs. testing.

One of the alternative visions of the future that I have is that perhaps my main job isn’t teaching teachers, but setting up and running a model high school. The college I work for is very progressive and allows the high school employees to set up the high school as we see fit. For example, we are implementing a career pathways plan this year. One of the other ideas we are trying to implement are cross-over classes. These classes incorporate two or three subjects in one class. For instance, a new Florida History class incorporates a history class and an English class. Another possible example is a medical journalism class that would incorporate science (including anatomy and physiology) and journalism (English). Eventually, I would like to see classes that incorporate all subjects at once, because this is what you find out in the “real” world. Problems in life are very rarely split into English, math, science, history, etc. Usually it takes a little math, a little science, a little English, and so on to solve these situations. Why not have classes that do the same? These classes would teach you all of the subjects but incorporated all at once, as you find in life’s daily tribulations. Setting up this type of model school would be an alternative option to my goal of teaching teachers.

I plan on being a life-long learner in the respect that I don’t plan on stopping with this doctorate. I plan on continuing my education and perhaps earning another doctorate. I also understand that as new technologies and teaching theories/styles/media develop, I will need to learn them. Therefore, I will always be a student. Thankfully, I work for an institution that shares this opinion and who offers many classes to enable my learning goals. Also, due to distance education, I have many good programs and colleges (UF, for example) that will also continue my objective to be a life-long learner.

I am currently a member of NSTA, FACC, and ACE, which are science, Florida community colleges, and adult-learning, respectively. I also attend FETC regularly. But I will need to broaden my associations to incorporate technology and gaming too. Therefore, I will probably join the Association for Educational Communications and Technology, the Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education, and The International Game Developers Association to name a few. I also, more recently, have found publications that would be ideal for me to read and publish: Phi Delta Kappan, the Journal of Research on Computing Education, the Journal of Research in Science Teaching, Computers in Education, Journal of Interactive Learning Research, and Innovate.

01 May 2011

Book Review for EME 5054

Book Review: How Computer Games Help Children Learn


Bibliographic Heading:

Shaffer, D. W. (2006). How Computer Games Help Children Learn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


About the Author:

David Williamson Shaffer is an Associate Professor of Learning Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a game scientist at the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Laboratory (Shaffer 2006). Dr. Shaffer is a former teacher, curriculum developer, teacher trainer, and school technology specialist. He has taught grades 4-12 in the US and abroad, including 2 years working with the Asian Development Bank and the US Peace Corps in Nepal. Shaffer's MS and PhD are from the Media Laboratory at MIT, where his work focused on the development and evaluation of technology-supported learning environments. After completing doctoral studies he taught and conducted research at the Technology and Education Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He developed curricula and online tools that help students understand the impact of technology on society, and created technology-based learning systems for new medical devices and procedures. His research interests include how computational media change the way people think and learn (Wisconsin Center 2008). Shaffer recently won a National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award for his work on Alternate Routes to Technology and Science. His other recent awards include a Spencer Foundation National Academy of Education Postdoctoral Fellowship and an appointment as a research scientist at the Academic Advanced Distributed Learning Co-Lab (Innovate 2008).

Shaffer’s main reason for writing this book is thoroughly covered in the introduction by describing the critical problems in education today and how it will affect tomorrow. In essence, he believes that under our current education policies educators are preparing students for standardization instead of innovative careers. His solution to this crisis is education through epistemology, in other words, teaching students how to think, rather than teaching them a few facts. One of the ways he incorporates epistemology into education is through epistemic gaming. Shaffer wrote this book to thoroughly describe epistemic gaming and to offer epistemic gaming as a solution to “standardized thinking.”


Content:

In his introduction, Shaffer explains why he wrote this book. He points out that America’s competitive edge increasingly comes from how it can produce products, services, and technologies that are new, special, nonstandard – thus not easily reproduced across the globe by competitors. Shaffer predicts that in the very near future, the only good jobs left will be for people who can do innovative and creative work. “At its core, though, this is a crisis in education,” says Shaffer (p. 3). He claims that education today in the U.S. is preparing students for standardized jobs. “Our government and schools have made a noble effort to leave no child behind: to ensure, through standardized testing, that all children make adequate yearly progress. But we can’t “skill and drill” our way to innovation because standardized testing produces standardized skills,” (p.3). According to Shaffer, our standards-driven curricula are not preparing children to be innovators. “We are in danger of leaving all of our children far behind in the new global competition for innovative work,” says Shaffer (p.4). The upside is that the very same technologies that are making it possible to outsource jobs make it possible for students to prepare for innovative work. According to Shaffer, experts believed that the computer could teach students to solve problems, answer questions on tests, do better in school, learn by doing things that are meaningful and motivating, and in general, make it possible for students and teachers to think about learning in a new way (p. 4). Shaffer believes that the key to solving the current crisis in education will be to use the power of computer and video games to give all children access to experiences and interactions that build interest and understanding. “Computer and video games can change education because computers now make it possible to learn on a massive scale by doing the things that people do in the world outside school. They make it possible for students to learn to think in innovative and creative ways just as innovators in the real world learn to think creatively,” (p. 9). This book is about how computers and video games can help educators rebuild education for a high-tech world by thinking about learning in a new way.

When it comes to educators changing their positions, Shaffer vehemently argues that “computers create both the means and the necessity to fundamentally re-think what it means to know something – and thus what is worth learning and how educators teach it,” (p. 9). He suggests that teachers have to develop the tools to help young people learn epistemologies of creative innovation. One way to do this is through epistemic games: games that are fundamentally about learning to think in innovative ways. The view of learning this book presents emphasizes understanding about how people think and how educators can best help them learn to think more deeply, more compassionately, and more effectively about the problems and situations they will encounter in the world. Shaffer presents ideas about learning that takes two new and important directions: 1) about how learning can happen in games – primarily computer and video games; and 2) about what children need to prepare for the economic and social conditions that new technologies are creating, (p. 11).

This book looks at each element of innovative thinking – epistemology, knowledge, skills, values, and identity – in separate chapters. Each chapter also looks at a specific game: a game to provide concrete examples of the concepts discussed in each chapter and to provide images of what a new way of thinking about learning might look like. Shaffer specifically does this because “building a new educational system for the digital age is a big undertaking” and his hope is “to begin that process of change by providing an image of what we need to do and how we might do it,” (p. 13).

In chapter one, Shaffer describes the debating game in reference to epistemology. In short, this is a game where two teams debate a topic, in this case the Spanish American War, as judges rate the performance of each team (pro or con). The students must defend their position, and may use technology for research, but technology is not a requirement for the game. This game is considered epistemic because participants must think about issues the way historians do: to understand complex situations and develop and defend their own point of view on controversial issues. The Debating Game is about finding creative solutions to problems rather than looking for right and wrong answers. Shaffer makes a point that new technologies may not be required to build better educational games, but suggests looking at the next chapter to see how a computer game makes it possible for players to learn in “new and powerful” ways.

The second chapter relates knowledge to two games, SodaConstructor and Digital Zoo. Shaffer describes this chapter as “looking how computers change what it means to think and thus what it means to learn,” (p. 41). Students use SodaConstructor to design shapes (or creatures) according to the rules of gravity and motion. Fundamentally, this game helps students learn about physics and engineering. To play Digital Zoo, students join design teams where they get design specifications from a client who wants to develop prototypes, perhaps for an animated movie. To get their creatures to stand up, walk, fly, jump, or just plain withstand gravity, students work on a series of engineering design projects using SodaConstructor, leading to the construction of virtual objects and creatures. Players advance in Digital Zoo by producing designs for clients, but at each level, the client’s requirements become more complex. To meet those needs, players have to do more than simply interact with the computer; they have to learn to do what engineers do by thinking the way engineers think. Shaffer says, “In the process of making creatures that stand, walk, and even dance, players learned to use specialized language: technical terms and concepts from physics and engineering,” (p.58). He goes on to explain that “the specialized vocabulary that players develop in Digital Zoo is knowledge rather than mere jargon because it is not a set of unrelated terms or isolated facts,” (p. 59). This falls into the epistemic category since players are trying to think like engineers – in aspects of science and technology. Shaffer enforces the idea that knowledge and epistemology go hand in hand by arguing that “when children learn important concepts – and the words that go with them – to solve problems that are meaningful to them, the words go from empty jargon to seeing the world through the eyes of innovative professionals,” (p. 60). Shaffer continues by describing simulations since, in his opinion, “any game, at its core, is a simulation,” (p. 69). He argues that all games create an alternate universe – a microworld – that operates by particular rules and that players can explore. Epistemic games are based on simulations of interesting and important problems, where the framework for understanding what happens is based on the way that people who analyze and solve problems as innovative and creative thinkers.

In the third chapter, the author relates skills to epistemic games through a game called Escher’s World. In this game, players become graphic artists and create an exhibit of mathematical art in the style of M. C. Escher. The author uses the experiences of students with Escher’s World to demonstrate how learning to think like a professional means learning to act like one – and thus how the training of professionals provides a model for learning. One student uses criticism from her teachers and peers to expand her project. Another student uses the critiques and experiences from Escher’s World to expand her confidence and abilities to deal with other classes and situations. Shaffer points out that in both cases, the students learn the benefits of criticism and hence learn collaboration. He says this is important because “innovative professionals find creative solutions to complex problems by constantly working just beyond the boundary of what they can already do by themselves and they learn to do this originally in a professional practicum by working on problems and talking about them with peers and mentors,” (p. 100). For example, in Shaffer’s student experiences with Escher’s World, the knowledge they learned helped them build skills and new ways of thinking and acting like a professional which can bleed over into other areas of their life.

Shaffer ties values with a game called The Pandora Project in the fourth chapter. “This chapter focuses on the values of professional practices: on how thinking and working like a professional means caring about the things a professional cares about – and thus how learning to think like a professional means learning to value the things professionals think of as important, interesting, and meaningful,” (p. 105). In The Pandora Project, players become high-powered negotiators, deciding the fate (ethics) of a new biomedical breakthrough: transplanting organs from animals into humans. Shaffer demonstrates how this epistemic game motivated adolescents to develop the kind of skills, knowledge, and values they need to succeed. By using biology, international relations, and mediation, students must look at the potential transplantation in a variety of ways: 1) is it ethical to raise genetically altered animals, in a quarantined state, to harvest their organs; 2) by transplanting from animal to human, does this open the door to new viral epidemics; 3) is it ethical to say no to someone that desperately needs an organ transplant; and so on. This type of epistemic game helps players to learn to care about the kind of problems that doctors, lawyers, diplomats, and other innovative professionals face, and to develop the skills, knowledge, and ways of thinking that are used to solve such problems.

The fifth chapter, according to Shaffer, “is about what it means to be an innovative professional: how thinking and working like a professional means seeing oneself as a professional, and vice versa. It is about how professional training helps people learn to identify themselves as professionals, and why playing a game based on that process is so powerful for adolescents as they are making a developmental transition from childhood into the adult world,” (p. 135). Shaffer uses science.net which is an epistemic game where players become journalists, reporting on scientific and technological breakthroughs for an online newsmagazine. Shaffer demonstrates how skills, knowledge, values, epistemology and identity come together in the work of one group of innovative professionals. He goes on to suggest that “identity is central to a practicum, for example, part of learning to think like a journalist is that the student must think of himself or herself as a journalist,” (p. 150). In science.net, players learned about science by writing about science as reporters, therefore, they came to science through a journalistic perspective. Experiences, like this one, that transfer from one context to another are certainly the goal in the development of educational games, according to Shaffer. He states: “The premise of education is that it is possible for one experience to influence another in this general sense. Otherwise there is no education and no learning,’ (p. 157). Shaffer continues his argument by defining clearly the meaning of epistemic games: “an epistemic game is a game that deliberately creates the epistemic frame of a socially valued community by re-creating the process by which individuals develop the skills, knowledge, identities, values, and epistemology of that community,” (p. 164). Shaffer suggests that “the epistemic frame of a professional is built during a professional practicum, and epistemic games based on these practicum experiences can develop these innovative ways of thinking and working for students who otherwise would be memorizing facts for standardized tests,” (p. 165).

In chapter six, the final chapter, Shaffer discusses how epistemic games based on professional innovation can change the way educators teach. He discusses what is special about epistemic games, how they are different from ordinary commercial games, and how they are different from the usual school activities. Shaffer does this by comparing the game Urban Science and the game SimCity. The author doesn’t consider SimCity an epistemic game because players are not learning to think about how cities work from the perspective of any real professional. He suggests that SimCity is a “God Game” because players are not responsible for any social process of decision making within the virtual world (p. 171). In other words, they face consequence for their actions, but they are free to do whatever they want, however irrational, destructive, or unrealistic. Urban Science, on the other hand, is a game about urban ecology that actually does get players thinking the way professionals think about the complex and ill-defined problems that urban areas face. “Just like real planners, players have to balance the overall impact of their proposals against the costs and benefits – economic, social, and environmental – of alternative choices,” (p.173). Within this chapter, Shaffer continues to expand on his ideas to change education. He shows how the next steps toward education may be with epistemic games. The author reminds the reader that “the best hope for a better way of educating children for life in the digital age is for adults to think about learning in a new way: to think about helping young people develop the epistemic frames of professional innovation,” (p.1 92).

In summation, this is a book about thinking and learning and how we can use epistemic games to make it possible for all children to learn in ways that are deeply authentic, fulfilling, powerful, motivating, and, most of all, relevant. It is about using computer games to help students learn important ideas in ways that will be meaningful and useful in tomorrow’s world. This book shows how computer and video games – though games of a very special sort – can transform education to meet the challenge of innovation in a global economy. Students don’t have to wait until they start college, graduate school, or enter the workforce to begin thinking innovatively because these epistemic games teach players how to think creatively which helps them think like a professional. As Shaffer emphasizes, “we all can learn from and about games,” (p. 15).


Critique:

Personally, anyone who sees the potential of learning through games or any educator who understands how crucial it is to prepare students for the high-tech, digital world of tomorrow should read this book. Shaffer makes a very valid point that the majority of jobs in the U.S. that require standardized skills can very easily be outsourced to other countries, (p. 1). This is true, a standardized problem can be solved anywhere. For example, a radiologist in India reads x-rays taken from a patient in Indiana. Even when someone gives their order at fast-food drive-thru, the person speaking to them may not be in the building, neighborhood, or even the country, as some places have the drive-thru monitored by people in another country. And these are just two of many examples of out-sourcing standardized jobs. What a scary prospect for people who will be looking for careers in the future! This really drives home the point that educators need to be innovative at all costs.

Shaffer makes a valid point about the importance of games. He declares that “developmental psychologists have known for nearly a century that children learn from playing games; therefore, play and exploration and experimentation matter,” (p. 6). He goes on to argue that “computers allow us to work with simulations of the world around us that let us play with reality by creating imaginary worlds,” (p. 7). These two statements validate his ideas that technology and gaming belong in the classroom. And when you combine the two, games can provide the framework in which a player can interact within a computer simulation. According to Shaffer’s arguments, the whole goal of education should be epistemology, getting students to learn how to think, rather than learning what to think. The epistemic games that Shaffer uses (i.e., science.net, Urban Science, Digital Zoo, and so on) suggest that technology and epistemic games could very well solve the current crisis in education. Shaffer enthusiastically supports his argument that epistemic gaming could be a key solution to the standardization of American education. According to the author “computers let us do more than we know how to do on our own – and thus let kids do things that innovative professionals do, and learn the ways of innovative thinking in the process,” (p. 73). Shaffer’s arguments are well-thought out and presented in a way that is hard to argue.

One criticism is his presentation of the idea of epistemology. Shaffer doesn’t really define the concept when he first presents the term. He says “epistemology is the study of what it means to know something,” (p. 9). Unfortunately, if the reader is not acquainted with the word prior to reading this section, the term epistemology may not be well understood until dozens of pages and examples later. Shaffer should have done a better job in explain this term since it is central to his arguments.

Another criticism of this book is Shaffer’s idea that epistemic games should be done in “third places.” The author introduces the term “third places” which refers to “places that are not home nor work, but places where people can go to “hang out” – to build community, share triumphs and losses, and in the process deal with issues, problems, and concerns that can’t be fully expressed within the confines of the family or the structures of a job,” (p. 181). Shafer suggests that epistemic games do not fit well with the culture of schools. “It is hard for teachers to spare the time from getting students ready for the next standardized test, and, not surprisingly, innovation is difficult to accomplish in forty-minute chunks of time, spread from room to room and subject to subject throughout the day,” says Shafer (p. 183). Shafer suggest that since epistemic games are “third places” that that is where they work best; therefore, children should play these games in other third places like clubs, after-school programs, summer camps, and community centers. “There, these games can develop according to their own intrinsic logic, to explore the highest potential of what learning might be – and what education could become – in the digital age. As a third space between formal instruction and free play, epistemic games can explore what can happen to games when the primary focus is on learning rather than on market forces in commercial game production or on the institutional imperatives of schools as they currently exist,” (p. 183). If Shaffer is so adamant about changing education, why wouldn’t he want to introduce his solution, epistemic games, into the source of education, that being schools. Shaffer works hard to suggest that the standardization of education is rampant in schools. Therefore, it would make sense to introduce innovative thinking through epistemic gaming directly to schools. Shaffer doesn’t justify his argument of only using epistemic gaming in “third places.”

Overall, this book gives hope to many parents and teachers who see today’s crisis in education. Shaffer opens the world of epistemic gaming to educators. The whole point of this book is for students to succeed, be happy, and have the ability to make the world a better place. What more could an educator ask for?


Rating:

On a scale of one to five stars, where one is the least and five the greatest, I would rate this book at four and a half stars.


Bibliography:

Innovate: Journal of Online Education. (2008). Board Member: Biographical Sketch. Retrieved October 27, 2008, from http://innovateonline.info/?view=person&id=5660.

Shaffer, D. W. (2006). How Computer Games Help Children Learn. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wisconsin Center for Education Research. (2008). People Page. Retrieved October 27, 2008, from http://www.wcer.wisc.edu/people/staff.php?sid=1150.