This week’s readings for GEDI F18 focused on engaging and inspiring students through the use of problem-based learning and gamification. I found the article by Mark Carnes, History professor at Barnard College, most interesting. The article describes how Dr. Carnes, with the help of hundreds of scholars, created an elaborate series of games called “Reacting to the Past” that has elicited such positive responses from students that the students:
(1) were discussing the games for hours after class
(2) were passionate and dedicated to their roles in the game
(3) volunteered to come early to class to continue to play the games.
This example shows that even if students aren’t necessarily learning the prescribed course material (though they should be through the game), this pedagogical practice is engaging and helps the students learn to solve problems and work in teams, which are important skills to master.
One of the readings mentioned (though I can’t figure out which one now) that gamifying the sciences is easy (paraphrased). My thought is that any game that is effective at meeting a desired goal is challenging to develop, no matter the subject. For example, as Carnes describes, it took hundreds of experts to create “Reacting to the Past.” I can imagine that to produce an effective educational game it does require the knowledge and creativity of many different people. Like Robert Talbert says, students learn more when they have access to an expert’s experiences, thought processes, and learned mental models. What then could be better than having access to all of those experts embedded in a single game?
I started looking into the efforts being made to use gamification in Chemistry education. A quick Google search produced fewer results than I expected. I found one recent article in the Journal of Chemical Education that discussed the use of gamification to help students understand the concept of limiting reagents in stoichiometry. (I should add that the title of the article is “Clash of Chemists: A Gamified Blog To Master the Concept of Limiting Reagent Stoichiometry,” (which relates back to last week’s discussion on blogging.) The game asked students to come up with an analogy to represent the difference between stoichiometric and nonstoichiometric conditions, e.g., if you have 4 pieces of bread and 2 cups of peanut butter you can only make 2 peanut butter sandwiches because you’re limited by the 4 pieces of bread (assuming each sandwich is made of 2 pieces of bread). By the way, this is an example of a nonstoichiometric condition because you have excess peanut butter (assuming you put less than 1 cup of peanut butter on your sandwich). The game involved points and competition among peers. The feedback from students who participated in the game was generally positive and these students performed better in the class on average relative to their classmates. I liked this simple approach to a complex problem that is usually challenging for students to comprehend.
Thus, here is a list of the general chemistry topics. I don’t think anyone else in the class is a chemist, however everyone is required to take general chemistry. Does anyone remember a mental model, story, or have an idea/experience that could help students understand one of these topics? Or maybe add a game idea for a topic in your own field.
- Acids, Bases and pH
- Atomic Structure
- Units and Measurement
- Chemical Bonding
- Periodic Table
- Equations and Stoichiometry
- Solutions and Mixtures