Using Technology to Improve Young Children’s Science Learning

The DARPA ENGAGE program, under which this project is funded, is directed towards research and development of games that will enhance learning and interest for students at grades K-3 in science content areas (e.g., physics, chemistry, basic sciences). The games will also integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) skills (e.g., perspective taking, empathy, appropriate response to conflict) and activities into game play. This may involve the child playing game activities that involve interpersonal conflict between game characters, cooperation between games characters, or one character being mean to another character (“bullying”). CRESST’s role in this program is as educational content specialists throughout the game development process. In the first phase of the project, CRESST’s work will focus on the identification of science content and learning processions to be included in the designed games, development of outcome measures/metrics (i.e., assessments), and design and review of a research plan for later phases of the project (note that the research plans that will be developed as part of the phase 1 work will then be submitted to IRB for review as they are developed). Underlying much of this phase 1 work will be the development of an ontology, or knowledge map, of the science content (e.g., chemistry, physics, basic science), and cognitive demands (e.g., problem solving) that will be covered in the designed games. As part of this ontology development process we will conduct focus groups with teachers at the relevant grade levels (K-3) about both their science content instruction and their use of instructional technology/games in the classroom.

We will collect data from students (grades K-2) on different component of the games during the development process, as well as studying the reliability and validity of science and social and emotional learning assessments that might be used in later versions of the game.

We will also conduct internet-based data collection to explore approaches for involving external contributions via the online community that will contribute to the quality and efficiency of research and development of science and social emotional learning games. There are three strands of activities proposed for these crowdsourcing studies: (a) the use of internet-based tasks to collect data in support of game development and testing; (b) researching methodologies to support the acquisition of high-integrity output from internet-based tasks; and © generating tools to support internet-based data collection.