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DIP: The Science Through Technology Enhanced Play (STEP): 1323767

Principal Investigator: Noel Enyedy
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Carlos Wagmister, Jeffrey Burke, Joshua Danish
Organization: University of California-Los Angeles

In this Cyberlearning: Transforming Education DIP (Development and Implementation) project, the PIs are investigating how embodied play among elementary school students can be used to help them understand scientific phenomena (e.g., the working of forces, complex behaviors of bees). They are instrumenting elementary school classrooms with advanced tracking. The PIs are building upon the ways that young children engage in socio-dramatic play. Through role play, children explore and reflect upon the complex rules that govern the world, and in this project, they are asked to play roles in a natural system (e.g., bees in a beehive) and identify the rules that would make their role play match the workings of the natural system. Motion capture technology is used to record their interactions, and they reflect together as a class after role-playing experiences. Research focuses on the qualities of reflection and subsequent learning afforded by two aspects of such play — when children interact to plan their role play (equivalent to modeling) and when they act out the system or phenomenon (equivalent to simulation) and then have a chance to examine their interactions. To understand the affordances and importance of embodied play, reflection and learning outcomes are also compared across conditions of acting out a system or phenomenon (1st person embodied simulation) and running a computer simulation of that same system or phenomenon (3rd person virtual simulation).

There is currently little understanding of how to teach science productively in early elementary school. As suits this age group, these PIs are going after how to take best advantage of the kinds of role playing children naturally engage in at this age. Much of their role play discussion has to do with coming up with the rules of the role play; the PIs’ insight is that this could be seen as the equivalent of creating a model. This research is developing a model of how to involve kids in grades K-3 in learning science through modeling and, in addition, focusing on the the kinds of reflection on that play that result in learning and how to affect such reflection and subsequent learning with the help of technology.

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