821 Views
  1. Brian Guerrero
  2. Graduate Student
  3. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  4. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  1. Jeff Ginger
  2. http://www.jeffginger.com/
  3. Postdoctoral Associate
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  1. Michael Horton
  2. https://www.westerncenteracademy.com/
  3. Assistant Principal
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. Western Center Academy
  1. H Chad Lane
  2. http://hchadlane.net
  3. Associate Professor
  4. Presenter’s NSFRESOURCECENTERS
  5. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Cultivating Creativity to Integrate Computation and Science Problem Solving i...

NSF Awards: 1934087

2021 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades 6-8, Grades 9-12

Problems awaiting us in the future are likely to demand armies of imaginative scientists and engineers, equipped with a robust understanding of the ways in which scientific and computational perspectives converge to enhance problem solving. To better prepare for such a future, we are developing tools and materials that seek to blur lines between computing and STEM learning to provide novel middle-school level informal science learning experiences. Working in the context of the popular sandbox game Minecraft, learners confront challenges inspired by real-world STEM problems (e.g., flooding, natural disasters, threats to wildlife, sustainable agriculture) that often defy perfect or optimal solutions. Learners apply concepts from computational thinking and their understanding of science topics to create solutions that address, to whatever degree possible, the challenges presented to them. Thus far, we have collected preliminary data showing that children rapidly engage in such challenges and apply their emerging knowledge of coding in creative and unexpected ways. Future research will investigate to what extent their interest in computing and science may be impacted by the experiences, and lead to design principles for integrated instructional experiences.

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Discussion from the 2021 STEM For All Video Showcase (16 posts)
  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 10, 2021 | 11:56 a.m.

    Thank you for checking out our video!  Our project seeks to combine the power of Minecraft, coding/CT skills, and creativity to get kids working on very hard problems inspired by real-world challenges. We would love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and to answer any questions you have about the project!  

    We are grateful to our partner school, Western Center Academy in Hemet, CA and to the NSF STEM+C Program for support of our work.

  • Icon for: Andres Colubri

    Andres Colubri

    Facilitator
    Assistant Professor
    May 11, 2021 | 09:45 a.m.

    I really like the idea of this project, having explored Minecraft myself. So, the learning experience is based around programming bots to solve specific challenges in your custom Minecraft scenarios? You mentioned Lua as the programming language? Are you starting from "scratch" or students need some prior knowledge of programming?

     
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    H Chad Lane
  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 11, 2021 | 10:05 a.m.

    Thanks for your question Andres, you summarized it nicely there. We have scenarios for a variety of STEM domains that are mentioned in the video. The challenges are sometimes specific, and at other times open to interpretation. One of our aims is to present kids with messy challenges that are more in line with some real-world problems where we may lack information or need to do additional investigation before solving them. 

    Lua is the language used in ComputerCraft and it is pretty solid as a first language (or first non-block-based language). In our camps, we don't require Lua experience and trying to figure out how much Lua knowledge is enough to start getting into the science aspects of the problems. We have an integrated curriculum that helps build up competencies in the context of mini science problems. Last year we were able to bring kids up to a fairly solid level of skill in about 4 hours of camp, spread out over 3 days. 

    I will note also that this question (coding first or science first) is a big issue being addressed in the STEM+C community. We felt that given our goals of allowing kids to leverage their Minecraft expertise, they needed to see the power of coding and turtles right away so they could understand the additional scope of what would be possible.  

    Thanks again! I'm curious to learn about how you're using Minecraft - it has been encouraging to see a growing number of videos in the Showcase that use it as a learning environment.

  • Icon for: Andres Colubri

    Andres Colubri

    Facilitator
    Assistant Professor
    May 12, 2021 | 10:36 a.m.

    I remember using Lua a while ago, very nice language, originally created in Brazil :-)

    About my own use of Minecraft, last year I was exploring the possibility of running epidemic simulations inside a minecraft mod to complement experiential outbreak simulations we designed for an educational program on infectious diseases (started several years ago before covid). I realized that we needed to modify internal aspects of the game in order to create a "viral" agent that spreads among players. But maybe it's feasible within your framework?

     

     
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    H Chad Lane
  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 12, 2021 | 12:03 p.m.

    We were really happy to see how fast the kids picked up Lua and did some very cool things (and I did not know it was invented in Brazil, very cool!).

    We have often found it challenging to do everything we want to in Minecraft. For example, tidal behaviors are pretty central to many of Dr. Comins' what-if scenarios, and we cannot do those justice in MC. We also do not want to require any mods because it would make it harder to get on our server, so we rely heavily on specialized plug-ins (all of our code is open source and freely available).  

    Pandemic modeling is an interesting application of Minecraft, and other than the back-end tracking we do (e.g., to detect when contact occurs between players, for example), I'm not sure how difficult that would be to implement. I do highly recommend looking at Blockdown, though - I have not played with it, but it appears to be an impressive Mojang effort to help kids learn the value of social distancing and to understand the nature of pandemics.

  • Icon for: Michael Chang

    Michael Chang

    Facilitator
    Postdoctoral Research
    May 11, 2021 | 12:06 p.m.

    Cool project! I really appreciate the idea of students building solutions to real-world scientific problems in a virtual Minecraft environment. I wonder if there is an opportunity to broaden the discussion of these scientific/engineering solutions to the ethics of those solutions. If you are gathering resources to build a dam, what are the potential ethical concerns that might arise from taking the dam-building resources from local communities? I could see an opportunity for amazing world-building (possibly co-constructed by the students themselves) that highlights the real-life complexity that emerges from scientific/engineering practice. Would love to know your thoughts about this!

  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 11, 2021 | 02:29 p.m.

    Thanks so much for your thoughts Michael. You make a great point and one that we have been discussing on this and other Minecraft projects. One of the drawbacks of Minecraft is that there is no built-in notion of resource constraints or consequences of actions that may impact the environment in some way. There are games out there that have made progress on the question (e.g., https://play.eco/). Our approach thus far is to at least constrain the player in terms of resources that are made available and include this aspect of design in our educational materials (e.g., talk about the importance of it, reward solutions that minimize impact based on human judgements of solutions).  Dr. Jeff Ginger is a collaborator and co-presenter, and I'm sure will have some additional thoughts since he has brought it up several times.  Thanks again.

  • Icon for: Saira Mortier

    Saira Mortier

    Research Coordinator
    May 11, 2021 | 03:18 p.m.

    Awesome project. The integration of games into education is one of the most powerful tools we have.

    What kiddos are using this right now? Do you have an outreach program to gather local classes or do you take another approach? How do you see yourselves expanding?

  • Icon for: Brian Guerrero

    Brian Guerrero

    Lead Presenter
    Graduate Student
    May 11, 2021 | 06:11 p.m.

    We recently implemented this curriculum at a Middle School located in California named the Western Center Academy thanks to the assistant principal Michael Horton. We saw a lot of success during our stay there and were happy to hear that many of the kids continued to use the mods we used to teach programming while at home. Many of those kids came from underrepresented communities and we had a nice split in genders. We were so happy to see this.

    Right now, we are reaching out to the same school to get a new batch of students to improve on our old curriculum. We are also looking to work with the previous students we had to explore more advanced topics in programming in hopes to see some new creative solutions to STEM problems.

    We are also hoping to work with a local community center in Illinois that helps provide educational opportunities to less privileged kids and get them introduced to programming in Minecraft as well.

    As for our outreach program, we currently have children volunteer to be part of the program and have seen great success with that. We are usually looking for opportunities in informal contexts to get kids working on this project to help it feel a little more natural and inspire interest in these subjects.

    In the future we are hoping to develop the resources on our website https://publish.illinois.edu/stemc-minecraft/ to help instructors explore these topics in their areas.

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    Judi Fusco
    H Chad Lane
    Saira Mortier
  • May 15, 2021 | 04:52 p.m.

    Hi Brian and Chad!  Great project. Keep us posted on the resources and if they get published! 

     
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    H Chad Lane
  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 15, 2021 | 05:12 p.m.

    Thanks Judi, will do!

  • May 12, 2021 | 03:34 p.m.

    This is really exciting work. Thank you for sharing your project. We have a STEM+C project in which we are using Minecraft to teach middle grades students computational thinking skills. Our emphasis is on computational thinking broadly, not specific to coding. I am wondering which content standards you are mapping your gaming experience to (if any). Have you had experiences incorporating supplemental learning materials outside of Minecraft? We have found that supplemental learning materials are necessary to meet our content standards, and we are working on doing this in a way that seamlessly integrates with Minecraft and does not break flow / interrupt the gameplay experience. 

  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 12, 2021 | 07:41 p.m.

    Thanks for watching and commenting, Elizabeth!  I checked out your video and thought it looked great... If I am remembering correctly, I believe I spoke with Cody about it at the STEM+C Summit in the before times and remember being excited to see how your work with Minecraft would evolve. 

    In my group at Illinois, we emphasize informal learning and do a ton of summer camps, some after school, and build tools for learning at home. So the emphasis on standards is not quite as central, but nonetheless relevant. We also chose to focus primarily on coding skills in this early phase and to find out what kinds of solutions kids would come up with given their (typically) vast knowledge of Minecraft and emerging understanding of programming. That said, we did align our goals with the K12CS Framework in a pretty straightforward way, and also point to NGSS for the science/engineering topics we cover. I also did some work in my dissertation (from 2004) on the development of coding skills and we draw from that to some extent. 

    About supplemental learning materials - the most we have done so far is having our campers do research online for related problems/solutions, but it is not a large part of our curriculum just yet. The idea of bringing in other kinds of hands-on activities (like building rockets) is definitely something we have played with and are open to continue exploring.

    It's a great point about breaking flow and in our other MC project we have experienced this often!  We even integrated some of our knowledge instruments into the game using a plugin called SurveyPlus since getting kids to switch to a web browser to fill out forms was definitely a downer for them.  If you have any tips to share, we'd love to hear them!

  • Icon for: Jeremy Roschelle

    Jeremy Roschelle

    Facilitator
    Executive Director, Learning Sciences
    May 13, 2021 | 11:58 a.m.

    Hey, Chad  -- you have an amazing voice-over voice. Good to hear you :)

    You made me laugh with "our guess is they currently have homework and bedtimes"

    This has such potential for scale -- what are you thinking about scale up?

    keep up the good work! 

     
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    H Chad Lane
  • Icon for: H Chad Lane

    H Chad Lane

    Co-Presenter
    Associate Professor
    May 13, 2021 | 12:27 p.m.

    Thanks Jeremy, glad you like it!  I have to give credit for that line to Sharita Forrest, an Illinois News Bureau reporter, who used it in a story about our project when it was funded. It has always stuck with me - it is a great reminder of how important the work we are all doing as a community is. 

    We are working out the content and scenarios now, collecting data on how kids learn Lua and apply their science understanding. So still many kinks to work out and surprises to be had by seeing what kids come up with. That said, we have moved our work to a server which will enable collaborative and remote work, as well as constant access. Ultimately we'd seek to move it to a more structured setup (with onboarding) like we have on WHIMC.

    A second part we are pursuing is in collaboration with Minecraft: Education Edition. They have many tools similar to ComputerCraft and a well-established audience and foothold. Not all, but many of our scenarios could translate to that platform and so we hope to pursue that in the coming year as well.

    thanks again!

  • Icon for: Jeremy Roschelle

    Jeremy Roschelle

    Facilitator
    Executive Director, Learning Sciences
    May 17, 2021 | 12:51 a.m.

    exciting stuff. stay in touch!

     
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    Discussion is closed. Upvoting is no longer available

    H Chad Lane
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