Presented By CyGames
Selene: a lunar construction game

CyGaMEs Selected to Highlight NSF Research

Date Posted: Tue Jan 5 2010

The CyGaMEs research at the Center for Educational Technologies is one of only four projects funded through the National Science Foundation REESE program invited to present at an upcoming symposium.

The 2010 annual conference of the Society for Research on Educational Effectiveness will take place March 4-6 at the Fairmont Hotel in Washington, DC, and focus on research into practice as its theme. Given that the NSF funds 232 REESE mathematics and science projects, the selection of CyGaMEs is noteworthy, said Dr. Debbie Denise Reese, senior educational researcher at the Center for Educational Technologies and leader of the CyGaMEs research.

The project, which started as NASA-funded research at the NASA-sponsored Classroom of the Future, examines the effective design and assessment of educational videogames and ways they can present important science concepts.

CyGaMEs stands for Cyberlearning through Game-based, Metaphor Enhanced Learning Objects. The National Science Foundation (NSF) funded the project in September 2008 for two years at almost $1.2 million and then another $800,000-plus for two more years contingent on available funding. CyGaMEs features an approach to instructional videogame design in which players use metaphors—concepts they already understand—in order to play a game and learn new, more difficult concepts. The project also embeds assessment tools for researchers into the game itself.

The research began with funding from NASA in 2006 and resulted in the creation of the Selene videogame. In Selene players learn difficult geological concepts like accretion, differentiation, impact cratering, and volcanism by applying these science concepts to help players move toward the game's goal of building the Earth's moon. Players construct the moon, then pepper it with impact craters and flood it with lava to experience how our moon formed and changed over time. All through the game Selene tracks each player's behavior to measure learning and the player's response to the game environment.

The NSF grant includes funding for updates and improvements to the game. Second Avenue Software of Pittsford, NY, is handling that part of the project.

At the conference Reese will summarize a quantitative analysis demonstrating that the CyGaMEs toolset for embedded assessment of learning within instructional games measures growth in conceptual knowledge by quantifying player behavior. She notes that this is important because the development of accurate and authentic instructional game assessment toolsets is essential if education is to enhance its responsiveness to the needs and strengths of each individual learner.