1. Teon Edwards
  2. PI, Co-founder of EdGE, and Game Designer
  3. Broadening Participation in Informal STEM Learning through Virtual Reality
  4. https://www.terc.edu/edge/games-for-learning/extended-reality/
  5. TERC
  1. Zac Alstad
  2. R&D Specialist
  3. Broadening Participation in Informal STEM Learning through Virtual Reality
  4. https://www.terc.edu/edge/games-for-learning/extended-reality/
  5. TERC
  1. Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki
  2. https://www.terc.edu/profiles/ibrahim-dahlstrom-hakki/
  3. Senior Research Scientist
  4. Broadening Participation in Informal STEM Learning through Virtual Reality
  5. https://www.terc.edu/edge/games-for-learning/extended-reality/
  6. TERC
  1. James Larsen
  2. Co-founder of EdGE, Lead Developer
  3. Broadening Participation in Informal STEM Learning through Virtual Reality
  4. https://www.terc.edu/edge/games-for-learning/extended-reality/
  5. TERC
Public Discussion

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  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 10, 2021 | 06:46 p.m.

    Welcome. We're less than a year into this project, and obviously COVID has impacted what we have and haven't been able to achieve; however, we (all of us on the co-design team from EdGE at TERC and from Landmark College) have already learned a lot and are looking to exciting years of design and research ahead. We'd love to talk with designers, researchers, educators, and others who are interested in (1) working with and/or for neurodiverse learners, (2) designing and developing virtual reality and/or games for learning, and (3) delving more into the co-design process.

     
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    Ying Wu
    Chelsea LeNoble
    James Larsen
  • Icon for: Dalila Dragnic-Cindric

    Dalila Dragnic-Cindric

    Facilitator
    Postdoctoral Researcher
    May 11, 2021 | 09:51 a.m.

    Thank you for bringing attention to the needs of neurodiverse learners and the benefits of co-design. It is of utmost importance that the design centers on the users’ needs. I think it might be important for others to learn about the specific challenges and benefits experienced by the designers and stakeholders working together in your co-design team. Also, I would like to learn more about how you might measure the impact of the free choice educational games like this one on students’ learning.

    Once again, thank you for this critically important work.

     
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    Chelsea LeNoble
  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 11, 2021 | 12:01 p.m.

    Hi, Dalila.

    I'd be happy to communicate with you more about some of the challenges and benefits experienced by the designers and stakeholders, but here's a quick overview of a few functional ones for you and others.

    We found that meeting times, both as a whole team and in small groups, were vitally important, but those meetings needed to involve various structures and elements tailored to the particular participants. For example, wait times after questions are always important, but they proved particularly important for parts of our co-design team. Also, calling on individuals, by name, was important, as not everyone was equally likely to speak up on their own. And in a few cases, back-channel communication was important, giving a stakeholder a few minutes lead-time (e.g., "As soon as ___ is done, I'm going to call on you. Is that alright? Want to share about your ___ or __ idea?") before they were called upon, so they could gather their thoughts and not be taken by surprise. Designers, but also some stakeholders, also had to learn when to speak up and when to give the space for others. Sometimes seeding ideas was important to getting conversation flowing; sometimes it shut things down. We're all far from perfect at any of this, but we all got better over the course of the year. And one of the exciting parts for me is that this affects how I listen and participate in meetings more generally, not just these co-design meetings.

    We also figured out, over time, some of the concrete scaffolds useful for during and between the meetings. For example, we found creative uses of Miro Boards to be particularly useful, as they offered digital sticky notes and thus the opportunity for parallel generation of ideas (important to hearing from everyone) followed by a sharing and responding to the ideas generated (important to reviewing of ideas AND stimulating new ones for future rounds).

    The use and benefits of these obviously aren't unique to working with neurodiverse team members, but because of the neurodiverse members we had to figure out ways of changing how we shared, listened, responded, etc. And that was helpful for all members.

    And of course, the ideas generated and thus the nature of the game is different than it would have been with a different design team. I think the largest shift in this area has been the central role communication has taken not just in the design process, but in what's being designed. Major elements of the game are dealing with communication between the player and various non-human characters (Minos/cephelopods and robots).

    That's a long answer, and I haven't even gotten to your interest in measuring the impact of free-choice games on student learning. See my response to Rivka, below, for a partial response on this.

    Thanks.

     

     
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    Dalila Dragnic-Cindric
    Chelsea LeNoble
    James Larsen
  • Icon for: Rivka Glaser

    Rivka Glaser

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2021 | 10:13 a.m.

    This is a great project!  I am also very interested in hearing more and learning more about measuring the impact of educational games on students' learning.  

  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 11, 2021 | 12:18 p.m.

    Hi, Rivka.

    To be clear up front, this project largely isn't measuring the impact of free-choice educational games on students' learning, though we will be looking at this some and the EdGE team has, and is currently working on, projects where such measurement is more central.

    For this project, we're focusing on what features of game puzzles and user interfaces show promise to engage and support neurodiverse learners, especially learners with autism and/or sensory, attention, and social anxiety differences. What we're trying to support includes STEM-content learning and problem-solving practices, so we can't—and don't want to—ignore that learning, but the focus is a little different.

    Fortunately, good game design gets us, in this case, largely where we want to go in terms of the learning. If a player is able to solve a puzzle or complete a task they have demonstrated a certain level of implicit understanding. The design challenge, of course, is in making sure the mechanics of the puzzles and tasks are built around and require that understanding. And we're beginning to think about the broader context, with what an informal learning setting could offer around and building from the game.

    In other projects, such as our work with the game Zoombinis, we consider the roles of educators and support materials in bridging between the in-game implicit learning and the explicit learning desired in classrooms and (sometimes) informal learning settings. And for the research, we look at both what the player is doing in the game (analyzing click data) and what they are able to express verbally, through classroom work, and through various assessments, which we're still working on refining.

    I'd be happy to communicate more with you about this VR game work and/or the other game-based learning projects and research.

     
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    Dalila Dragnic-Cindric
  • Icon for: Scott Bellman

    Scott Bellman

    Manager, DO-IT Center
    May 11, 2021 | 12:59 p.m.

    Teon and team,

    Great video! I really enjoyed learning about your work. Thank you for implementing such a creative approach that builds STEM skills and social skills. 

    I wanted to share about our NSF-funded, no-cost summer program for high school students across the United States called Neuroscience for Neurodiverse Learners (NNL). Our free online summer program is for high school students who identify as neurodiverse learners. The virtual program will run weekdays, August 9-20. Students receive an introduction to neuroscience and neural engineering, neuroethics, and scientific communication. The goal is to provide students exposure to the field of neural engineering and provide basic preparation for college studies in STEM subjects as well as future STEM careers. Applications for our free summer program are available now.

     
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    James Larsen
  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 11, 2021 | 02:01 p.m.

    Very interesting! I've passed your message onto several members of the broader team, at both EdGE and Landmark, who are interested in and working on neuroscience possible connections in our game, as well as around VR and neuroscience more generally. Best with the program.

  • Icon for: Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki

    Ibrahim Dahlstrom-Hakki

    Co-Presenter
    Senior Research Scientist
    May 11, 2021 | 02:52 p.m.

    Hi Scott,

    We are very familiar with the great work that the DO-IT center does more generally but I wasn't aware of this particular project. Thank you for sharing. It is very related to a project we are working on to bring a hands-on BCI experience to neurodiverse learners at community colleges that helps them both built exciting tools that they can use to measure neural activity as well as learn more about neuroscience and neuropasticity. Do you have any connections with local community colleges? We have been in talks with Bellevue College which is in your neck of the woods.

  • May 11, 2021 | 03:15 p.m.

    Hi Teon;

    Great video and great project! I always keep an eye on the excellent work that TERC and Landmark do together! I am currently on a NASA-funded project where my team will be engaging in a co-design process with neurodiverse high schoolers and their teachers to create informal programs that draw on existing NASA resources. I really appreciate the advice you provided about how to structure the co-design meetings that you gave in your earlier post. I was intrigued by the last comment in your video, that your co-designers "bring something new to the table every week." Can you give an example or two of design decisions that arose from having a neurodiverse team working on the game? 

     

     

     
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    Pati Ruiz
  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 11, 2021 | 04:18 p.m.

    Hi, Wendy.

    I'm happy to provide a few examples. First let me start by saying one of my earliest lessons related to letting go to a certain level of control. The Landmark interns are part of the co-design team because they are neurodiverse stakeholders; however, that does NOT mean the only things they bring to the table can be obviously or directly connected their neurodiversity. On one hand, this is obvious. On the other, it had real implications for where they wanted to spend their time and attention. They're helping to shape the game, not "just" the parts of the game we said we were going to focus on for broadening STEM-learning participation by neurodiverse players.

    First, the Minos. As you watch the video, you'll see various drawings of and references to Minos, which are the fictional cephalopod-like creatures envisioned to be the top of the food chain in the oceans of Europa... for this game. One of the Landmark interns got excited about the astrobiology possibilities of the moon, proposed the Minos, and spent a good deal of time (in partnership with an EdGE designer) crafting the lifecycle and ecosystem of these creatures. These creatures have become central to the game, and co-design team efforts have included providing iterative guidance on the Minos artwork to our development partner MXTreality, designing a player task related to testing what the Minos do and don't like in terms of stimuli, working out details of how the Minos communicate with each other, designing a means of visualizing tracking data for the Minos and connecting this to the story, etc. Many aspects of this have no obvious connections to sensory, attention, and/or social anxiety difference, to neurodiverse-friendly user interfaces, etc. However, connections arise...  or they don't... and either is fine.

    Another example is the centrality of communication to the game. It's a STEM-learning game, and I thought about it in that context; communication, as a theme, wasn't even on my radar screen. A neurodiverse EdGE member of the co-design team got us thinking about the importance of empathy (obvious social anxiety connections); a Landmark member of the team added in thoughts and concerns about the player being alone/isolate on Europa and about experiences possibly being overwhelming (obvious sensory and social anxiety connections); and the entire team has since been thinking through different ways these and related ideas might play out. For instance, it's probably not surprising EM spectrum puzzles have been proposed as potential STEM connections, but they're being explored as more than that. Say the Minos largely see different wavelengths than we do. How might a player figure that out? What might this mean in terms of communication between the player and the (high animal-level intelligence) Minos? How can this be used to explore ideas related to different means of communicating being fine and the working out of finding common ground? How might a player explore and learn about their own input tolerances as they explore the inputs the Minos prefer? Etc.

    Those are a couple of large ones,  but of course, many contributions for all team members are smaller: thoughts on STEM-related puzzles, guidance on how to make the companion robot approachable/friendly, opinions  about when maps should be 2D vs 3D for navigation, requests for tools that help track the options open to the player without overly directing them, input on different colors as we shaped our early research, suggestions for backstory/lore elements, etc.

    Hope this is helpful. Would be happy to communicate more, if you're interested.

     
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    Dalila Dragnic-Cindric
    Chelsea LeNoble
  • Icon for: Karl Kosko

    Karl Kosko

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 11, 2021 | 05:34 p.m.

    Exciting work!

    Quick question - is this headset only or will it be available also on laptops? 

  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 12, 2021 | 08:23 a.m.

    The original plan was headset only. This is likely to continue to be the case, though it is also possible COVID will drive more of our research and thus our development plan toward laptops. Would having a laptop version be useful / more accessible for you and your "audiences"?

     
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    Karl Kosko
  • Icon for: Karl Kosko

    Karl Kosko

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 12, 2021 | 08:42 a.m.

    We ended up doing more with laptops than we had planned for our VR-related grant (albeit, the focus is a bit different) due to COVID but also due to how widespread the headsets are (which is not as prevalent as we would like right now). My thought is along those lines (availability of the devices). I agree that headset experiences like this are typically better than the laptop versions, but in some cases I've found that no laptop version means no version at all for some folks.

  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 12, 2021 | 09:05 a.m.

    Yes, we, too, have seen and are aware of this. Since broadening participation in informal STEM is one of our primary objectives, we're very conscious of the challenges and how the tech can limit participation, not just offer new opportunities for participation. 

    At the same time, we're focusing very much on the affordances of VR for learning and the design features of VR that do and do not work well for neurodiverse players, so VR is central to the project. Maybe, though, this is an instance where COVID presents a small silver lining, as to date our VR-aimed research is being conducted on flat screens, so laptop outcomes may "come along for the ride".

  • Icon for: Suzanne Otto

    Suzanne Otto

    Facilitator
    Teacher / Fellow
    May 11, 2021 | 09:23 p.m.

    Your team is an excellent application of the "nothing about us without us" idea.  I appreciate the level of thought that you've put into designing the collaboration structures that your team uses and know that many of these structures would help in most teams and classrooms.

    I'm curious about your longer-term plans for using this game in the classroom.  How do you envision rolling it out to teachers and students?  Do you see it playing a role in teaching specific curriculum objectives or will it be an enrichment activity?  What grade level and population of students do you home to eventually reach?

     
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    Chelsea LeNoble
  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 12, 2021 | 08:49 a.m.

    Hi, Suzanne.

    This game is currently being designed for informal education settings and home audiences, not classrooms, though obviously that doesn't preclude the game's use in schools.  The game requires access to a virtual reality headset, which felt like a blocker to most classroom/school settings... at least for now. Our partners and intended informal education settings include museums, camps, and mobile informal STEM education programs, including the Boston Museum of Science and Pacific Science Center (in Seattle), though COVID has unfortunately put these partnerships on hold for the moment.

    The game is for teenagers and adults, so upper middle school and higher.

    There's no current plan for a related curriculum, though we are working on connections to activities, articles, and other resources to help bridge from gameplay into real-world STEM. For example, we obviously don't know if there's life on the moon of Europa, but there is a lot of scientific exploration and research related to this possibility. By making the real-world connections explicit, including noting but also providing the basis for fictionalized elements, we hope to help facilitate the player's understandings of the STEM they experience in the game.

    More generally, our interests are in really exploring and understanding the affordances of eXtended Reality (XR, which includes virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality). What do these technologies offer that can't be achieved other ways or that otherwise make the expenditures and challenges of the tools worthwhile for education? And looking toward school use is part of this longer-term thinking.

    Hope this helps, and if you're interested, we'd be happy to communicate more.

     
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    Pati Ruiz
  • May 12, 2021 | 11:17 a.m.

    I like the motivation for this project!  How do you plan to disseminate your game once it is complete?

  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 12, 2021 | 11:44 a.m.

    We plan to disseminate the game to home and general audiences through a variety of VR digital distribution platforms, including STEAM, Oculus, and Vive platforms. We will also reach out to various VR/XR communities, with which we have some connections... though we're always looking for more.

    We'll also disseminate through existing ISE partners, including the Boston Museum of Science, the Pacific Science Center, and the Pennsylvania State University Science U camp program, as well as work on broader outreach to other informal STEM learning settings.

    Developing a dissemination plan is part of the project, and we more than welcome suggestions from people. Thanks for the question.

     
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    Pati Ruiz
  • May 13, 2021 | 01:13 p.m.

     There are so many aspects of this project that I admire and am impressed by that I can't pick just one to comment on! I have learned so much about the possibilities of participatory research just from this three minute video; thank you for doing this work and presenting it here. 

    From some of your responses to comments above, it seems like one particularly engaging aspect of this project for neurodiverse team members might be the story-building components where they are able to think through and design the rules of the world you're creating in the game. It makes me think of some potential humanistic STEM applications (perhaps with science fiction creative writing, philosophy, ethics, film studies) in which the very act of building this game could be especially engaging for neurodiverse learners. From a sort of meta perspective in your experiences so far, could you see something ongoing beyond this game that has students contribute to STEM learning game development be a program in and of itself? In other words, a two-part program of neurodiverse STEM learning games created by neurodiverse STEM learners where both the resulting games themselves and the process of game development are core programmatic features?

     
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    Pati Ruiz
  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 13, 2021 | 02:39 p.m.

    Hi, Chelsea.

    Thanks for the comment... and the exciting, big idea. For the interns on the project, they are sort of participating in a two-part program such as you describe, but no, we haven't considered such a program more generally, where we're being explicit about the two parts and the core focus shared by each. It's an intriguing idea, and one we have considered in other settings, as we are definitely believers in involving learners as creators, not just consumers. I'm going to have to think more about that, as well as get the rest of the team thinking.

    If you are interested in communicating about such a two-part program possibility and/or about this project, let me know. We'd be happy to talk. Thanks.

     
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    Chelsea LeNoble
  • May 17, 2021 | 03:34 p.m.

    Thanks so much, Teon. I'd absolutely love to chat about this. My email is lenoblec@erau.edu

     

  • Icon for: Pati Ruiz

    Pati Ruiz

    Facilitator
    Learning Sciences Researcher
    May 13, 2021 | 05:21 p.m.

    Thank you for sharing your co-design strategy with us especially your the "nothing about us without us" idea. My question is similar to Wendy's above but I'm more curious about what recommendations you might have for teachers who are interested in co-designing lessons and activities with neurodiverse students in their classrooms. Are there any strategies that you and your team have used or plan to try that you would recommend? 

  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 13, 2021 | 10:18 p.m.

    Hi, Pati. Thanks for question. Like for Wendy, I have to start with a heads-up: co-design means giving up a certain level of control. If the students aren't invested — or can't be brought to the point of becoming invested — in the topics or skills of the activities/lessons being designed, the process isn't going to get very far. It's best if the students/stakeholders help to shape things from the very beginning, which includes choosing what the activities/lessons are about, but even if that's not possible (e.g., our VR game was already set on an abandoned science center on Europa), the whole team — including the students/stakeholders — has to have as much say as possible in what's being shaped and how.

    In terms of strategies, here are a few thoughts, and I'd be happy to communicate about others, if you are interested.

    > Brainstorming: For each round, ask a single, focused question and give everyone time (e.g., 3 minutes, with a heads up at around 1 minute and another at 10 seconds) to be recording as many quick ideas as they can on sticky notes or similar (so ideas short and easy to move around). There are NO WRONG or BAD ideas during this kind of brainstorming. If participants censor themselves, important ideas can be lost.

    > Reviewing Ideas: Provide both quiet and sharing time and means for members to review and respond to ideas, but assume processing of the ideas will be the task of an individual or smaller group.

    > Providing Options: Try to be as flexible as possible not only about what each member is working on, but how they are capturing those ideas: writing, drawing, explaining to someone else and having them record/capture it, using screenshots or other existing examples, etc. And keep in mind that people don't necessarily know what will and won't work well for them or for the current idea, so plan for shifting mechanisms... and for people (anyone!) getting stuck.

    Hope this is helpful, and thanks again.

  • Icon for: Sarah Kirk

    Sarah Kirk

    Higher Ed Administrator
    May 14, 2021 | 11:02 a.m.

    I love this project! You have beautifully modeled inclusion and that the best outcome is often not the fastest or easier approach. What advice do you have about encouraging faculty to engage students in curriculum design knowing it will be a much slower process?

  • Icon for: James Larsen

    James Larsen

    Co-Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE, Lead Developer
    May 14, 2021 | 12:14 p.m.

    Hi Sarah, thank you! Great question, and one every educator should think about. We are using an iterative co-design process that is indeed slower. Given educators have so much on their plates it doesn't always encourage the time commitment required of such an approach. However, the outcome from this approach provides a product that is better for the effort, and much more reflective of student needs.  

  • Icon for: Raffaella Borasi

    Raffaella Borasi

    Higher Ed Faculty
    May 16, 2021 | 06:36 p.m.

    I am looking forward to being able to review and use your new VR game.  As Director of a Center for Learning in the Digital Age, I am always on the look out for interesting examples that leverage technology in transformational ways - as your game promises to do.  Once your game is done and made public, I'd love to be able to advertise it/ link to it from our website!

  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 17, 2021 | 09:12 a.m.

    Thanks for the enthusiasm and interest. We, too, are excited for when we can start sharing the game with broader world.

    Also, it was fun to see, in your video, the use of tools with younger students that we found useful with our co-design team. It's not surprising that many methods of working and learning together remotely work across some populations, but it's never — and never should be — a given.

  • Icon for: Laura Santhanam

    Laura Santhanam

    Health Reporter & Coordinating Producer for Polling
    May 16, 2021 | 09:58 p.m.

    Such wonderful work and experience! The intentional focus on neurodiverse learners is so important and it will be great to follow this project's work. 

     
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    James Larsen
    Teon Edwards
  • May 17, 2021 | 06:40 a.m.

    I've always been impressed with Landmark College's programs.  Kudos to your team for putting this incredible experience together!

     
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    James Larsen
  • Icon for: Teon Edwards

    Teon Edwards

    Lead Presenter
    Co-founder of EdGE & Game Designer
    May 17, 2021 | 09:13 a.m.

    Yes, Landmark as an organization and, even more, as a collection of individuals with whom I've had the privilege of working is great. Thanks for the shout out to them.

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