1. Lindsey Tropf
  2. Founder & CEO
  3. Expanding Tyto Online: Earth & Space Science Quests & Sandbox for Middle School
  4. https://www.tytoonline.com/
  5. Immersed Games
  1. Caroline Lamarque
  2. http://www.carolinelamarque.com
  3. Creative Director
  4. Expanding Tyto Online: Earth & Space Science Quests & Sandbox for Middle School
  5. https://www.tytoonline.com/
  6. Immersed Games
  1. Melissa Peterson
  2. Instructional Designer
  3. Expanding Tyto Online: Earth & Space Science Quests & Sandbox for Middle School
  4. https://www.tytoonline.com/
  5. Immersed Games
  1. Aubrey Rushe
  2. Game Designer
  3. Expanding Tyto Online: Earth & Space Science Quests & Sandbox for Middle School
  4. https://www.tytoonline.com/
  5. Immersed Games
Public Discussion
  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 11:32 a.m.

    Hello, everyone!  Thanks so much for taking the time to watch our video. If you want to check out the game, it's available at https://www.tytoonline.com/

    We're also working on further tools and improvements based on what we've learned in our first two playtests and iterations, including making an entire ocean biodome for our climate change storyline for students to get to do more hands-on experimentation with the coral.

    Looking forward to your ideas and questions this week!

     
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    Jamie Noll
  • Small default profile

    Michael Fabiano

    May 13, 2019 | 12:33 p.m.

    Great platform for the students. Very informative and concise presentation. 

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 01:00 p.m.

    Thank you, Michael!

  • Icon for: Sally Crissman

    Sally Crissman

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 02:10 p.m.

    Hi You did a good job putting a lot of information in less than 3 minutes! Are the games intended (designed) to replace curriculum units on, for example, weather? Have you compared outcomes. in terms of learning science concepts, understanding practices and crosscutting concepts. for students who use the games in various ways? 

    Can games alone do the job of introducing students to middle school earth science content - is there evidence?

    Sally

  • Icon for: Melissa Peterson

    Melissa Peterson

    Co-Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 02:54 p.m.

    Hi Sally,

    Thank you for your questions! We design Tyto Online to be used as a stand-alone resource for home-school students and non-school gamers, but we also ensure that it is designed to support traditional classroom education. Games are particularly useful for allowing students to interact with and experiment with phenomena which are impossible to experiment with in the classroom. Secondarily, they require less hands-on facilitation than a simulation that covers the same material, so this allows Tyto Online to be a more flexible tool for delivering portions of a curriculum. 
    I recommend looking into Jim Gee's work on how games allow students to inhabit new roles and transfer knowledge to the real world. 

     
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    Lindsey Tropf
  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 03:41 p.m.

    Thank you for your thoughtful questions, Sally.

    To add a bit more to what Melissa said:

    • We've designed this as a supplement; one day, we may want to explore Core curriculum claims, but not quite yet!  Its main use at the moment is allowing students to engage in direct, hands-on problem solving as they do the actions of a scientist with a problem or phenomena set in context. So instead of watching a video about rain shadow and being expected to self-sustain interest from there, they can actually experiment with it directly in the game. We therefore see it mainly replacing worksheets and videos.
    • We're proposed two main models for adoption, which we are exploring with teachers: (1) Concept introduction, i.e. you can use our anchoring phenomena and then go from there with in-class instruction; and (2) Concept expansion, i.e. teach it how you would normally but then use the game to have hands-on experiences that let students apply the concept in new contexts within the game (i.e. "Exploration" in a 5E model).
    • As part of our Phase 1 work, we've only done a pre/post, not a comparison yet.  That is part of our Phase 2 work to compare using the game as a supplement vs. "business as usual" curriculum. We are also seeking a post-doc through an NSF funding program ( https://iperf.asee.org/ ) to help work on studying these models and how outcomes might vary -- like your questions on SEPs and CCCs, which are exactly the outcomes we're aiming for.

     

    In terms of if games alone can do the job, the evidence overall with literature shows that games alone can teach, but a teacher using the game is far more powerful... of course!  The game + the practices together are essential, which is part of why we have teacher tools with assessment, suggested activities and challenges, and are putting more efforts into that as part of our Phase II research!

  • Icon for: Sally Crissman

    Sally Crissman

    Facilitator
    May 13, 2019 | 06:07 p.m.

    Back in the olden days, when computer simulations were new (as were classroom computers), I used your Model 2, especially Tom Snyder's Decisions Decisions work and a prototype that we loved but that never took off, Volcanoes. Students worked in teams and used a scientifically realistic story line and acted in various roles to make decisions that had consequences. Was the volcano likely to erupt? Should the mayor call for an evacuation?   Like your games, students entered into a new reality that put their learning to work. Stimulating and good for diverse learners to get to interact with content via different media, I look forward to your Phase 2 findings!

     
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    Lindsey Tropf
  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 13, 2019 | 07:42 p.m.

    That sounds awesome!  We're definitely looking forward to a volcano storyline in Phase 2, and glad to hear you had success with the approach.

    Love your comment on diverse learners -- we have a call out on our website about how we've designed to reach underrepresented groups, too:  https://www.tytoonline.com/ngss/#allstandards

    Thanks for your excitement, always great to chat with educators!

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 03:55 a.m.

    Thank you, Lindsey!  The video is wonderful and your project sounds amazing.  The video mentions the NGSS alignment which is very impressive.  What were your greatest considerations when making your computer simulations connect with NGSS? 

     
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    Lindsey Tropf
  • Icon for: Melissa Peterson

    Melissa Peterson

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:04 p.m.

    Hi DeLene!
    When we design our simulations and storylines, we keep the middle school NGSS for the topic in front of us at all times. We spend a lot of time making sure that each piece of the standard is included within the content we are creating. As you might expect, sometimes this makes for an incredibly difficult design process! 
    We also focus on the more overarching goal of supporting NGSS storylines. We start with phenomena that allow us to illustrate the core ideas, and then create game spaces that allow students to work on their science and engineering practices and cross-cutting concepts. For instance, in some of our newer storylines (in production now!), we are focusing on correlation versus causation within the broader phenomena of coral bleaching events.

     
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    DeLene Hoffner
    Lindsey Tropf
  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:46 p.m.

    I also wanted to add that we spent a lot of time understanding how we could make truly three-dimensional NGSS content -- where students are using the data gathered through their use of Science & Engineering Practices through the lens of Crosscutting Concepts, in order to understand the Disciplinary Core Ideas. We've built game mechanics that have the students directly engage in these: for example, engaging in argumentation from evidence with our argument builder that you see briefly around 0:51 in the video.

    The Sandbox where they manipulate a planet also allows for more open experimentation so the teacher and students have a bit more agency in how to to approach it. We worked with the teacher in our playtest to present challenges and add additional scaffolding for the classes that needed it. Even though we don't have explicit mechanics here that say, "hey, practice this SEP" like we do with quests, students are having to use data, experimentation, and considering patterns/cause & effect/scale/etc. in order to accomplish goals. Going forward, we do need to make more materials to help teachers call these out more explicitly, and help them understand how the students are using them.

  • Icon for: Acacia McKenna

    Acacia McKenna

    Facilitator
    May 14, 2019 | 12:28 p.m.

    This sounds like such a great program to engage students in a wide range of topics. You mentioned that "96% of students were interested in using gaming for other topics in the class" which is a very interesting data point. Were you able to gauge any barriers for students that were unfamiliar with gaming? If so, how did you go about introducing the concept of gaming for science concepts.progress throughout them, including viewing student work-product created, such as models or arguments. In the Teacher Dashboard, is there the ability for teachers to add comments and recommendations as students navigate the different quests. Are there any tools that would be recommended for teachers implementing this in the classroom? For example, use of smart boards, etc.

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 04:00 p.m.

    Thank you for your thoughtful questions.

    Re: students' barriers if unfamiliar with gaming.
    While we did not collect quantitative data from students about their familiarity with games, we do have qualitative data from observations and discussions with students that do show that the students with more gaming experience hit the ground running much faster... literally, as the biggest struggle non-gaming students have is simply figuring out how to get around a 3D space to get to their objectives. We've been working through iterations to support students in this better, including an update for a large arrow above the player's head that will literally point them in the right direction. This can be easily turned off once a student no longer needs it. I will point out that 3D video games have been shown in studies to develop spatial skills as well as training made for that purpose, and that spatial skills are a predictor for higher-level math success... so it's something we've wanted to help train students in, rather than remove as a necessary skill.

    So far for this project, we've only done a small initial pilot over a few days of classroom time. The classroom we worked in actually did not do a lot of inquiry, so some students were frustrated they weren't being told information. On the other hand, one very quiet student said the game made her feel very smart.  With more time, I do agree some transition to help thee students themselves understand why and how the game is being used would be helpful, although in classes that have already done the NGSS transition, our pedagogy will be very familiar anyway.

    Teacher Dashboard and Tools

    We currently do not have the ability for teachers to add comments/recommendations for their students on the quests, but this is an idea I will run by some of our teacher users to see if they would be interested!  We have some additional teacher tools requested like being able to pause to make all the kids participate if the teacher notices a problem with say, their models, and wants to address it whole-class.

    My main recommendation would be no more than 1-2 kids/computer. The game works on Windows, Mac, or Chromebooks, and is best in that setting. For this pilot, we had 2-4 kids/computer, and it reduced participation/interest for those not controlling highly. It also caused some confusion in problem solving as students would have different ideas and not necessarily try them one at a time to be able to understand the results, particularly in the Sandbox.

    We are also working on more teacher resources to help with implementation!

  • Icon for: Aliza Zivic

    Aliza Zivic

    Graduate Student
    May 14, 2019 | 01:21 p.m.

    I love the way you can make the world accessible for students through your work! I'm wondering how you walk the line between having students drive the learning and having specific content you want students to master. When designing a game like the Island one - do you have strategies to ensure that this experience does not just become rote? I saw that you had some structures to help scaffold students' development of claims. Are these pre-written? Games are such an awesome tool to give students' agency in their learning but it seems like there are still all of these trade-offs you need to make and I'm curious how you navigated that!

     
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    Lindsey Tropf
  • Icon for: Melissa Peterson

    Melissa Peterson

    Co-Presenter
    May 14, 2019 | 03:18 p.m.

    Hi Aliza!
    As you point out, there are definitely trade-offs, and how well the game supports student-driven learning is somewhat a factor of context. Within the classroom, Tyto Online is primarily being used to support in-class curriculum, and allows teachers to assign specific storylines and content to their students. This takes a lot of the student agency out of the equation, but the context of a classroom does not always allow for free exploration of interests on the part of students. 
    For those using the game outside of the classroom, there are many opportunities to explore and follow the interests of the student. We have two in-game sandboxes, with a third one on weather launching soon, which allow players to explore their own ideas around ecology, biodiversity and heredity. We have found that these sandboxes are highly engaging for players, and teachers and parents appreciate how they allow student experimentation.
    Outside of our sandboxes, our content is written to be a series of storylines for students to play through, rather than replayable mini-games. Each storyline focuses on a science concept, and requires students to collect evidence which they use to develop their claims. This evidence is pre-written, but we require students to collect the evidence within the game world before they make their argument. Once they have learned the concepts, they are able to engage with the sandboxes more successfully, without resorting to trial and error. 

     
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    Lindsey Tropf
  • Icon for: Sally Crissman

    Sally Crissman

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 01:03 p.m.

    This discussion raises an important question about solo vs group interaction with the computer. In the olden days when computers were new, a (one) computer in the classroom was an innovation. Thoughtful developers like Tom Snyder and later his company figured out how to design off the computer team work that produced the next piece of data fed to the computer that moved the story forward (and tackled science content). We want students to learn how to build on each other's ideas so the conversation about what move to make next and why in a game seems to me important. Conversation will slow down the game and perhaps someone who isn't the driver will disengage but if a game has science learning goals, I'd opt for kids working in pairs, not solo. 

    Sally

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:57 p.m.

    There are also other models that encourage this collaboration and building on ideas.

    For example:

    • We also have a NSF grant working on a group challenge where students in teams collect data, build arguments, and collaborate to come to a consensus as they identify problems, propose engineering solutions, and test them. The students each have varied sets of tools so each must contribute to building the knowledgebase.
    • Students doing supplemental activities to the game, such as building models based on what they've been learning and refining those ideas over a storyline or experimentation with a sandbox together.

     

    I am also not against working in pairs, the discussion is always great, but I also see similar discussion when kids have their own computers but are doing the same thing at the same time and wanting to help each other. One nice thing about games is that it's generally considered collaboration, not cheating, to discuss!

  • Icon for: Steven Bayless

    Steven Bayless

    Videographer/Producer
    May 15, 2019 | 04:48 p.m.

    Great video.  Visually engaging.  It's great that you put the statistics in there as to its effectiveness.  Thanks!

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 15, 2019 | 04:50 p.m.

    Thank you, Steven!

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 15, 2019 | 09:08 p.m.

    Once again, this is a wonderful video and program.  I see such rich dialogue as a result.  (see above)  It all helps us to understand your program better.  Thanks!

     

    What do you feel is key to students' success? (Not on the Computer Game simulations but for your science understanding goals??)

    * developing their understanding of weather & climate for example

     

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 03:45 p.m.

    Thanks, DeLene!

    In terms of developing students' science understanding, we're developed our strategy based on research best practices that come from both the game-based learning literature and science learning literature.

    So for example:

    • Using NGSS best-practices like phenomena-driven learning where students directly interact with the phenomena (vs. a lot of current practices which use videos) and storylines that build that understanding;
    • Pulling from problem-based learning where students are introduced to a setting, engage with a problem, research and set hypotheses, and participate in self-reflection. Benefits of this approach include situating learning in context, encouraging accessing of prior knowledge for transfer, and long-term retention.
    • Some game best-practices include using mechanics that are directly tied to the learning objectives (increased learning outcomes), having a game where students play over multiple sessions (increased learning outcomes vs. single session games), and using an immersive role-playing game (increased problem solving and transfer of skills).
  • Icon for: Amy Bolton

    Amy Bolton

    Informal Educator
    May 15, 2019 | 10:53 p.m.

    Interesting project! I am wondering if you have explored creating collaborative games where students work together in teams to solve a problem. It seems that an important part of science practice is learning teamwork and collaboration. 

    Amy

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 03:48 p.m.

    Yes!  We also have a NSF Phase II just starting with a 5-player collaborative experience, but unfortunately I did not get any video during our pilot test, so chose to show the Dept. of Ed. project instead.

    If you want to see more about that, please see this overview doc (which also has a link to a slideshow walk-through to show you the prototype);  https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MmaU-xVHc6U...


    We had some really promising data like a 12% increase on a pre/post test that focused on science and engineering skills.  We're thrilled to get to continue this work... perhaps we can show it off for the 2020 STEM for All Video Showcase!  


  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 03:50 p.m.

    Also, Amy, we are looking for more partners for our Phase II on that project if you are interested!  

  • Icon for: DeLene Hoffner

    DeLene Hoffner

    Facilitator
    May 16, 2019 | 10:05 a.m.

    What do you see are your biggest challenges?  Have you come across any challenges which became key points of learning for you and your project?  What can we all learn from your challenges? 

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2019 | 03:59 p.m.

    I have actually been interviewing teachers who signed up for our trial last year and then didn't get very far, so we can learn what our barriers to use are.

    So far, about 50% have been technical, and about 50% implementation.

    For technical, it's things like their Chromebooks being too old for an Android app, or their IT team not wanting to install a piece of software.  Our action itema: we're doing additional technical customer discovery interviews to work on making this smoother for deployments this coming school year.  We're also considering how we may be able to go on web browsers to eliminate the need for installs to get started.

    For implementation, it varies a lot depending on the teacher.  Some of what we're hearing:

    • "I don't feel comfortable playing the game myself, so I don't want to introduce it."  Some teachers are comfortable with the idea that they know the content and the kids know the game better and will figure it out and help each other, but others want to make sure they are able to answer any questions. Our action itemswe're working on a series of short videos on gameplay, and more quest walkthroughs, to help teachers learn how to do the game itself.  We're also adding more supports into the game, like a big arrow above their head showing them where to go next!
    • "I'm not sure when to introduce this / how to use it for learning."  Because we're not just a review game at the end, it takes additional planning to figure out how to approach using it. Our action items: we are working with more science coordinators that can provide training, working on sample lesson plans, implementation guides, and hiring an Implementation Specialist soon who will work with teachers 1:1 to help them on-board and answer questions.
    •  "Kids were confused about how to complete the quests."  This one is on us when it happens, and we've been iterating and improving to reduce confusion in the future, with things like that big arrow on where to go next, and just adding a lot more supports both on the game side like the arrow, and on the content side, since most of the time they are confused on content items like building a strong argument.  So we can do a mix of in-game and teacher supports to help with this!
  • May 17, 2019 | 02:49 p.m.

    Lindsey and Melissa,

    Wonderful work. I really like your sandbox implementation. A couple of questions:

    1. Is there a storyline, like a grand quest, that goes across and sequences the various activities or are the modules fairly independent?

    2. Our game is single player, but from what we hear from teachers, the game play really drives a lot of pro-social activity, but still allows kids to move at their own pace. We believe the kids really value the opportunity to work at their own pace which is another great attribute of games. Is that the way you see teachers implementing your game as well?

    a comment:

    We developed a teacher guide which is highly visual and sequenced with the games as a way to help teachers feel comfortable managing game play and being helpful to students.

    great work and thanks for sharing.

  • Icon for: Lindsey Tropf

    Lindsey Tropf

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2019 | 02:10 p.m.

    James,

    Apologies on the delayed response -- was traveling this weekend!


    1. A little bit of both. We have a broad story for the game to help add that "epic" sense for students: they are refugees on an alien planet set in the future. Earth had to be evacuated, and they are trying to safely set up their life on this new planet and learn from the mistakes of the past, to perhaps one day save Earth (trailer here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CNI8cm-sxiI).  Each Module we try to have some overarching stories, but they're a bit weakly held together to allow room for the best phenomena for individual storylines. So for example in Ecology we're saving the last of Earth's species in biodomes and having to learn how to sustain them.  But then we have our individual storylines that branch of from there.
    2. Absolutely! We're building out robust assessment tools to also help use the game for differentiation -- for example, if 5 students have really struggled with a Sequence that addresses a specific standard, they can click to assign them another practice quest in that standard. Using curricular tools for this type of self-paced, personalized experience seems essential for teachers to reach some of the best practice goals we have as educators.

     

    I'd love to see your teacher guide -- we're working on adding more to ours!  If you don't mind emailing me lindsey@immersedgames.com that would be fantastic.  

     

    Thanks for the discussion!

  • Further posting is closed as the showcase has ended.