Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Pre-Service Teachers Learn to Teach with Serious Games

Academic journal article Journal of STEM Education : Innovations and Research

Pre-Service Teachers Learn to Teach with Serious Games

Article excerpt

Technologies are rapidly changing and so are standards for how we as educators need to respond. Students who begin college this year will find the landscape of technology has changed by the time they complete their college degree and enter the classroom as teachers. In 2015, President Obama initiated the ConnectHome project to bring all Americans into this rapidly changing environment and have access to digital opportunities (White House, 2015). The US Department of Education in 2016 published their Future Ready Learning Report with goals for technology infrastructure that ensure that all teachers and students: be connected to high-speed internet in and out of school, have access to mobile devices to connect students and teachers for collaboration, and have high quality digital learning content (U.S. Department of Education Office of Educational Technology, 2016a, p. 65).

Connecting students and teachers to technologies is not enough. In 2015, the Council for Accreditation of Teacher Preparation (CAEP) issued standards that require new candidates for teaching to model and apply technology in their engagement with students (CAEP, 2015). Additionally, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) released new standards for teachers in 2018. These new standards emphasize the need for teachers to scaffold student learning with technologies, and in turn, the need for teacher education programs to prepare future teachers to create student-centered learning with technology.

Preparing teachers to meet these standards is not just about training them to use Google classrooms or new apps, like Kahoot!. The challenge goes beyond merely adapting to change. A frontier in educational technology that is emerging in public consciousness, called "serious gaming," challenges teachers to connect their instruction to the everyday games students use in their lives (Takeuchi, 2014). From the perspective of'serious gaming," the real challenge is how to take a technology that students currently use for their own enjoyment, and link it to meaningful academic content and objectives, without losing the appeal of the technology.

In this study, we describe the design and evaluation of a project in an introductory education class for students with an interest in teaching. The project was designed to prepare students to use Minecraft as a part of their lesson planning in a wide array of content areas. Over three semesters, Fall 2015, Spring 2016, and Fall 2016, 55 students in Siena College's Education 210 Course, Issues in Contemporary American Education, participated in the same sequence of experiences designed to help them use Minecraft for teaching academic content. Students completed a pre-post test survey assessing their skill using technology, and their confidence in using technology to create lessons for middle- or high- school-aged students. In Fall 2016, 43 students wrote a reflection essay on their experiences with technology in the course. This assignment was added to the course in Fall 2016 to provide a free-response writing assignment to describe the impact of the project in their own words.

Serious Games

In the world of education, the terms "serious games" and "game-based learning" are used synonymously. Serious games or game-based learning must have both entertainment and pedagogical value. Zyda (2005), provided a definition, "Serious game: a mental contest, played with a computer in accordance with specific rules, that uses entertainment to further government or corporate training, education, health, public policy, and strategic communication objectives" (p. 25). Serious games include games developed to be educational tools and those that were developed primarily as entertainment, but have been adapted or redesigned for educational purposes.

Use of games to teach academic content is a promising avenue of technology use to promote motivation and engagement. Educational versions of popular programs are cropping up with games such as MinecraftEDU, KerbalEDU, CivilizationEDU, and games developed for STEAM for schools (Lorence, 2015; Donnell, 2013). …

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