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Gaming Spatial-Skill Development: Building STEM Pathways with the Use of the Minecraft Gaming Platform

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Conference

2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access

Location

Virtual On line

Publication Date

June 22, 2020

Start Date

June 22, 2020

End Date

June 26, 2021

Conference Session

NSF Grantees: K-12 Session 2

Tagged Topic

NSF Grantees Poster Session

Page Count

6

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34698

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34698

Download Count

218

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Paper Authors

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Bryce E. Hughes Montana State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0001-9414-394X

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Bryce E. Hughes is an Assistant Professor in Adult and Higher Education at Montana State University, and holds a Ph.D. in Higher Education and Organizational Change from the University of California, Los Angeles, as well as an M.A. in Student Development Administration from Seattle University and a B.S. in General Engineering from Gonzaga University. His research interests include teaching and learning in engineering, STEM education policy, and diversity and equity in STEM.

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Shannon D. Willoughby

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Brock J. LaMeres Montana State University

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Dr. Brock J. LaMeres is a Professor in the Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at Montana State University (MSU) and the Director of the Montana Engineering Education Research Center (MEERC). LaMeres is also the Boeing Professor at MSU where he is responsible for initiatives to improve the professional skills of engineering graduates. LaMeres teaches and conducts research in the area of computer engineering. LaMeres is currently studying the effectiveness of online delivery of engineering content with emphasis on how the material can be modified to provide a personalized learning experience. LaMeres is also researching strategies to improve student engagement and how they can be used to improve diversity within engineering. LaMeres received his Ph.D. from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He has published over 90 manuscripts and 5 textbooks in the area of digital systems and engineering education. LaMeres has also been granted 13 US patents in the area of digital signal propagation. LaMeres is a member of ASEE, a Senior Member of IEEE, and a registered Professional Engineer in the States of Montana and Colorado. Prior to joining the MSU faculty, LaMeres worked as an R&D engineer for Agilent Technologies in Colorado Springs, CO where he designed electronic test equipment.

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Barrett Frank Montana State University

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Elaine Marie Westbrook Montana State University

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Elaine Westbrook received a B.S. in Chemistry from Kennesaw State University in 1993. After a decade in industry, she turned her attention to education and taught secondary science for the following decade. In 2014, she received a Masters in Science Education from Montana State University. She is currently a doctoral student in the Education department at Montana State and researches gender differences of informal STEM education in rural areas.

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Nick Lux Montana State University Orcid 16x16 orcid.org/0000-0002-7434-0660

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Dr. Nicholas Lux has is an Associate Professor of Curriculum and Instruction in MSU’s Department of Education. His teaching and research interests are in the area of educational technology.  He has worked in the fields of K-12 and higher education for 18 years, and currently teaches in the Montana State University Teacher Education Program. He has experience in educational technology theory and practice in K-12 contexts and teacher education, with a focus on STEM teaching and learning, technology integration, online course design and delivery, program evaluation, and assessment. Dr. Lux’s current research agenda is STEM teaching and learning in K-12 contexts, technology integration in teacher preparation and K-12 contexts, educational gaming design and integration, and new technologies for teaching and learning.

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Abstract

The ability to make spatial judgments and visualize objects in space has been found to be an indicator of students’ future achievement in STEM. Moreover, spatial intelligence has also been shown to be one of the only cognitive areas in which male outperform females, and these differences tend to most often emerge in the middle school years. There are many theories to explain how adolescents develop spatial skills, but research indicates that one promising approach is engaging in a 3D environment. Therefore, better understanding how best to build K-12 learners’ spatial skills within a 3D gaming environment in an effort to improve STEM success and pathways seemed a prudent direction for inquiry. Consequently, our team hypothesized that a 3D gaming environment like Minecraft could provide the platform needed to support the development of learners’ spatial skill. We also hypothesized that we could leverage the popularity of the game to build student interest in the activities that might be used to build those spatial skills. To do so, our team delivered a series of summer camps in 2018 and 2019 at which participants engaged in Minecraft-based activities that were designed to target two specific spatial skills: mental rotation and 2D-to-3D transformation.

The two camps were focused on those same spatial skills, but each camp included a unique intervention design. For summer camp 2019, the research team constructed two pilot modules to support the development of those mental rotation and 2D to 3D transformation skills. This intervention was completed in the Minecraft environment, but was primarily designed in a tutorial-type or drill-and-practice fashion. Once summer 2018 participants (n=32) completed the series of mental rotation and 2d to 3d transformation within Minecraft, they engaged in semi-structured free play. Qualitative findings from summer camp 2018 indicated that a more engaging structure was needed for the spatial skills activities. Teacher consultants corroborated these findings. Consequently, summer camp 2019 used a fantasy-world storyline to drive the spatial skill activities. Participants in this camp (n=28) were given a narrative that guided them to work together within Minecraft to complete a series of puzzles. The goal of this storyline was to solve the puzzles, in this case spatial skill activities, in order to obtain a artifacts and maps needed to save the world from an “invading zombie horde”.

Pre- and post-tests were administered at each camp to better understand the possible influence of the Minecraft-based activities on learners’ spatial skills. Findings from summer camp 2018, where the game was structured more like a tutorial/drill-and-practice game, suggest that learners did increase their mental rotation skills. However, no growth was found in students’ 2d-to-3d transformation skills. Conversely, preliminary results from summer camp 2019 data suggest that, although the new storyline approach was more engaging for learners, no spatial skill growth was found. However, early results indicate that students were significantly more confident in their ability to solve spatial skill puzzles at the end of the camp. In addition, early results suggest that participants were able to solve the puzzles more quickly at the end of summer camp 2019. Despite no conclusive findings indicating the intervention helped students grow their spatial skills, results do indicate that participants were more confident in their spatial abilities and able to more swiftly solve spatial skill problems.

Further research is needed to understand why significant spatial skill growth was found in Summer 2018, where the students reported the activities as less engaging, yet no spatial skill growth was found in summer 2019, where students reported high engagement from the storyline-based intervention. Further, results from the two camps will be used to continue to adjust the spatial skills activities for a summer camp to be delivered in 2020. Full findings will be included in the final poster. This project is funded by the National Science Foundation under Award DRL- 1720801.

Hughes, B. E., & Willoughby, S. D., & LaMeres, B. J., & Frank, B., & Westbrook, E. M., & Lux, N. (2020, June), Gaming Spatial-Skill Development: Building STEM Pathways with the Use of the Minecraft Gaming Platform Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34698

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