William G. Daly
April 23, 2006
Conclusion of EMAT7650 Applied Project
and EMAT8990 Seminar Spring 2006
The EMAT7650 Applied Project sought to extend the project done for EMAT6700, a Math Jeopardy game, to more general setting which would not require the Flash code to be changed for new content. EMAT8990 seminar then uses one such extension to set the stage for research to assess the effectiveness of the game versus a more traditional cooperative learning setting using worksheets. Experience with the Math Jeopardy game suggests that student motivation was higher than expected provided the game was not overused. Assuming this enhanced motivation is universally true, the game is of value in reviewing material as a supplement to more traditional approaches provided that the quality of learning is at least equal to a more traditional review. So the question is whether students perceive their learning as more “fun” using this game, while not degrading (and hopefully enhancing) the quality of their learning. Since it is well established that competitiveness can be a detriment to creativity, care should be taken to use this only as an intermittent supplement to more traditional approaches.
The EMAT8990 goal was met by setting the stage for assessing the value of the review game by creating a pretest and lecture notes that control and test groups will be exposed to. The control group with then review using a worksheet in a cooperative learning setting, while the test group will review using the game. This will be followed by administering the test again and statistically compare the gains. Initially, this will be done on a small scale with about 100 students. Therefore, it may be difficult to initially reveal a statistical trend. If a trend does not surface, the assessment may be administered to larger test and control groups. This is planned for the beginning of the 2006-07 school year in Honors and AP-B physics at the 11th grade level.
The EMAT 7650 Applied Project Goals were met by revamping the Math Jeopardy game into a more general game called Academia Mania. The game board and scoring are very similar to the original Math Jeopardy. But several key issues were addressed in this version based on student feedback and teacher observations.
First, it was observed in prior use of Math Jeopardy, that when play simply alternated between teams, the opposing team was prone to distraction and disengagement while the first team was in play. Another problem is that the teacher was required to administer time limits to the questions, which was both taxing and prone to aggravation by the students and frustration if the time limits were perceived to be unfair in the slightest degree. To cure this, the game now has a countdown timer which will render the time question completely objective. To allow for variability in class abilities, a blanket scale factor may be applied at any time to time limits built into the questions. Once time expires, a penalty is assessed and reduce value play is turned over to the opposing team for a fixed 15 second duration. Beyond this 15 second limit, the opponent is penalized unless they score a correct answer. Although untested at this time, it is hoped that the opposing team realizes that the first team up may miss the question and they will then be forced to answer in a very limited time to avoid a penalty. The intent is to get both players and opponents engaged on all questions.
Secondly, the game now has the ability to show the answer to the previous question. This may be done from the game board at any time. But it occurs automatically if both teams miss the question. Once a question is missed, the question stage is shown with the correct answer highlighted. Prior to this, student rightfully complained that when a question was missed, the game moved ahead without students having an opportunity to learn from their error. Although this goal has been met, there is room for added growth of the game in this area. For example, one of the goals of the next revision of the game is to provide a “More Detail” button on the answer stage so that a graphic or Flash instructional movie can be played to satisfy curiosity regarding why certain answer are correct or incorrect.
The most important enhancement to the game is that the original Math Jeopardy was geared toward Algebra 1. Once I found myself teaching another subject the game was useless to me without a significant overhaul of the Flash code. This would have to occur for each new subject and would be of value only to colleagues are teaching exactly what I am teaching and are satisfied with my own complement of review questions. To overcome this, the primary goal of this project is to make the game board content independent. This was a great success in that the game now has a front end which allows selection of “Subject”, “Course” and “Topic”. Once these selections are done, the game board and scenes are populated with content from outside of the Flash Movie. Therefore, to create review for any subject, text files (XML files)are created which contain the questions, answers and attributes which control how the Flash movie plays (such as question time limits, correct answer, supporting graphics and movies, and question styles). At this time, only 4 response and 5 response multiple choice question stages are provided. But the content of these stages is completely generic provided that it can be expressed in the UTF-8 character set. However, it is planned to expand the flash code to include additional question scenes which will include external graphics and movies from outside of the game, which will greatly expand the utility of the game.
Although not part of this project, given the versatility of the current revision of the review game, there are a great many enhancements which can be done. One of the more obvious enhancements it to included communications with the server to store scores grading and single player games. Another enhancement which is high on the list of “things to do”, referred to above is to include a “More Detail” button on the answer scenes to make incorrect answers even more instructive that in this version. Another obvious enhancement is to add more question scenes to the flash code to allow for more than just text based multiple choice questions. It seems fairly straightforward to include graphic based multiple choice question and even randomized numerical responses within a given tolerance.
Finally, one future plan is to share the game with colleagues to broaden the value of this project, obtain valuable feedback for further enhancements and to enlist the aid of a greater number of individuals to expand the content of the game. Part of this will be to increase the utility to users so that they are not required to have skills in the creation and manipulation of XML files. To this end, it is planned to create scripts apart from the Flash movie itself that will allow for text based and menu drive creation of game content. Along with this goal will be a “question viewer” which will allow preview of the content outside of the constraints of the game. Beyond these obvious utilitarian features, a number of fun enhancements are envisioned, such as random “bonus” question and varying message throughout the game.