SciPlay, in collaboration with the Concord Consortium and Michigan State University, is researching this question by modifying the Geniverse software, which students use to breed fictitious dragons and solve genetic problems in a virtual lab. The National Science Foundation (REESE program) funded project, called GeniGames, will study whether adding game-based design elements to PBS science curricula can improve students’ motivation, engagement and learning.
GeniGames will add three gaming elements to Concord Consortium’s dragon breeding software: a strong story line narrative, a quantifiable goal that students can work towards, and a team competition feature. GeniGames will test the extent to which adding each of these game-based design elements to a PBS curriculum enhances students’ engagement, while still supporting the learning that has been documented with PBS curricula.
The research will take place in New York City high school classrooms studying genetics and at the New York Hall of Science, and will include students from groups underrepresented in science and engineering careers. An advisory committee consisting of experts in genetics, the learning sciences, cognitive science, and gaming will evaluate the results of the project. You can read the abstract here.
Although the project will not be completed until 2014, researchers theorize that bridging formal school curriculums with the informal learning environment of the gaming world will increase students’ motivation, which in turn will increase their learning.
Plus, dragons will be able to add another skill to their resume: breathing new life into genetics education.