Presented By CyGames
Selene: a lunar construction game

National Science Foundation Tabs Videogame Research for Grant

Date Posted: Tue Sep 30 2008

The Center for Educational Technologies® has received a nearly $2 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study how videogames can help students learn science.

NSF said the award took effect Sept. 15. Two years of funding totaling $1,165,145 are guaranteed, and the final two years of funding totaling $834,322 will be contingent on the availability of funds and scientific progress of the project.

The grant continues research first funded by NASA at the Center for Educational Technologies in 2006. NASA had asked researchers at the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future, the space agency's principal research and development center for educational technologies located at the center, to study how videogames could be used to disseminate NASA science and to assess how well students learn while playing the games. That effort resulted in the creation of Selene: A Lunar Construction GaME, a prototype online videogame in which players learn how Earth's moon was formed as they create their own moon and then pepper it with impact craters and flood it with lava flows.

The NSF funding will allow researchers to continue their studies into educational videogames while refining and reengineering Selene to make the game more robust.

The project is entitled "RUI: CyGaMEs: Cyber-enabled Teaching and Learning Through Game-based, Metaphor-enhanced Learning objects" and is under the direction of Dr. Debbie Denise Reese, senior educational researcher at the Center for Educational Technologies.

"CyGaMEs is important," Reese said, "because it causes and assesses learning within instructional environments scientifically engineered to make learning intuitive and intrinsically rewarding."

Simply put, it helps students learn through gaming. Reese's CyGaMEs theory is an approach for designing videogames that spurs players to learn science concepts by drawing analogies to their experiences playing the game. Done effectively, a videogame using the CyGaMEs method helps players achieve flow, a point of immersion in the game when players best grasp the learning points the game is trying to make. "Flow is optimal experience," Reese said.

The NSF-funded research will allow Reese and her team to further develop the theory and methods of CyGaMEs. These are the first steps toward creation of a cyberlearning network of standards-based instructional environments that employ game-based technologies to guide learning. These environments will use metaphors within the games to make science learning more intuitive to players. CyGaMEs also will assess and report on learner growth.

"We want to make science learning more intuitive, and videogames designed with sound instructional principles can help us achieve that," Reese said.

The new funding continues the need for players ages 13-18 to help with the study by taking part in the Selene game. Both players and adult recruiters are needed to confirm players' ages, get parental consent and gather other players. To sign up as a recruiter or play Selene, visit the Selene website or contact Lisa McFarland at 304-243-2479 or