Here is new research to challenge the notion that video games have to be mindless and sedentary.
A new study reveals how students can learn geometry through movement using the Kinect for Windows.
“Carmen Petrick Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education (second from left), works with undergraduate education majors on movements that are used to help elementary school children learn geometry (credit: Andy Duback)
University of Vermont assistant professor of mathematics education Carmen Petrick Smith has found in a study that elementary school students who interacted with a Kinect for Windows mathematics program while learning geometry showed significant gains in the understanding of angles and angle measurements…
Smith and her research team engaged 30 third- and fourth-grade students in a series of tasks that involved moving their arms to form angles projected on a large Kinect screen.
The screen changed colors when the students’ arms formed acute, right, obtuse and straight angles. A protractor helped students measure and refine their movements. Students were asked to figure out the hidden rules that made each of the four colors appear on the screen.”
- Carmen Petrick Smith, Barbara King, Jennifer Hoyte. Learning angles through movement: Critical actions for developing understanding in an embodied activity. The Journal of Mathematical Behavior, 2014; 36: 95 DOI: 10.1016/j.jmathb.2014.09.001
Learning angles through movement:
Critical actions for developing understanding in an embodied activity
Pre- and post-tests showed gains in understanding of angle and angle measurement.
Connections between physical and abstract representations can support learning.
Exploring a variety of physical representations is associated with learning.
Connections between movements and personal experiences can support learning.
Angle instruction often begins with familiar, real-world examples of angles, but the transition to more abstract ideas can be challenging. In this study, we examine 20 third and fourth grade students completing a body-based angle task in a motion-controlled learning environment using the Kinect for Windows. We present overall pre- and post-test results, showing that the task enhanced learners’ developing ideas about angles, and we describe two case studies of individual students, looking in detail at the role the body plays in the learning process. We found that the development of a strong connection between the body and the abstract representation of angle was instrumental to learning, as was exploring the space and making connections to personal experiences. The implications of these findings for developing body-based tasks are discussed.
- Embodied cognition;
- Motion-controlled technology”
Faculty Biography | Carmen Petrick Smith
Carmen Petrick Smith, Ph.D.
Carmen Petrick Smith is an Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education at the University of Vermont. She received her Ph.D. in Mathematics Education from the University of Texas at Austin where she studied the effects of embodied actions on learning geometry. Her research interests center on embodied cognition, games for learning, and STEM education. She is also a former high school mathematics teacher, and in addition to her work in education, she can solve a Rubik’s cube, is a former Guinness World Record holder for dancing the Thriller, and won the 2008 O. Henry Pun-Off World Championships.
Paul Howard-Jones, of Bristol University, addresses the topic of Learning Games and “…using uncertain reward within computer games to make learning engaging. There is a clear theoretical basis and laboratory-based evidence for a classroom-based approach and so me exploratory research in classrooms that may be helpful in informing pedagogy, but evidence of impact on improved engagement and enhanced academic achievement is limited to young adults” (p.5).
He goes on to write that;
“Mental rotation skills are strong predictors of achievement in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects and results from a single study show that improving mental rotation does lead to improvement in attainment. However, this has only been tested with undergraduate students. Another way of improving these skills might be through video games” (p.6).
Howard-Jones adds that;
“Popular games provide rapid schedules of uncertain reward that stimulate the brain’s reward system. The brain’s reward response can positively influence the rate at which we learn. Beyond just the magnitude of the reward, a range of contextual factors influence this reward response” (p.11).
To read the full report by Paul Howard-Jones,
Neuroscience and Education: A Review of Educational Interventions and Approaches Informed by Neuroscience Full Report and Executive Summary,
Press Release from The Gates Foundation;
SEATTLE–The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation today announced a suite of investments, totaling more than $20 million, focused on identifying and expanding promising cutting-edge learning resources that support teachers and students and bring innovative new instructional approaches into America’s classrooms. These investments support the development of game-based learning applications; math, English language arts and science curricula built in to digital formats; learning through social networking platforms; and embedded assessments through a real-time and engaging environment of experiences and journeys. All these promising resources are aligned to the Common Core State Standards, which are college- and career-ready standards being implemented in more than 40 states.
The Pearson Foundation, one of the major partners in this work, today is also announcing the development of its complete digital curriculum to support the standards. The foundation is pleased to work with Pearson Foundation by providing research and $3 million in funding to help make these tools widely available. In addition to the Pearson Foundation, the foundation is also partnering with Educurious Partners, Florida Virtual School, Institute of Play, Reasoning Mind, Quest Atlantis, Digital Youth Network and EDUCAUSE to develop and promote new applications for learning and assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
“Teachers are telling us what they want, and we are listening,” said Vicki L. Phillips, Director of Education, College Ready, at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We believe these exciting world-class tools have the potential to fundamentally change the way students and teachers interact in the classroom, and ultimately, how education works in America.”
A significant part of these investments announced today include supporting work to build a complete system of digital courses aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The Pearson Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Pearson, the leading learning company, is developing 24 online math and English language arts courses to help teachers and principals implement the standards. These courses will be delivered through a combination of technologies, including video, interactive software, games, social media, and print. Funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support the development of this robust system of courses, including four— two in math and two in English language arts—to be available at no cost on an open platform for schools.
In addition, a $2 million grant to Educurious Partners will help develop high school courses in biology, freshman literature and Algebra I using a project-based learning design and incorporating a social network Internet application. These include two literacy-based and two math-based courses that are contextualized within disciplines, such as engineering or writing in the natural sciences.
The foundation’s $742,996 investment in Reasoning Mind which offers teacher professional development and online elementary math curricula that build algebraic thinking, will pilot a program that makes a single effective math teacher available across multiple classrooms. If successful, one Reasoning Mind-trained teacher can affect the math scores and proficiency of 250 students using the program in different grades at several schools. A Reasoning Mind classroom is a hybrid of online and face-to-face instruction, where the teacher gives each child individual help and attention.
“Technology has advanced how we do so many things today,” added Phillips. “Yet, instead of transforming our schools, technology has generally been placed on top of antiquated models. These new cutting-edge applications have the potential to inspire students and engage them in the way they naturally learn, while giving teachers the flexibility to be creative in their craft and customize tools to their students’ needs.”
The foundation is also investing in several game-based learning tools:
- $2.6 million for iRemix, which is being developed by Digital Youth Network. It will be a set of 20 literacy-based trajectories that allow students to earn badges and move from novice to expert in areas like creative writing.
- $2.5 million to Institute of Play will build a set of game-based pedagogical tools and game-design curricula that can be used within both formal and informal learning contexts.
- $2.6 million to Quest Atlantis is creating video games that build proficiency in math, literacy and science.
All these applications will support the Common Core State Standards.
In addition, a $2 million grant to Educurious Partners will help develop high school courses in biology, freshman literature, and Algebra I through a social network Internet application. The application will allow students and teachers to collaborate with a variety of experts who are working in professional fields that are relevant to what the students are learning in the courses. These courses will also support the Common Core State Standards.
Finally, in June, Next Generation Learning Challenges will award up to $10 million in competitive grants to support promising technology-enabled programs built around embedded assessments that can help students master 7th, 8th, and 9th-grade content and competencies aligned with the Common Core State Standards. Embedded assessments are a way of testing a student’s knowledge in real-time through program such as online math courses that help students self-pace their learning, game-based learning environments, and literacy instruction delivered through mobile phones. While learning in a digital environment that uses embedded assessments, students demonstrate mastery of a subject in order to progress to the next level of a game, course, or application. Next Generation Learning Challenges is a grant competition and community aimed at identifying and expanding promising technologies that can help improve education across the K-12 and postsecondary spectrum. It is led by EDUCAUSE and community partners with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
For more information about the foundation’s investments to advance promising technologies in education, please visit www.gatesfoundation.org\education.
Allie Bidwell, of US News, writes that;
“It seems like kids do everything online these days – and school is no exception. More and more, educators are taking advantage of digital advances to supplement their teaching in the classroom, and are seeing encouraging results. This is especially the case for certain subgroups of students that typically struggle academically, such as English language learners and special education students.
“The classroom you went to school in is almost the exact same classroom you’d walk into today, but the level of engagement our kids get outside of the classroom has changed dramatically,” says Jessica Lindl, general manager of the digital gaming company GlassLab and a spokesperson for the game SimCityEDU. “Teachers are almost the entertainers trying to find whatever tool they can to try to engage their kids.”
Lindl says the SimCityEDU game helps engage kids by helping them improve basic cognitive functions and critical thinking. In the game, students serve as the mayor of a city and are immediately faced with challenges – they must address environmental impacts on the city while maintaining employment needs and other relationships.
Although Lindl says it’s important to use games as a supplement to classroom-based learning, such digital outlets have added benefits.
“There is continuous positive feedback,” Lindl says. “Learners are way more likely to feel comfortable with a video game than taking a standardized test and that’s really powerful.”
Additionally, video games in the classroom provide teachers, administrators and parents with a plethora of data to give assessments on students’ performances that Lindl says is invaluable, not just because of the granularity of the data, but also because it shows student achievements in real time. Other times, parents and students may have to wait weeks or months, depending on the test, to see their results.
“When you think of learning games, engagement and game mechanics is exciting, but there’s a critical value proposition around game-based assessments that we’re seeing,” Lindl says. “Teachers, students and parents can have in the moment understanding of what the child is learning, how they arrived at that learning and accelerate what the learning is, as opposed to waiting weeks down the road.”
Another valuable aspect of using games in the classroom is the competition (and hence reward) mechanisms built into some games.
At Mario Umana Academy in Boston, students from kindergarten through eighth grade have been using a program called First in Math since 2010.”
To read the full article by Allie Bidwell, of US News, click here;
Jonathan Wai wrote a very compelling article on “Why We Need To Value Students’ Spatial Creativity”. He reminds us of the spatially creative inventors and geniuses who have contributed so much to to science and industry. Then he reveals how schools neglects the development of spacial creativity. He makes clear connections between the video games, the development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills and spacial creativity;
“The research is clear that spatial skill is important for STEM careers, and perhaps we can even enhance spatial skill to help more people join the STEM fields. What we need is research directed at understanding the best ways to develop the talent of students who are high spatial, but relatively lower math/verbal. Perhaps spatial video games and online learning coupled with hands on interventions might help these students.”
Wai also writes that;
“Spatial thinking “finds meaning in the shape, size, orientation, location, direction or trajectory, of objects,” and their relative positions, and “uses the properties of space as a vehicle for structuring problems, for finding answers, and for expressing solutions.” Spatial skill can be measured through reliable and valid paper-and-pencil tests—primarily ones that assess three dimensional mental visualization and rotation. Read more about examples of items that measure spatial skill here.
But despite the value of these kinds of skills, spatially talented students are, by and large, neglected. Nearly a century ago, a talent search conducted by Lewis Terman used the highly verbal Stanford-Binet in an attempt to discover the brightest kids in California. This test identified a boy named Richard Nixon who would eventually become the U.S. president, but two others would miss the cut likely because the Stanford-Binet did not include a spatial test: William Shockley and Luis Alvarez, who would go on to become famous physicists and win the Nobel Prize.
Today talent searches often use the SAT and ACT which include math, verbal, and writing sections, but do not include a spatial measure. All of the physicists described above (and Tesla who could do integral calculus in his head) would likely qualify today at least on the math section, and Edison would likely have qualified on the verbal section due to his early love of reading. However, there are many students who have high spatial talent but relatively lower math and verbal talent who are likely missed by modern talent searches and therefore fail to have their talent developed to the extent it could. Also, because colleges use the SAT and ACT for selecting students, many high spatial students likely do not make it onto college campuses.
Nearly every standardized test given to students today is heavily verbal and mathematical. Students who have the high spatial and lower math/verbal profile are therefore missed in nearly every school test and their talent likely goes missed, and thus under-developed. What’s more, spatially talented people are often less verbally fluent, and unlikely to be very vocal. Finally, teachers are unlikely to have a high spatial profile themselves (and typically have the inverted profile of high verbal and lower math/spatial), and although they probably do not intend to, they’re more likely to miss seeing talent in students who are not very much like themselves.”
One topic that Wai did not address is the effect of the gender imbalance, in teaching, on the neglect of spacial creativity in US. Schools. When one gender so dominates the teaching profession, we should expect that certain aspects of creativity will necessarily be neglected. Gender diversity is better for all professions. Gender diversity in the teaching profession would go a long way toward fostering the development of spacial creativity in students.
To read the full article by Jonathan Wai on Mind/Shift click here;
NDTV notes that;
Moreover, students’ interest and enjoyment in playing the math video game increased when they played with another student.
The findings point to new ways in which computer, console, or mobile educational games may yield learning benefits.
“We found support for claims that well-designed games can motivate students to learn less popular subjects, such as math, and that game-based learning can actually get students interested in the subject matter?and can broaden their focus beyond just collecting stars or points,” said Jan Plass, a professor in New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development and one of the study’s lead authors.
“Educational games may be able to help circumvent major problems plaguing classrooms by placing students in a frame of mind that is conducive to learning rather than worrying about how smart they look,” added co-lead author Paul O’Keefe, an NYU postdoctoral fellow at the time of the study.
The researchers focused on how students’ motivation to learn, as well as their interest and performance in math, was affected by playing a math video game either individually, competitively, or collaboratively.
Researchers had middle-school students play the video game FactorReactor, which is designed to build math skills through problem solving and therefore serves as diagnostic for learning.”
To read the full article click here,
- Playing educational video games can boost kids’ motivation to learn (indiavision.com)
- Educational Video Games Help Students with Math Skills (scienceworldreport.com)
- Educational video games can boost motivation to learn, NYU, CUNY study shows (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Co-op gaming is a smart way to teach, says new research (polygon.com)
- Breaking Barriers: Video Games as Tools for Learning and Recovery (thetechscoop.net)
“Games have long been used to engage students. But as game-based learning becomes more prevalent in schools, researchers are interested in how game structure mirrors the learning process. In many games, students explore ideas and try out solutions. When they learn the skills required at one level, they move up. Failure to complete tasks is reframed as part of the path towards learning how to conquer a level.
Universities like Harvard, MIT and the University of Wisconsin’s Game and Learning Society are studying how game-playing helps student engagement and achievement, and well-known researchers in the field like James Paul Gee and University of Wisconsin professor Kurt Squire show are using their own studies to show that games help students learn.
Once the terrain of experimental classrooms, digital games are now becoming more common in classrooms. In a recent survey by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, half of 505 K-8 teachers said they use digital games with their students two or more days a week, and 18 percent use them daily. Educators are using commercial games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft and SimCity for education. The Institute of Play continues to study game-based learning and helps support two Quest to Learn schools, which are based around the idea of games and learning.”
To read the full article click here;
Neil Peirce finds that;
“Although there is a limited amount of academic research in this area, there is evidence of the benefits of specifically designed games, notably in the areas of phonological awareness, differentiating relationships, memory enhancement, coordinated motor skills, and mathematical development. However, these benefits have only been evaluated over several months in a structured preschool environment. The impact of such games being played intermittently in an informal setting is an area of
Download a copy of the report here [PDF].
In her article “Teachers, Students, Digital Games: What’s the Right Mix?” Holly Korbey interviewed a few educators who had some bad ideas about computer games;
“And learning is hard work. The tools children use to manipulate and
change the world and their own neural pathways should reflect the
profundity of that phenomenon; we should have some blisters, form
calluses, break a sweat. Computer games don’t demand that from
The better games are demanding. That is why they are the best games. There are educational games that are very challenging but they are challenging in the way that good play is challenging. It is counter productive to remind children that they learning not playing. The best learning happens when we are playing.
Practicing a skill leads to success, but if the practice is boring then students will be less motivated to engage in the requisite practice (James Gee, 2007). The best digital games provide practice that is very compelling, engaging, and challenging, but never boring. Gamers play not because games are easy but because they are hard. But, they are hard in the right way, to the right degree, and most importantly – they are hard in a fun way. The best games provide the balance of challenge and support. To describe learning as “hard work and not play” is one of the worst possible ways to describe it.
Gee, J.P. (2007). What video games have to teach us about learning and literacy (Rev. ed.). New York: Palgrave McMillian.
To read the full article by Holly Korbey click here;
This could be a great tool for teachers and others who are interested in making learning games.