Back in the Fall or 2008, three classes of students at Cape Fear Middle School, the district where I work as an instructional technology coordinator, participated in a course called Virtual Math. In this course, we used an immersive, 3-D video game, Tabula Digita’s Dimension-M, to see if it enhanced students’ learning of pre-Algebra concepts. The course was a great success. We have since expanded the course to West Pender Middle and Topsail High.
Starting in January, UNCW has launched a study at both West Pender Middle and Cape Fear Middle to take a closer, more scientific look at the impact this game is having on students’ performance in mathematics.
This story has now been picked up, not only by our local Fox/NBC affiliate (which has a great video of the students), but has now been reported by a number of online websites as well:
Look for more news in the future as the results are published!
Well, the dust has finally settled. I’ve wrapped up my graduate studies (Woot!) and have completed my thesis. The middle school students and staff I worked with in my study were absolutely awesome. The kids never ceased to amaze me at how they approached the game’s challenges and how quickly they adapt to the first-person game environment. I’m also very excited that this study has served as a catalyst for advancing other game-oriented instruction in my district. As of this posting at least three other schools are looking into Dimension-M as a tool for math instruction and remediation and other teachers/administrators are warming to the idea of using games for instruction. I love my job!
Oh yeah… Here’s the link to the thesis. It’s also linked on the right of the site.
To date, I haven’t spent a great deal of time discussing my thesis research, because it has been an ever-changing work in progress. Without anything “final” I didn’t want to throw anything out into the blogosphere. However, I’m very close to finalizing it and will be sharing my work here soon.
To provide some background, I used Tabula Digita’s Dimension-M game with middle school students to see the game’s impact on their mathematics achievement and attitude. In addition, I wanted to see if gender played any role in the outcomes.
Though the group I was working with was small and the period of the study was short, the results were very interesting. I’ll be sharing those results here once the thesis is finalized!
Want to see something amazing and learn about quality game design at the same time? Take one of today’s popular video game titles or even a title marketed as an educational game and have an non-gamer or digital immigrant give it a spin. It’s a pretty fascinating experience.
I had just such an experience today as I worked with a lady who will be teaching a course called Virtual Math at one of our district middle schools. In this course we’ll be using the game, Dimension-M, by Tabula Digita, to provide students with an immersive and exciting instructional, game-oriented experience. The lady who is teaching the course has had little experience with first-person video games. Well, obviously she wanted to play the games to see what the students will be doing in the class and to see how the game will support student learning.
We sat together in the computer lab where she’ll be teaching the course and began playing the game. It wasn’t long before I quit playing on my computer and simply watched her as she began learning the game’s controls and adapted to Dimension-M’s environment. To my knowledge she’d never played a first-person shooter game before. By the time she was halfway through the game’s first mission (and following the game’s tutorial), she had quickly adapted. She began to naturally move the mouse about to “look around” in the game environment, she was using the WASD keys to move about, and was even beginning to get the hang of using the spacebar to jump from one location to the next. It was fascinating to watch her skills so quickly adapt and improve.
The point is, again, that games today are much more complex than they were in the early days of electronic gaming. And as Jim Gee says, all games are ultimately about problem-solving. The best games quickly “teach” you how their world works and integrate that learning and assessment into the game play.