Virtual On line
June 22, 2020
June 22, 2020
June 26, 2021
Computers in Education
Spatial reasoning is an essential skill for success in STEM fields as it predicts success in STEM learning and affects the gap between boys’ and girls’ STEM aspirations that emerges around middle school. To address the development of spatial reasoning and to target this difference between boys and girls, a portable training system was developed within the popular gaming platform Minecraft to engage students in spatial reasoning activities. This system was tested with learners attending a summer camp in both 2018 and 2019. At the conclusion of the first camp, one concern that was raised that the spatial reasoning activities, which capitalized on the 3D world of Minecraft to create simulations of 2D-to-3D transformation and rotation skills, were disengaging. Learners’ spatial reasoning skills did improve from the pretest to the posttest, but qualitative data indicated that they found the tutorial-type design of the activities tedious. However, learners reported that free play within the Minecraft environment was considerably more engaging. Based on these results, improvements were made to the intervention to utilize spatial reasoning tasks to promote skill development but engage kids in a manner that would intrinsically motivate them to complete the tasks. The purpose of this paper then is to demonstrate how application of the elements and features of video game design led to improvements in student engagement. Lessons learned from this experience hold implications for digital game-based learning (DGBL), a pedagogical approach that leverages the entertainment and engagement students get through video game play toward teaching and learning. Modifications to the spatial skill interventions from year 1 to year 2 were aligned with the what is understood about how video games best engage people. These elements include an appropriate degree of challenge, elements of fantasy, and aspects that provoke curiosity. Games provide competition and clear goals that motivate participants to engage. As a result, a story line was incorporated in year 2 that added fantasy elements and very clear goals. After pilot testing several storylines with the target population, kids were introduced to a fantasy world situated in a post-apocalyptic environment where they needed to navigate mazes to find maps and artifacts that would be used to help them defend the planet from an invading zombie horde. Further, the spatial skill activities were more appropriately scaffolded to provide the appropriate level of challenge. Lastly, the storyline required students to work as teams toward clearly defined goals focused on spatial skills tasks, motivated by a reward structure that allowed for both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Although Year 2 post-camp data analysis is still in process, initial findings show that most students enjoyed most activities, including the storyline structure, embedded spatial skill activities, and practice opportunities within the Minecraft environment. These findings suggest that framing the spatial skill interventions in year 2 based on the characteristics of engaging DGBL strategies better supported learner engagement than the year 1 tutorial/drill structure.
Hughes, B. E., & Lux, N., & Frank, B., & Willoughby, S. D., & LaMeres, B. J., & Weyerbacher, R. C. (2020, June), Minecraft Learning System for Spatial Reasoning in Middle Grades Learners Paper presented at 2020 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual On line . 10.18260/1-2--34974
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