Education Week - May 6, 2015 - (Page 13)
Blurring the Lines Between Playing
And Making Digital Learning Games
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
The researchers are seeking to establish a network
of school-based connected-gardening sites in
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
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
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 www.hewlett.org. 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.
EDUCATION WEEK | May 6, 2015 | www.edweek.org | 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
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