Researchers Demonstrate Teaching Via Video Games
To some people, video games only represent a waste of time that distracts players from more important and valuable ventures. Thankfully not everyone believes this and now researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas have even demonstrated some of the potential games have to do more than waste time. By adding realistic chemistry to Minecraft, the researchers found the student test-subjects were able to learn the science involved, without an in-class science instruction.
The name of the mod is Polycraft World and thanks to the chemistry professors that worked on the project as well, thousands of methods exist in it to produce over one hundred polymers from the thousands of chemicals available. Natural rubber can be used to make pogo sticks while crude oil can be processed with other materials to make a jetpack. A Wiki was also created for the students to look to, helping to find the right difficulty balance as making the game too easy will lead to players losing interest and being too hard will just frustrate them. Among the results were non-chemists building factories to build polyether ether ketones, which are very difficult to synthesize.
What the researchers want to see is the development of games that players can learn advanced subjects from, but can be played without accompanying any classroom learning. Right now though Polycraft World is also impacting classroom learning as it can monitor how players interact with it and how often they have to turn to a guide. This information on learning methods can be used to improve teaching methods to better help students.
Next the researchers want to add an economics portion to the Minecraft mod, and they are already working with economists to achieve this. Eventually players will be able to form governments and companies so a currency can be minted and distributed, with goods propping up the currency, hopefully forming a sustainable economy.
Source: University of Texas at Dallas