Games. Learning. Dialogue.
Gamification – the act of applying game-mechanic or game-design elements to something – is changing the way we think about science education in the 21st century.
In education, the gamification theory is that learners better comprehend material when they have goals to aim for and achievements to reach in a fun and interactive way.
This theory even has some scientific backing to go with it. When the brain is exposed to a rewarding stimulus, it releases more dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical responsible for sending messages (e.g. messages related to motivation and pleasure) between nerve cells.
Dopamine plays a huge role in our brain’s reward pathways, which play a role in learning. The memories made while the reward pathways in the brain are activated are strong because dopamine strengthens the synapses (the junction between nerve cells) in the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory (the hippocampus).
Playing educational games…
- Makes learning fun and interactive
- Encourages intrinsic motivation
- Increases engagement
- Offers a comfortable (and often stress-free) environment
- Develops problem-solving skills
A specific game, “Two Truths and a Lie,” has long been used as a learning activity in the classroom. This game has even trickled out into the workplace as an icebreaker activity. Employees are asked to come up with two truths and a lie, share, and have team members guess which one is the lie all in an attempt to bond the team (and to learn more about your coworkers!).
For me? My go-to truths and a lie are:
- I’ve lived in 7 states
- I’ve never broken a bone
- My brother was born during a hurricane.
My lie? My brother was not born during a hurricane– but he was born during a blizzard! Through my statements, I have opened the door for a lot of discussion. First people ask, “What states did you live in?” Next, it’s usually a discussion with someone in the room who has managed to break an absurd amount of bones (why am I always in a room with people who like to do outrageous things for the adrenaline rush?). Finally, people sometimes ask about my brother being born in a blizzard. I get to explain what I remember, and I get to point out that although my brother wasn’t born during a hurricane, we did live through one years later.
All that from three little statements.
In the same way that these statements open up a personal discussion about my life, the goal of this month’s SciComm challenge is to start a discussion about various science topics. Dialogue is an important component of SciComm. Both messengers and listeners come to the conversation with their unique ideas, questions, and feelings.
I’ve always wanted to learn more about black holes. Where do I even begin? Having no idea what questions to ask has always held me back from attempting to learn more about them. If somebody wrote a set of cards for black holes, I could have a starting point of where to begin asking questions or inquiring for more information.
In our past SciComm challenges, we have stressed the importance of asking an expert and bringing more transparency to science. This month’s challenge theme continues with this trend of trust in science with building dialogue.
Participants will pick a science topic and write three statements about it. One statement should be false. Participants should also identify the false statement, give an explanation for why it is false, and give the correct information. Through creating two truths and a lie about a science topic, participants will contribute to creating a full deck of cards that will start a dialogue, spark curiosity in game players, and contribute to learning through gameplay.
If the false statement is something that is commonly believed to be true, the cards will also help combat misinformation by addressing and correcting the information. In an age of misinformation, it is important that we do not contribute to that and actively work to combat it. We recognize this importance, and although we are asking participants to create a false statement about a science topic, we believe that the game as a whole will result in more knowledge for participants and provide points of interest on which to build a dialogue.
Continue reading for more details for this month’s challenge.
(Somebody should write a set of cards for black holes… I would love to talk to you about it!)
Pick a science topic and write three statements intended for 8- to 12-year-olds about the topic. One statement should be false. Our suggestion is to address a common misconception about the topic with the false statement. You will also need to write a brief explanation for why the statement is false and offer a true alternative, if applicable. See an example below.