On Monday, May 12, 2014, some of the SciPlay team attended the New York City Museum Educators Roundtable annual conference and presented a poster describing the evolution of the SciGames project, now known as the SciPlay Physics Noticing Tool.
NYCMER organizes an annual conference for colleagues to exchange ideas, research, best practices, and programming approaches. This year’s conference theme was “Refresh and Reengage: Museum Communities.” SciPlay’s poster, titled SciGames Implementation and Lessons Learned: Investigating Connections Between Children’s Natural Play and Science Learning, described the evolution of the SciGames project from early prototypes that began in 2011 to the final version that seems almost unrelated to its predecessors. Many of the themes have remained unchanged:
- Bridging informal and formal settings, specifically moving the fun from the playground into the learning environment of the classroom.
- Reasoning about students’ own data that is generated during the playground experience.
- Make it fun! We always want the SciGames experience to be a positive one.
- Building an experience that opens up kids’ ability to critical think and problem solve. NYSCI appreciates opportunities for divergent thinking and divergent solutions to problems.
The major lessons learned seem obvious:
- K.I.S.S. – Keep it simple. Everything from our design principles to the interaction experience have been stripped down to the minimum necessary to meet learning and engagement goals. In addition, real-life physics is complicated and difficult to think though so simplifying what users see on the screen really will help understanding and make it easier to reason about the science on the playground.
- Noticing not gaming. NYSCI as an institution has learned to move away from games and highly structured experiences and is excited to create more and more “noticing tools” that help students notice the math and science in their everyday life. This noticing allows for different, divergent thinking, problem solving, and more opportunities for kids to learn independently and together in ways that benefit them the most.
- People and play at the center. In the early designs, we though this meant that using sensors to capture data from students. We were highly dependent on external sensors which were never as reliable as they needed to be. Instead we have refocused so that the data (from videos captured of students) maps to the experience (what do you feel when you do an activity) in a meaningful and less abstract way.
SciGames is a research and development project housed at New York Hall of Science. NYSCI has been prototyping the SciGames tools for the last 4 years and has used evidenced-based research to revise and improve the design. The focus of this session is to share the conceptualization, development, and implementation of the SciGames tools on playgrounds and science classrooms and to share lessons learned and best practices in the use of technology to connect formal and informal settings. We will tell the story of the evolution of SciGames, present the final products, discuss tool-adoption strategies, and formative research practices.