Recent Developments in Science Learning Games for Informal Science Education

Walt Scacchi, Joe Adams

There is growing recognition in many communities that computer game culture and technology are increasingly drawing attention to their potential value in contributing to educational or learning experiences. Much of this attention has been directed to either

  • the development of games that focus on embodying emerging educational concepts or approaches
  • the use of commercially available computer games in educational settings
  • how current computer games facilitate learning of more/less desirable social behaviors by game players of different ages

Relatively little attention has been directed to investigating whether and how computer game techniques might be developed to support applications for informal science education in physical and online settings that reach out to diverse communities of learners in ways that can be associated with national and regional science education standards as well as contemporary science research practices. Furthermore, developing techniques that can scale to a thousand of learners per day (up to 10,000 students per month on average), also poses new and interesting challenges for creative game play, collaborative learning, and infrastructure for large-scale evaluation.

We will present three interrelated talks that describe recent developments in science learning games (SLGs) and focus in particular on a large-scale project that integrates physical and online game environments for informal science education and that recently went into operation at the Discovery Science Center (DSC) in Santa Ana, California.

The first presentation will focus attention on the physically-embodied SLG environment at DSC called DinoQuest, the second presentation on a publicly accessible, web-based SLG environment at DSC called DinoQuest Online, and the third presentation on how such integrated SLGs can be developed, deployed, and operated at other regional science centers within the US and internationally through an emerging approach we refer to as networked science centers for massively multiplayer online science learning games (MMOSLG). Along the way, we will also identify opportunities for research and educational partnerships that can arise from ongoing progress with such a project and approach. Last, further details on this project and approach can be found in materials recently presented at the 2007 Game Developers Conference as “Innovations in informal science education: DinoQuest and DinoQuest Online,” (PDF available)

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