Education Week - May 6, 2015 - (Page 13)

Blurring the Lines Between Playing And Making Digital Learning Games BLOGS Over the past two decades, dozens of research studies have concluded that there is educational value in having students create and develop their own video games. Now, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the College of Charleston, in South Carolina, are working to synthesize that research into a coherent theoretical framework in support of "constructionist gaming." Their hope is to influence the growing "serious games" movement, which to date has focused primarily on the development of games for, rather than by, students. "We need [to] embrace a broader agenda that recognizes that opening access and participation in serious games is not solely a matter of making better games for learning, but allowing students themselves to make the games they would like to see and play," write Yasmin B. Kafai and Quinn Burke in a paper presented at the aera meeting. From commercial video games that allow users to alter their avatars' experience, to the opensandbox world of the hugely popular Minecraft, which includes both a "play" and a "create" mode, the world of digital games offers a wide variety of opportunities for students to create, make, and modify digital worlds. Such work, in both classroom and informal settings, has been demonstrated to help students increase their knowledge of both coding and academic content. In one study, for example, 4th graders who developed digital games to teach fractions to younger students better understood both fractions and the computer programming language Logo than a comparison group of students. Constructionist gaming also involves valuable opportunities for collaboration, Ms. Kafai and Mr. Burke wrote. They cited the online communities that have sprung up around such tools as Scratch (a student-friendly computer-programming language) and Arduino (small, inexpensive microprocessors that can be programmed like a computer). And making their own video games also offers students new outlets for creative expression and new opportunities to critically examine popular media, the researchers contend. Ms. Kafai and Mr. Burke are currently working on a book, Connected Gaming: What Video Game Making Can Teach Us About Learning and Literacy, that is to be published by mit Press in fall 2016. "For children in the 21st century, encountering video games is no longer a novel experience in and of itself," they write in a draft of the book's introduction. In order to take serious gaming to the next level, the authors suggest, educators need to provide students with "a dual sense of being both 'player' and 'maker.' " n Still at Odds, Accreditor Tells AACTE It Won't Revise Teacher Ed. Standards | TEACHER BEAT | The gloves are starting to come off in a squabble between the accreditor for teacher-preparation programs and the main membership group for teachers' colleges, the American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. In the latest development, a member of the Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation board of directors said that the group does not plan to accede to the aacte's request to review its accreditation standards-and intimated that such demands aren't appropriate. "Caep is an accreditation group, not an advocacy group," New York University professor Mary Brabeck wrote in a letter last month addressed to the president and chair of the aacte board of directors. "Teacher education accreditation has been criticized for being 'in house' and concerned with meeting the needs of its membership, which is seen by many as a conflict of interest. Having an independent accreditation process is a critical step in restoring the public's trust." At the aacte's annual meeting, it passed a resolution saying it had concerns with caep's governance structure, its standards, and the costs of accreditation. Until then, the organization had been publicly supportive of caep. It has, though, had qualms about some of the accreditor's tenets-especially on student outcomes and teacher selection. Rather than dying out quietly, the disagreement seems to have garnered more attention in the past few weeks. Witness: *The Council of Chief State School Officers wrote a letter to the aacte that said its resolution "is of great concern." *Arthur Levine, the author of a critical 2006 report on education 'Connected Gardening' Through iPads and sensor-based "probeware" technology, along with a new curriculum and student-run gardens, researchers at Arizona State University in Tempe aim to help 4th graders become practicing scientists. Their "connected gardening" initiative allows students to design and develop their own garden plots, then operate technology that provides a constant stream of real-time data about soil-moisture levels, sunlight exposure, temperature, and more. In a related set of classroom lessons, students also learn about data visualization, data analysis, and plant-growth cycles-skills and information that allow them to adjust the design and operation of their gardens as they go. Through qualitative research methods, including observations, interviews, and analysis of student work, assistant professor of learning sciences Steven J. Zuiker and graduate student Kyle Wright concluded that such "cyber-physical systems" hold great potential for increasing student engagement and use of scientific practices. "Typically, garden-based learning has involved very discrete lessons, or powerful after-school programs unrelated to the curriculum," Mr. Zuiker said in an interview. But the "connected gardening" approach allows for interdisciplinary, project-based instruction, he said. It also "brings the classroom outside the school, with the potential to link with the community." The researchers are seeking to establish a network of school-based connected-gardening sites in Southwestern states. Their paper has been accepted for publication in the academic journal Interactive Learning Environments later this year. n schools, wrote an op-ed calling on the preparation field to embrace the standards rather than try to "water them down." *Deans for Impact, a group of education school deans that supports the caep standards, offered to help the accreditor address capacity concerns. In her letter, Brabeck acknowledges that caep needs to keep in open communications with the programs it serves, but says that "that is not the same thing as reviewing the standards with an eye toward revisions." Here's the kicker: She challenges the aacte to make caep accreditation a prerequisite to membership. Study to Examine the Value Of School Science Fairs | CURRICULUM MATTERS | Is holding a middle school science fair a worthwhile endeavor? A team of science educators and researchers funded by a $2 million National Science Foundation grant is hoping to find out. The group is collecting data on science fairs' cost-effectiveness, as well as their impact on learning and on students' interest in science. Despite being a staple of American education, science fairs have "never been really rigorously researched," said Abigail Jurist Levy, the principal research scientist for the four-year project. "As valued as they are by some, and as criticized as they are by others, we really don't know what they offer students in terms of learning experiences and engendering enthusiasm in science." The research team at the Waltham, Mass.-based Education Development Center is currently recruiting middle schools to complete surveys on how their own science fairs are designed and implemented. From there, the researchers will choose 40 varied science fairs from across the country to study in depth. "We don't have an opinion about science fairs' value," said Levy. "We have a real passion for finding an answer about whether they do [have value] and what kind, and we have an appreciation for the scope and complexity of the question." While the sample will be limited to science fairs based in schools, Levy said the results could also have implications for settings that host informal science learning, such as museums and science centers. Science fairs do represent a line in the sand for some people. Last year, a mother made a fake science-fair poster titled "How Gabriela Salgado, left, and Richard Salgado Silverio, 4th graders at Brunson-Lee Elementary School in Phoenix, Ariz., compare visual growth markers from their garden plot using real-time environmental data. Arizona State University researchers are seeking to establish a network of school-based, 'connected' gardening sites in southwestern states. Coverage of "deeper learning" that will prepare students with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in a rapidly changing world is supported in part by a grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, at Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage. Much Turmoil Does the Science Project Cause Families?" that struck a chord with other parents. Afterward, in a piece for the Huffington Post, she wrote: "I'm definitely not anti-science or anti-intellectual in any way. ... [But] any elementary school project that requires a lot of parental time, energy, resources, support, cajoling, and financial investment is just bad. Such projects privilege students from higherincome families for all the obvious reasons." Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has been hosting a White House science fair for five years running. "We've got to celebrate the winners of our science fairs as much as we celebrate winners of football or basketball," he said at the event in March. -STEPHEN SAWCHUK -LIANA HEITIN EDUCATION WEEK | May 6, 2015 | | 13 Arizona State University

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - May 6, 2015

Education Week - May 6, 2015
Some Balk as Testing Rolls Ahead
Nevada Exams Hit Tech Trouble
Science Standards Pop Up in Districts
Undocumented Students Strive to Adapt
State Takeover Gives Mass. District a Fresh Start
News in Brief
Report Roundup
Chicago Schools Probe Prompts AASA to End Alliance With Firm
Researchers Target Ways to Design Better Mathematics Text Materials
GED Revisions Spur Bumpy Year for Equivalency Exams
After Baltimore Unrest, Students and Educators Seek Understanding
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: New Research Probes Frontiers of Tech Learning
Blogs of the Week
Efforts to Change Federal Aid Formulas Prove Tricky
New Research Emerges On LGBT Parents
Advocates for Special Ed., Gifted Weigh Details in ESEA Rewrite Bill
Blogs of the Week
Marriage Issue Gets Full Airing at High Court
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace

Education Week - May 6, 2015