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Minecraft Learning System for Spatial Reasoning in Middle Grades Learners

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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

Computers in Education Division Technical Session 10: STEM Outreach

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

Tagged Topic

Diversity

Page Count

16

DOI

10.18260/1-2--34974

Permanent URL

https://peer.asee.org/34974

Download Count

247

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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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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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Barrett Frank Montana State University

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Shannon D. Willoughby Montana State University

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Brock J. LaMeres P.E. Montana State University - Bozeman

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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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Rachelle Codie Weyerbacher Montana State University

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Rachelle Weyerbacher is a final semester English Education major from Montana State University with minors in English-Writing and Women Gender and Sexuality Studies. She is an advocate for the usage of technology in the classroom in conjunction with writing across curriculums with a focus on digital literacy.

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Abstract

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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