The Design and Use of Planetary Science Video Games to Teach Content while Enhancing Spatial Reasoning Skills
American Astronomical Society, Department of Planetary Sciences
Traditional teaching of Planetary Science requires students to possess well developed spatial reasoning skills (SRS). Recent research has demonstrated that SRS, long known to be crucial to math and science success, can be improved among students who lack these skills (Sorby et al., 2009). Teaching spatial reasoning is particularly valuable to women and minorities who, through societal pressure, often doubt their abilities (Hill et al., 2010). To address SRS deficiencies, our team is developing video games that embed SRS training into Planetary Science content. Our first game, on Moon Phases, addresses the two primary challenges faced by students trying to understand the Sun-Earth-Moon system: 1) visualizing the system (specifically the difference between the Sun-Earth orbital plane and the Earth-Moon orbital plane) and 2) comprehending the relationship between time and the position-phase of the Moon. In our second video game, the student varies an asteroid's rotational speed, shape, and orientation to the light source while observing how these changes effect the resulting light curve. To correctly pair objects to their light curves, students use spatial reasoning skills to imagine how light scattering off a three dimensional rotating object is imaged on a sensor plane and is then reduced to a series of points on a light curve plot. These two games represent the first of our developing suite of high-interest video games designed to teach content while increasing the student's competence in spatial reasoning.
Ziffer, Julie, et al. "The Design and Use of Planetary Science Video Games to Teach Content while Enhancing Spatial Reasoning Skills." AAS/Division for Planetary Sciences Meeting Abstracts# 48. Vol. 48. 2016.