Case Study

Gamification of Interactive Teaching Tools

Using a Point System to Encourage Engagement:

In the Honeybee Hive Gizmo, students learn how honeybees communicate through waggle dancing.

To help teach this concept I designed the game with a points system. At the top-right of the Gizmo here is a “Honey volume” bar. When the bar is filled the students win the game.

Honeybees use a dance to teach other bees in the hive where a plentiful food source is. The length of the dance correlates to how far way the food source is and the direction of the correlates to the direction out of the hive. 

To guide the honeybees to honey, students program a robotic bee to perform waggle dances. 

One of the design challenges in this Gizmo was to determine how to best translate this concept into graphic form. 

To have the students looks for nectar locations outside of the hive, I decided to show an arial view above the hive. I added bushes and trees at different, randomly changing locations. Students click on a tree or bush to see how much nectar is present. The circles shown on the map allow the student to determine how far from the hive the plant is located and the compass indicates the direction from the hive. 

Back inside the hive, I designed a UI for students to program the robotic bee. Like the circles in the aerial view, the students choose a circle in the waggle dance UI to indicate how far the bees should travel. 

The users click and drag on the bee to rotate it, which indicates the direction outside the hive the bees should fly. 

When the user clicks the “Start waggle dance” button, they watch the robotic bee waggle dance for the other bees. The bees fly outside and the user sees where the bees were trained to fly. If the user programmed the robotic bee correctly, the honeybees collect nectar from the plant outside and bring it back to the hive. 

The students repeat this process a few times. If they return back to the same location, there is no more nectar to collect there, so they have to train the bees to fly to different locations. When the students do this successfully a few times they win the game! 

Completing challenges to encourage engagement:

In the Programmable Rover Gizmo, students learn block coding. To help teach this concept, I designed a game based on the completion of several tasks that get more complex as the game progresses.

The student uses the blocks to program the rover, instructing it to drive along the grid to the X.

The tasks start out simple, with only two types of blocks. As the student progresses through the tasks, more types of blocks are added and more complicated tasks are assigned. 

The students are rewarded for completing each task with a congratulations screen. 

At the end of the game, I challenged the students to a series of more difficult tasks. The grid is no longer shown. The students can’t reset after making a mistake and they only have a limited battery supply to complete the tasks. 

These restraints force the students to design the simplest, most straight-forward block codes to complete the tasks lest they run out of battery power. By designing the challenge this way, I’m mimicking how programmers strive to write the most efficient code. 

A unique feature that I thought was important to include was the ability of the students to be able to write text code instead of using block coding. While block coding is a way for students to more easily learn coding concepts, text coding is more realistic. 

I show the students examples of the text commands they can use in the code library and they type their text code inside the onStart function to the right. This more closely simulates a real coding environment. 

If you would like to see these Gizmos in action you can click on the videos here or test them out for yourself on ExploreLearning’s website.

Honeybee Hive. Programmable Rover.

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