November 2012 News

November 2012 News

Selecting the Curriculum and Content Standards

The two main areas of focus for Radix are high school math and biology. We chose these as the initial content areas because we felt they provided many topic areas that lent themselves well to an MMO and also because they are the areas that our teams knows best. The challenge came in deciding which specific topics to cover in each domain.

Biology provides many wonderful opportunities for hands on labs and we didn’t want to try to replace any of that. Instead, we wanted the game to provide a place for students to experiment in ways they can’t do in classroom. For this first version of the game, we’ve selected genetics, ecology, evolution and human body systems. Players will be able to breed animals over several generations, advance time hundreds of years to see ecosystem and evolutionary effects and perform medical tests in order to diagnose and treat characters in the world. The biology standards are selected from the Next Generation Science Standards with details from the College Board Standards for College Success.

Math provided a bit more of a challenge. There is simply so much material to choose from. We knew that we wanted to cover geometry because the game lends itself well to measuring and building objects. We also wanted to cover probability and statistics and give students a chance to see applications of these topics in the MMO world. In the end, we added a small bit of algebra to the mix as well, specifically focusing on unit conversions and linear equations. The math curriculum now feels like it fits more into a 10th grade integrated math class. We really like this approach because as students play through the game, they see connections across areas of math, rather than just discrete topics. The math standards come from the Common Core State Standards with an emphasis on the math practices that are set out in the CCSS.

We spent several months debating exactly which standards to incorporate into the first version of this game. We plowed through syllabus after syllabus from classrooms all over the US, looked through pacing guides, read over statewide final exams and talked with our teacher consultants before we narrowed it down. We’re quite happy with what was finally selected and excited to be turning those standards into quests for the game.

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How Long Does A Quest Take?

Yesterday we presented a workshop on The Radix Endeavor at the MassCUE conference. We gave participants an overview of our concept of an educational MMO for STEM learning, and we had them play around with the Radix World Preview as well as an early prototype of the shape building tool. We got a great response from teachers and tech directors who were engaged in the demos and are excited to see how the final game comes out!

We also got a question that really gets at some of the important things we are trying to create in the Radix experience. That question was: How long does a quest take? This is naturally a very important question for teachers who will need to know how to plan their class time or their students’ homework assignments, and once the game is more developed we do hope to have some quantifiable answers to help teachers gauge those things.

However, we also feel that in a way if this question is unanswerable, it’s a sign that we’re going in the right direction. In the real world, some tasks are quick and easy to accomplish, and others are multistep, challenging problems that take many tries to solve. Not all jobs fit into a class period! Especially if you need some down time in between to think things over before you come up with a solution to a hard problem, which is the type of problem-solving experience we want students to have. And perhaps most important is that different students will be most interested in different content areas – Radix should provide a space where they can complete their task and move on, or choose to go deeper and “mess around” with an intriguing concept. Given the opportunity and motivation to experiment, many students will thrive and make discoveries on their own which is one of the most valuable experiences we can hope to create for them!

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The Radix Endeavor is an educational MMO game in development at The MIT Education Arcade, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.