April 13-17, 2010
Denver, Colorado, USA

Demonstrations: Description

In Defense of the Casual Game

James Harold, Space Science Institute, USA
Brad McLain, Space Science Institute, USA

A great deal of attention has been given of late to immersive, multiplayer, 3D games, both as learning tools and environments to develop scientific "habits of mind". And while there has been progress (and even success) in exploring the educational potential of such games, actually producing one represents a significant investment in time and money, placing them beyond the reach of most institutions. So we return to the "casual" game: relatively inexpensive to develop, easily delivered over the web, and capable of increasing complexity and sophistication. The same questions remain, however: what can they accomplish educationally, and can we measure concrete gains?

We report here on an NSF and NASA funded project that uses an open source physics engine (Box2D) in conjunction with Adobe Flash to develop a web delivered, physics based game. Physics education suffers from a wealth of deeply rooted misconceptions on the part of the public... perhaps surprising, given that we live every day of our lives in the physical world. The world, however, does not always present itself in a manner that facilitates a clear understanding of "the rules". Games, on the other hand, can choose to present the world in different, while still accurate, ways.

The activity presented here directly targets well documented misconceptions about gravity and the laws of motion using an asteroid deflection game. With it we are performing a pilot study that examines whether activities such as this can shift a player’s intuition about the physical world, beginning the process of replacing core misconceptions with a physically accurate conceptual framework. In addition, we explore whether a game that is effectively a form of experiential learning needs to incorporate established learning cycle models developed for "real world" activities.

Demonstration: Demonstrations - III [Close Up]

Keywords: flash, physics, games, education, research