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Expanding Tyto Online: Earth & Space Science Quests & Sandbox for Middle School

91990018C0033

2019 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8

The complete product will be an Earth & Space Science domain game-based learning content set added onto Tyto Online, which has been designed explicitly for learning STEM concepts in a collaborative, multiplayer 3D gameplay space. The intent is to have a single game that can be used as an all-in-one game-based learning platform with content across domains that teachers can use seamlessly across their curriculum.

This Phase I grant focused on developing out the Weather & Climate Module; if we are awarded a Phase II grant, we will finish the rest of the topics needed for a complete middle school Earth & Space Science domain within Tyto Online.

Innovation Description

The two main development features which will result in a playable prototype for our Weather & Climate Module are a set of Sequences and the Sandbox.

Sequences of Quests. Quests help students progress through developing their understanding, with pre-built storylines that build up students’ understanding across a series of quests. For Weather & Climate these include (1) exploring rain shadow to discover how precipitation forms as air cools and condenses over the mountain; (2) tornados to explore air mass interactions and predictions; (3) The Pacific Garbage Patch as a basis for global air and water currents; (4) coral bleaching as an entry into climate change and its effects.

To explore what this means, for the climate change storyline, students learn from the anchoring phenomena of coral bleaching. They explore an ocean biome with a reef, build a food web, and make an argument for how the ecosystem would collapse without coral. They then view an example of bleaching and look at variables that could have caused it, starting with correlation and moving into experimenting with the mechanics to realize acidic pH and higher temperatures cause coral bleaching. This leads them to question why the oceans are having this effect, and they examine correlations and the mechanisms for greenhouse gases causing climate change!

Teachers are able to view and assign these Sequences from their Teacher Dashboard, and track students’ progress throughout them, including viewing student work-product created, such as models or arguments.

Broken Planet Sandbox. The Sandbox extends upon the quest learning by allowing students to more openly experiment with concepts learned during quest sequences while also giving students the opportunity to build and be creative in a freeform environment. The Earth & Space Sandbox will allow students to fix issues that simulated planets have as they work to save them and let life begin to grow. For example, the student may be presented with a planet that has some problems like its seasons being too long and extreme for a variety of animals to survive due to its orbit around its star, and thus needs adjustment. As they improve the functioning of the systems, they will see new tiny creatures and plants begin to flourish on their planet.

For Weather & Climate, students can:

  • Edit tilt and rotation, which impacts global factors like the Coriolis effect and distribution of large-scale climate;
  • Add or edit air masses with temperature and humidity settings, which will cause precipitation levels, and even events like tornados;
  • Use filters to examine data like temperature and humidity across the planet;
  • Once they have "fixed" the planet by establishing sufficient biodiversity of biome types which spring up life, they can add human settlements;
  • These settlements have needs for energy and resources that must be fulfilled, with needs scaling along with population growth;
  • The human population even has a technology tree to develop from burning wood to coal plants to advanced green technologies -- but be careful about greenhouse gas release, or temperatures may rise!

 

Impacts

An initial pilot test was conducted in a middle school science classroom, which showed promising results with a 6.74% pre/post test increase after using the product for ~3 classroom periods. Students gave positive feedback, with 96% somewhat or definitely interested in using the game to learn more subjects in their classroom. 

For an explanation of why or why not they thought the game would work in classrooms, 23.5% of responses included that the fact that it was a game/technology was helpful, 35.3% included that it was fun or interesting, and 11.8% of students expanded on the hands-on, interactive learning nature. For example, students said usually “kids learn better when they are doing something fun,” “because you can do it hands on and at your own speed,” that it puts a “spin on regular learning.”

The product is being made available to schools and districts now, scaling implementation efforts to expand impact across a broad, scalable range of students.

 

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