William Dorsey- Leveraging Digital Learning for Science
January 18, 2012 07:05 pm
This following post comes from William Dorsey, a Globaloria Educator and biology teacher at Capital High School in Kanawha County, West Virginia.
As a science teacher, I know that time is of the essence. It is a constant challenge to cover all the content. Every science class has its own content to cover. Biology, for example, involves teaching subject matter that ranges from the characteristics that define life to all the processes that occur within a living organism to the intricate complexities and interactions of ecology. With all the labs that make science fun, I, like most science teachers, often find myself rushing through material or not getting to certain sections at all. Digital learning when done right offers a very workable solution for such time constraints.
In my Biology class, digital learning using the Globaloria learning process and curriculum has allowed me to solve this issue and provide a fun and interesting way of challenging my students. By spending one day a week in the computer lab collaboratively inventing and designing biology-focused webgames on a network, my students have learned to become self-paced learners, taught themselves the guiding principles of biological classification, a topic that I often had to rush or ignore, and modeled digital and work skills crucial in the world of their future.
My students are benefiting in many ways. They have become self-motivated learners, completing tasks at their own pace instead of being pushed or constrained by the pace of others. They are learning to work in teams, using a virtual environment, in much the same way many businesses are opting out of centralized workplaces. Video game design has also helped the students to make the transition from digital consumers to digital producers, increasing their ability to use, appreciate, and learn from technology in a meaningful way.
In terms of the biology content, my students are gaining a deeper understanding of the concepts involved. Each team of three students is tasked with coming up with an original game idea that links fun and learning to the specific biology topic they have chosen. Not only do they research the topic under my guidance, they make greater connections with the material. This allows them to build more personal connections and meanings as they move through both the material and the game design elements. I have students who are creating games involving trophy hunting for animals with specifically requested taxonomical traits. Other ideas involve everything from pet stores to claw machines that allow students to make selections and matches based on the unique characteristics of different taxa.
Some naysayers may think there is not enough time to blend game design with biology and still cover the required biology content. But this has proven not to be the case with careful planning and time management. My students have more than met the challenge of keeping up with a fast-paced curriculum, and they have often been slightly ahead of other classes covering the same material. The majority of the class is keeping their grades at B’s or above.
The creative aspect of the game-design process is also something students can look forward to amid all of the labs and activities that are prescribed and controlled in their other classes. Within their game-design teams, each student can find a comfortable role — whether it is programmer or graphic designer or researcher or project manager—that lets them contribute original ideas, hone skills and deepen their knowledge, and be productive in all areas of class.
Adding digital learning the Globaloria Way to my science class has increased student involvement and productivity across the board. I encourage every science teacher out there to find some way to incorporate digital learning beyond the basic PowerPoint presentations and web quests. Science created the tools that allow digital learning, and it is time for science students to reap the benefits.
Learn more about Digital Learning Day at http://www.digitallearningday.org.
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