“This is so cool, video games in school!”
We have just wrapped up a day in a 8th grade science classroom at Barker Road Middle School, where about 100 students playtested our Martha Madison physics game on Newton’s Laws. The mere presence of Xbox game controllers brought forth smiles and shouts from nearly every student who walked into the room.
It is always so exciting to watch students playtest our games, especially in their own classrooms with their peers. First reactions tell us a great deal about whether we are on track with aesthetics and game mechanics. “Aww, this is so cute, the animals are adorable,” said one student, indicating that our character designs and color palettes are on target for this age group.
Once students became immersed in the game, and began playing with force diagrams and Newton’s Laws, the enthusiasm was palpable. “Oh my gosh, this is a free body diagram platformer game!” “Wow, this is challenging. I actually have to think.” The use of science specialist language started to emerge by the second or third levels of the game: “Yes! We overcame air resistance and friction!” and “How can we beat the effects of gravity?” We saw other indicators of student learning at the end of the sessions when Mrs. O’Dea asked students about concepts explored in the game; even students who had no previous formal exposure to this content were able to answer the questions accurately.