David Hatfield is a University of Wisconsin-Madison Learning Sciences graduate student who enjoys playing with others and new technology. In a past life (as an English Literature graduate student at North Carolina State University), this involved employing text interactive environments and the early world wide web as learning environments for the English Composition and Rhetoric classes he taught. In a life before that, his undergraduate studies of terrestrial and aquatic ecology at Virginia Tech provided opportunities to use a variety of interesting scientific tools. He has also consulted in the educational technology world, working with both academic and corporate clients seeking to bring innovative and effective technologies into the service of teaching and learning. He is currently researching how web-based game engines can be designed to help young people more easily and effectively participate as professionals in science journalism and thereby develop a deeper sense of science and technology in society.
From swords and sorcerers, to siege princesses and hobbits, role playing games often conjure up images of medieval fantasy.
In science.net, we look at a different kind of role playing gameóan epistemic game in which middle school students work as reporters in a role playing game based on the authentic practices of science journalists.
At the center of science.net is Byline, a web-based journalism game engine for writing, editing, and publishing stories in an online science newspaper. By using a custom-developed journalism markup language, separating story writing from reading, and making published stories available via the internet, the Byline engine lets students work as real-world science reporters, and learn to think about, write about, and value science the way journalists do.
In the game of school science, most students donít see the importance or relevance of science. Through playing science.net, students come to see science as more complex, more powerful and more relevant to their lives and to their communities. They learn to think about science as it relates to society, and about societyís need to be informed about science. In short, they begin to think like science journalists.