G-FMS Curriculum Development Journal – July 11, 2013

July 11,2013

The morning started off with the Hive touching base and giving progress reports on game playtests for Strain and Octet and I focused the group on specific tasks to make the day a bit more productive.

First of all, all of our gatherings are being photographed and recorded with both audio and video with the intent of having something to look back on at the end of the month in order to assess the process as well as keep an eye out for concepts we may have forgotten in the intensity of the process. This footage is already piling up, and it quickly became clear to me as I wrote these journal entries that we should be combing through them and picking out the important moments more immediately. I assigned the task of editing out footage and images to Waleska, who had already been taking the time to set up cameras and document our activities. A research assistant will be looking through the footage again later in the process, but it felt as if having the footage now would be more helpful. I have given Waleska the journal entries and asked her to comb through the footage and images to help illustrate the narrative, and she gladly took on the job.

I then divided the Hive into a math centric unit (Chris and Elijah) to work with Professor Baker in reviewing SLOs and being sure to sketch out game designs that we can all work on as a group when the professors are not around, and a science centric unit (Dylan and Kidany) to work with Professors Nuñez-Rodriguez and Fernandez on the same but being sure to ask focused questions on the topics they do not understand.

Once that was all organized, we returned to the concept of the scientific method and outlined the steps involved as:

    1. Ask a question
    2. Research the question
    3. Construct a hypothesis
    4. Attempt to Disprove the hypothesis
    5. Analyze data and adjust hypothesis
    6. Repeat steps 4 & 5

The team then began brainstorming a variety of games that involve this process. Since the topic was being broached at the start of term it felt best to work with a social game as a sort of icebreaker for the students to begin getting to know each other and for them to develop a repore with which to facilitate collaborative work I the coming term.

The first concept brought up was a Murder Mystery Dinner Party. The social aspect of the game felt perfect for a first class meeting with potential for being out of one’s desk and wandering through the class meeting people and interviewing them about being potential suspects. In the second class the process could be analyzed and the Scientific Method compared to the activity in a very grounding and provocative way.

The board game Clue was then brought up, but incorrect guesses do not lead to reassessing a hypothesis in the game – players who guess wrong simply lose.

This lead to the concept constructing a puzzle according to discoverable parameters, given issues, and players must ask questions in order to discover solutions. This related back to the planet game concept, but the clues would need to be hidden around the classroom. This was appealing, but the ideas were coming fast and furious now, so the group went on to a 20 questions card game concept guessing animal species according to needs, diet, environment, etc.

At this point the professors began joining the group and we brought them up to speed on the progress the team had made. The professors from Natural Sciences immediately asked for a revision of the steps, pulling out one of their textbooks they pointed to the difference. The BIO110 text book: What is Life? A guide to Biology with Physiology by Jay Phelan uses the following description:

    Step One: Make observations
    Step Two: Formulate a hypothesis
    Step Three: Devise a testable prediction
    Step Four: Conduct a critical experiment
    Step Five: Draw conclusions and make revisions

The ENV110 text book: Chemistry for Changing Times by John Hill and Doris Kolb uses the following description (with a bit of information design courtesy of yours truly):

    Step One: Observation reported
    Step Two: Observation confirmed by others
    Step Three: Hypothesis suggested
    Step Four: Experiments designed to test hypothesis
    Step Five: If experiments unsuccessful then:

    -> Hypothesis rejected
    -> Repeat Step Three

    If experiment successful then:

    ->experiment repeated and results confirmed
    -> move to Step six

    Step Six: Theory Formulated
    Step Seven: Theory tested with further experiments
    And so on…

Professor Fernandez pointed out that repeating the cycle of experimenting, drawing conclusions, and making a revision (steps four and five) was how a hypothesis evolved into an accepted theory.

After discussing the various iterations of what had become known as the ‘scientific method game,’ we tabled the topic and Professor Disanto gave a demonstration of a game that she developed for the meaning of life question that came up as an important SLO in the BIO class. Her game involved a quick single page reading assignment about the subject followed by a team project answering several simple questions on the topic. Both of these steps had been timed with a short odd number period such as a minute 21 seconds for the reading and 47 seconds for the Q&A. The final step involved a fill in the blank form to be filled in by the teams and then the entire class went in a round robin between teams giving their answers for points.

The team suggested more opportunities for competition should be introduced to help the project feel less like a spot quiz. The primary suggestion was to make the final round more like the game Bullshit where false answers that sound credible gain players points as well the correct/intended answers. This, of course, flies in the face of the concept of educating on a point unless the game’s “peanut butter” clause is implemented where once the point is given a false answer must be identified as false before the game can continue. It also provides the opportunity for a response from the opponents to call a bluff and give the correct answer. Here creative thinking can be rewarded, while the actual lesson also gets clarified and focused upon in the act of admitting or correcting a bluff.

The exercise got the room worked up, and set the stage for dividing into the science and math development teams.

Since he had missed the previous meeting, I sat down with Bill Baker and his group to bring him up to speed on the Fraction and Scientific Notation concepts that the Hive had brainstormed in the last gathering. Professor Disanto joined us.

Bill was intrigued by the fraction planet game and helped the team refine the concept dramatically. A modular game made the most sense to him starting with tenths, and progression through modules that would involve more complicated fractions. He suggested that the wedges which act as game pieces be labeled with more than just the fraction, but also contain decimal equivalent, percentage equivalent, and plain English description (“one tenth”). These would ideally not be on all pieces but combinations of two or three on each wedge to allow for establishing the various relationships.

So the game as we described it in this meeting involves students first being dealt wedges of a planet representing atmospheric elements such as carbon dioxide, oxygen, helium, etc. Their pieces should always make up a whole – so in the case of a game of tenths, each player or team is randomly given ten wedges of various elements to make up their planet. Players then draw cards describing the atmospheric make up of a planet in our solar system such as Mercury, Jupiter, or Earth. Creating this atmosphere is the victory condition of the game. The card is basically an atmospheric recipe card, and the players must trade pieces in order to create the assigned planetary atmosphere.

The cards could be kept face down so that other teams or players do not know the end goal of their opponents in order to encourage strategic maneuvering and memorization of the data.

When we were considering how pieces would be exchanged, Professor Disanto brought up a gambling dice game she knew of called Left Right Center that provided the exchange of money between players according to the roll of a die. Rolling a “left” would force the player to hand a dollar to the player on their left, a “right” to their right, and a “center” would have them keep the cash they had.
We brainstormed a comparable choice and settled on a six-sided die that has either “forced acquisition,” “forced sacrifice” or “friendly trade.” Any given turn would begin by a player choosing the player they wished to trade pieces with, and then rolling a special die with one of the options on two of its sides. Rolling the die would decide how the transaction would take place. A roll of forced acquisition would give the player the right to take any wedges they needed from the other player and returning unwanted wedges from their own planet, therefore completely changing the atmospheric make up of both planets. A roll of forced sacrifice would result in their opponents being able to do the exact same maneuver to them, taking whatever wedges they needed and replacing them with unwanted wedges. Alternatively, rolling friendly trade would require the two to trade something they negotiate for.

This last option suggests trading one or more wedges in a mutually beneficial arrangement, but should probably be left a bit open ended in order for players to potentially build alliances or make agreements for future trades in the case of one or both of the parties coming upon specified elements.

So modules of this game would have more and more complex arrangements of planets and fractional elements. Players would be introduced to more and more complicated assortments of fractions to combine to make a wider and wider selection of planets.

Moving forward we presented the concept of introducing scientific notation in a last module of the planets game where players need to build a planet meeting the needs of a given organism drawn from a deck of cards. For example, a player might draw a card representing a simple bacteria that subsists on iron and breathes ammonium oxide. A planet would need to have a high percentage of ammonia, oxygen, and iron in order to be hospitable. A minimum target percentage of these elements would be described on the card along with exponent modifiers for target percentages. At the minimal recipe, the player would actually be able to begin gaining points for their bacterial population. This population would then either grow or deteriorate depending on how well developed the recipe becomes.

An aside that comes to mind as I write this: such a situation might also be a great opportunity to introduce ratios.

At this point I checked in with the science team and discovered they were still going over the SLOs. I have asked that the teams clarify these in every meeting along with their corresponding primary student issues and corresponding game ideas in order to cover our bases thoroughly as we move forward. The team was still drawing this up, but moved on to compound chemical relationships and the octet rule. The professors were bringing Kidany and Dylan up to speed on these and by the end of the session clear concepts for revisiting the scientific method game were being hashed out.

The professors left and the rest of the afternoon had the teams developing iterations of their games.

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