Can functions be fun?
It is moving day today and there’s a lot of buzz in the air. Anette and I agree on meeting anyway. After all, we are the dedicated employees! We’ve found a nice hidden corner and here the furniture has been delivered so no massive movers will interrupt us for the next quarter (hopefully!).
While we’re both taking seats, she explains what her Didactic Physics Master’s thesis is all about. And the idea, in theory, is simple: she studies how science can be taught in the best possible ways. However, it is quite hard to achieve in reality. Especially when the crowd consists of 2nd-year high school students. But she made it last week and she did it twice, bringing with her a new set of tools that she developed in collaboration with other members of our team: the Differentiation Game.
It takes its name from the process of finding a derivative of mathematical functions (and simply writing this brings painful memories to me!). But it has been made with care and expertise, so it is fun. Indeed, it uses the concept of gamification, which is a really good thing to use when teaching students new subjects. Functions sound boring but when exercises are mixed with a couple of game design elements and game principles, it really gives a good shot of extra motivation.
In Viby and Skive-the two places that Anette and Mads (her partner in crime) went to- the students played an important role in the development of the Differentiation Game: they were the official beta testers. During both sessions, the students could, at their own pace, navigate through 6 distinct sections and got eventually better at recognizing and differentiating the types of functions they were presented with. At the same time, they were generating data and hints that our team can now use to make the game even better. For example, they optimized the game by cutting down the number of sections to three.
So yes, taught this way, functions can be fun and our team will make sure that learning physics becomes, more and more, synonymous with pleasure. And with her thesis done, Anette has great news for us:
My analysis […] has successfully shown that students at all levels have gained from the Differentiation game; meaning that we have managed to adapt the game to all levels of skill.
Into the brains that compose ScienceAtHome, there are already lots of ideas for future didactic games, built around other physics concepts and notions. So, teachers and students, stay tuned!