A Call to Tinkering

It’s been a busy summer for me this year: William and I were married four weeks ago, and when we returned I began working for the reDiscover Center’s Pasadena expansion of their Tinkering Camp project.

The idea behind tinkering camp is to teach kids to use tools, give them access to materials and help them generate ideas, and then just let them do their thing. Continue reading

History Games: Why I Love Mount & Blade

Data Theory Play llama in historical viking costume holding sword

The Mount & Blade franchise is the work of an indie studio in Turkey, TaleWorlds Entertainment. It is a terrific game as well as a terrific history lesson, one the best examples I know of an educational game that is just superbly fun as well as imparting information and stirring curiosity for its subject matter.

Mount & Blade boasts a handful of unique play experiences. One of them is its excellent riding and mounted combat. The sandbox gameplay is also well done, with many different approaches to play; the game will congratulate players for a variety of achievements, rather than encouraging one particular path to “winning,” but satisfaction comes from watching your own plans come to fruition. Continue reading

(Word) Problem to Project?

I’m taking calculus for the first time right now, and it’s got me thinking about math learning a lot, especially how to build intuition for math concepts and see them as tools for problem-solving in the real world.

As a grade school student, I always liked word problems in math class, for two reasons:

  1. There’s a heuristic pleasure in reading a passage and figuring out the math problem hidden in it. This is much more interesting to me than just getting the math problem by itself.
  2. There’s considerably less math per character in a word problem than in a block of equations. Since I suffered from fear of math in school, this was a big plus for me.

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Why Context Matters in Games for Learning

sad llama with tee shirt that says I wasn't good at math

Information requires context in order to be meaningful.

From this idea follow a couple of points worth discussing: (1) that games can provide something crucial to the learning experience and (2), that the choice of context in learning games matters enormously.

The other day, I saw one of those shareable quotes on Facebook – a particularly whiny one – to this effect: Another day and I still haven’t used that algebra they made me learn in high school. Apparently you can also pay money to have this sentiment printed on a tee shirt for you. I remember hearing a lot of the same sort of whining in school, with students wondering why they needed to learn algebra (among other things), and it seems like some people, long after graduating, are still nurturing a lingering resentment for what seemed like a waste of time when they were 16.

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STEM in America: Data, Approaches, and Questions (Part III)

Lego women scientists

Part III: Strategies

In Part II, we continued to look at data about students in higher education and what they choose to study; we saw that, although the overall student population for all of higher education became more similar from 2002 to 2012 to the overall national population of 18-24 year-olds, student populations in engineering programs are not following the same trend.

In this section, we’ll look at two programs trying to address and remedy representational disparities in STEM fields. Though one targets K-12 students and the other post-baccalaureates, both identify similar sources for, and solutions to, the diversity problem in STEM education.

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