Could you help Gregor Mendel obtain a plant with its coloring specified by recessive genes? Would you want to try to solve crime with some forensic DNA analysis? The ScienceGameCenter can give you the chance to do those things, and learn concepts of biology (and other sciences too!) at the same time. This week’s video tip of the week will focus on what they offer. And the need they have for science reviewers–please help them out there.
There’s a lot of interest lately in games for science, and more and more research assessing their effectiveness. Recently an article in The Scientist highlighted some of the games and research that you might we aware of–such as Foldit, Phylo, EteRNA, work from Andrew Su’s group, etc.
There’s quite a range of game development out there in use as science communication, education, and health outreach strategies. Of course some is designed to engage youngsters in science concepts. Some if it is aimed at harnessing the power of citizen-science sorts of groups and some for more advanced students as well. There was a paper last month on a game strategy to teach biological data integration for biology practitioners that looks really useful to me–and it would be great to see it turned into an online game (hint).
The folks at ScienceGameCenter are eager for players, teachers, and scientists to come together to make their site a success. In short, they collect and curate game information. You can quickly link to the site for the game. They provide some details about the types of concepts and topics that are covered. They provide the suggested age range. But they also offer ratings and reviews that can help you decide on whether a game is useful and fun.
I tried out a couple of the games and had some fun. With Crazy Plant Shop I helped a certain monk obtain the right plants. I did one round of the CSI: The Experience game because I have always been intrigued by forensics and I learned some things.
So go have some fun! But in addition, it would really be a service to the community if the science peeps who read this help out a bit. First, of course, spread the word to teachers and kids who might find it useful.
But in addition, they need some science eyes in a couple of other ways:
*Science/teaching level Reviews: Give back to the community by writing some reviews. Please keep in mind the idea is to be constructive with the game comments. You are trying to help teachers assess how it meets the goals of the game and the science issues. And remember they are designed to be lighter than your knowledge base probably, for folks who aren’t at your level yet. Don’t be too harsh there. But if you find things that should be addressed by the developers, do mention it. Again, try to be constructive and helpful with some guidance on any features that need tweaks for clarity or correctness. Contact the ScienceGameCenter team to get designated as the “expert” level review type. They really want some help there.
*Game developers: Are you and your lab developing games? Consider making them available there. You’ll get users and feedback. And they don’t have to be games for youngsters necessarily. If you have crowd-sourcing style games aimed at citizen scientists those are welcomed as well. (I checked with the ScienceGamesCenter folks on this to be sure, by the way. Contact them if you have something to offer.).
Of course, not everything needs to be gamified. And games will not stand by themselves as the solution to all of the science education needs. But as a supplement and an engaging way to get people interested in some science topics they can be really fun and useful. And also–some of the lessons learned by one of the site team members (Melanie Stegman, paper below) when doing an educational project where students built games provide more insights. Have a look at the structure and outcome of that project, some of which led to modules in the ScienceGamesCenter game you can play today: Immune Attack. A great way to teach STEM field skills.
ScienceGamesCenter is a new and developing site, and they welcome feedback and ideas. Stay tuned for new games in new topic areas too. I hear there’s an archaeology one coming that I really want to try!
Thanks to Mindy Weisberger for the lead on Google+.
Follow them on twitter: @SciGame https://twitter.com/SciGame
For more references on science education with games and other tech: http://cttl.rice.edu/Publications/
Khalili, N., Sheridan, K., Williams, A., Clark, K., & Stegman, M. (2011). Students Designing Video Games about Immunology: Insights for Science Learning Computers in the Schools, 28 (3), 228-240 DOI: 10.1080/07380569.2011.594988
Schneider, M., & Jimenez, R. (2012). Teaching the Fundamentals of Biological Data Integration Using Classroom Games PLoS Computational Biology, 8 (12) DOI: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1002789