TERC Receives National Science Foundation Research Grant to Examine the Development of Computational Thinking in Game-Based Learning

August 3, 2015

Cambridge, MA – The National Science Foundation awarded the Educational Gaming Environment Group (EdGE) at TERC a $1.9 million, 3-year grant to conduct an implementation research study to understand the development of computational thinking for upper elementary and middle grade students. EdGE researchers, building on their experience measuring implicit science learning in games with research methods such as Educational Data Mining (EDM), will study the impact of the computational thinking game Zoombinis. The study will investigate how youth develop implicit knowledge about computational thinking in Zoombinis gameplay and how educators can leverage that knowledge to improve classroom learning.

Zoombinis, an award-winning, popular, puzzle-based logic game developed by TERC in the 1990s is being re-released for wireless devices. The puzzles in Zoombinis require players to problem solve and deal with logic, formulation, organization, representation, generalization and sequential thinking.

“The release of Zoombinis for tablets has provided us with the perfect opportunity to study how a free-choice game can support the development of computer science skills,” said Jodi Asbell-Clarke director of EdGE. “With more than 90% of youth playing digital games, it is vital that we explore how we can harness all the passion, energy, and persistence youth bring to their gameplay in a way that engages them with science and technology. This study should help inform the design of educational games as well as the development of materials and assessments that enable teachers to build on game-based learning in the classroom.”

EdGE research is uncovering the potential of free-choice digital games to engage students and support science learning. Recent findings suggest that when science games are introduced to non-academic learners outside of class, and their teachers leverage that learning in class, science learning is improved.

The EdGE research team and colleagues in the game-based learning field have been designing learning measures that use patterns of play in digital games as evidence of implicit learning. They have also developed EDM models to detect in game logs and click data the strategies that players use in the game that may relate to implicit science learning. These emergent and developing methodologies will be applied in the Zoombinis implementation research study.

About TERC

Founded in 1965, TERC is an independent, research-based organization dedicated to engaging and inspiring all students through stimulating curricula and programs designed to develop the knowledge and skills they need to ask questions, solve problems, and expand their opportunities.  terc.edu

Ken Mayer