Leaning over a multitouch table, middle schoolers examine a digital underwater environment, shifting blocks across the screen and building lures to capture computerized fish. While the game introduces engineering principles and logic through an entertaining vehicle, the surface of the table is only half the story.
Beneath the table, computers record every move, streaming real-time data to
Called "Oztoc" or "cave" in the Aztec Nahuatl language, the project between the
Developed in coordination with Games+Learning+Society, a research group with the
To explore the game, which purposefully does not have instructions, players combine physical blocks (representing electronic components) to create circuitry and lights to attract undiscovered underwater creatures. With both collaborative and competitive modes, the game allows learning researchers to target and test specific scenarios, asking broader questions about how children can learn to think like engineers as they problem solve, reason and work with each other.
Funded through the
"We're thinking of new and inventive ways to bring in kids who wouldn't have thought that engineering might be an activity they enjoy," says
In addition to gathering analytics from the game, the team plans to capture behavioral data from players, with the goal of adjusting the game scenarios to explore new research questions.
"Because we can change things on the fly to some extent, we can test out theories and we can say, 'Oh, it seems like kids who build more complex circuits have a hard time working with other people.' And then we can change the setup to further test that theory," says
Berland and Lyons say insight gained from the project can help inform how to build collaborative environments in a variety of informal and formal places such as homes and schools.
TNS 30TagarumaMar-140529-4750373 30TagarumaMar
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