SMU Lyle Now Spring 2020

NSF GRANT EMPOWERS SMU RESEARCHERS TO OPTIMIZE GAMING PLATFORM FOR TEACHING STEM+C According to the National Science Foundation (NSF), an innovative and well-educated STEM+C (computing) labor pool is crucial to the nation’s prosperity, security and competitiveness. Ideally, preparation begins in pre-K and extends through Grade 12. NSF believes that students should learn not only the science and mathematics competencies but also how computational thinking is integral to all STEM disciplines.

Always on the lookout for innovative NSF funding opportunities, Leanne Ketterlin-Geller, professor and Texas Instruments Endowed Chair inEducationanddirector of research inmathematics education at the Simmons School of Education & Human Development, saw an opening for STEM+C-based curriculum funded research and knew exactly who to recruit for an interdisciplinary team. Eric Larson, associate professor in Computer Science at Lyle, was the first person she contacted because of his expertise in utilizing machine learning to evaluate human-computer interaction, automated assessment and modeling. In turn, Larson knew the research team needed educational gaming expert Corey Clark, deputy director of research at SMU Guildhall and assistant professor of Computer Science at Lyle. With Clark’s gaming background, the professors were in a prime position to respond to NSF’s call. In a similar, recent award-winning project, Clark worked with SMU educators, designers and Literacy

Instruction for Texas (LIFT) to create an Indiana Jones-like game to help adults improve reading comprehension through the popular video game, Minecraft. That project was selected as a grand prize winner in the Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE competition. In addition, the project received an achievement award for the most effective app to help adult English language learners learn how to read. When Ketterlin-Geller and her research team initially discussed the project, they realized the technology behind the XPRIZE award-winning game could be optimized for teaching STEM+C. “We figured if educational gaming can help teach literacy concepts, why not use it to teach math, science and computational thinking by converting it into Minecraft?” Clark says. “Because this game platform is already built around the idea of the progression of technology, we wanted to capitalize on and make that progression connected to real educational concepts.”

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