Following on from a previous post on Minecraft education I have recently came across some news in science daily from February 2017 regarding the use of teaching Science within my Minecraft Science research.
Studies are taking place by Scientists to see if children engage more in teaching Science through the game of Minecraft and its effectiveness over more traditional class room methods.
The University of Texas is conducting a Study of 39 students majoring in various subjects and asking them to play an advanced edition of Minecraft so they can experiment in learning Chemistry with no class science briefings.
The experiment was managed by Dr. Walter Voit who created a new Mod for the game that would allow the incorporation of Chemical elements and compounds into the game.
Players are able to harvest and process natural rubber for which they can make pogo sticks and also Crude oil that can be converted using distillation and Chemical synthesis to manufacture a jetpack.
Dr. Voit is quoted saying “Our goal was to demonstrate the various advantages of presenting educational content in a gaming format,” Dr. Voit specializes in materials science and engineering professor working from the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and goes on to quote “An immersive, cooperative experience like that of ‘Polycraft World’ may represent the future of education.
Dr. Voit was joined on the experiment by Dr. Ron Smaldone, who is an assistant professor of chemistry, who gave the mod its accuracy as a chemistry teaching tool.
Dr. Christina Thompson, a chemistry lecturer helped to supervise the course in which the research was conducted, and joined Dr. Smaldone in mapping out and writing the assembly instructions for ever increasingly complex compounds. Dr. Voit led a team of programmers that worked for a full year on developing of the platform.
He then explained that eventually they realised they had something very special in the making and showed they could build a very comprehensive world on Minecraft in order to teach students.
A lot of the work and research was done on in-game objectives that could offer a proportional difficulty-reward ratio.
Dr. Voit explained That If the game is too difficult, people will get frustrated. If it’s too easy, they lose interest,” His aim was to get the right balance so the game was both addictive and engaging.
The team were able to produce over 2,000 methods for building more than 100 different polymers from thousands of available chemicals enabling the skills that Minecraft users have and applying them to scientific principles explained Dr. Smaldone
Students who participated in the experiment were able to increase their processing of the game with no prior tuition. Dr Voit goes on to explain:
“We’ve had complete non-chemists build factories to build polyether ether ketones, which are crazy hard to synthesize,” he said. “The demands of the one-hour-a-week class were limited, yet some students went all-out, consuming all this content we put in.”
The Co-author of the paper Dr. Monica Evans, an associate dean for graduate programs and associate professor in the School of Arts, Technology, and Emerging Communication, is a co-author leads the University’s game design program. This Program is actually ranked as one the top programs in the country by The Princeton Review.
In an Interview Dr. Evans talked about the difficulty in making a good video game that is also educational but this game has harnessed the Global popularity of the original game which is even more educational as it has university level development.
The view of the Academics involved in its creation see this new edition called Polymer world as an early stage of development of a new format in learning as other versions of the games mostly serve as a partner to classroom teachings, Polymer world makes the user stand alone as it comes with no class room instructions. This is relevant as it allows the tutors to monitor the level of data returned on the Students performance.
This is explained by Dr. Voit; “We can measure what each player is doing at every time, how long it takes them to mix chemicals, if they’re tabbing back and forth to our Wiki, and so on,” Dr. Voit said. “It gives us all this extra information about how people learn. We can use that to improve teaching.”
Dr. Smaldone agrees with his colleague by going further: “With traditional teaching methods, I’d walk into a room of several hundred people, and walk out with the same knowledge of their learning methods,” he said. “With our method, it’s not just the students learning — it’s the teachers as well, monitoring these player interactions. Even in chemistry, this is a big innovation. Watching how they fail to solve a problem can guide you in how to teach better.”
There is a theory that the game must convince a certain doubters that gaming cannot serve useful purposes however if that’s the case then why have UK schools encouraging the use of Minecraft to stimulate school children?
I’d like to give a special thanks to Science Weekly on their excellent article and I would love to hear your comments on yet another breakthrough in Minecraft science research.