Warner Professor Teams Up with Second Avenue Learning to Develop a Videogame that Teaches Chemistry

Jayne LammersWarner School of Education Professor Jayne Lammers will lend a hand in developing a new educational game that helps fourth- through sixth-grade students learn chemistry.

A Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant awarded to Second Avenue Learning will allow Lammers to partner with Second Avenue’s team, including CEO and Principal Investigator Victoria Van Voorhis, and Professors David Simkins, Adrienne Decker and Christopher Egert from the Center for Media, Arts, Games, Interaction & Creativity (MAGIC) at the Rochester Institute of Technology, to carry out phases of the Department of Education-funded project that creates a prototype of the reality game Transmedia: Augmented Reality Game for Essential Transfer of Science (TARGETS).

The web-based game will feature renderings of chemical elements and science terms created by Simon Basher, best-selling author of Kingfisher’s The Periodic Table: Elements with Style!, Chemistry: Getting a Big Reaction! and Physics: Why Matter Matters! Augmented reality game cards, lesson plans, an affinity space, and professional development materials will accompany the game, providing students with an unparalleled learning experience.

This summer, the team will collaborate with Lammers, who will tap into her own research and expertise on learning that takes place around videogames and other areas of digital media, to prepare professional development materials and lesson plans to accompany the prototype. Lammers also will help prepare for the school-based testing of the prototype by solidifying the research design and creating pre- and post-assessments.
Lammers will then lead the team in the fall in introducing the prototype into a local charter school and documenting the effectiveness of the game in teaching initial chemistry concepts and engaging students in learning. With help from Warner doctoral students, Lammers will conduct classroom observations and interviews with teachers to understand their experiences in implementing the game as part of their science curriculum.

“While not intended to replace teacher-designed instruction,” says Lammers, “the game aims to supplement the curriculum by engaging students in dynamic learning of basic chemistry concepts drawing on the existing popularity of Basher’s science books.”
A former English and language arts teacher, Lammers directs the English education program at Warner. As part of her dissertation, she engaged in a two-year virtual ethnography to study young women’s digital media creations with The Sims videogames. Today, Lammers continues to research adolescent literacy, especially in online learning. She recently presented a webinar with Van Voorhis on girls and videogames, titled Educational Games for Girls: Collaboration and Context.
The SBIR program at the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), the Department of Education’s research division, provides up to $1.05 million to small businesses for the R&D of commercially viable education technology products. Of the many Phase I SBIR applicants, only five percent were funded in 2013.

About Second Avenue Learning
Founded by educators and gamers, Second Avenue Learning provides custom development and managed services to education technology clients such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and W.W. Norton. Second Avenue builds effective, interactive learning products, both proprietary and client-facing, that are innovative, pedagogically accurate and visually compelling. Second Avenue applies expertise to innovate the learning process, and understands that technology serves as a critical enabler to achieve fully customized learning environments and unlock the potential of all students. Their team takes a synergistic approach to all work, and includes subject matter experts, programmers, artists, learning designers, quality analysts and project managers.

About the Warner School of Education
Founded in 1958, the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education offers master’s and doctoral degree programs in teaching and curriculum, school leadership, higher education, educational policy, counseling, human development, and health professions education. The Warner School of Education offers a new accelerated option for its EdD programs that allows eligible students to earn a doctorate in education in as few as three years part time while holding a professional job in the same field. The Warner School of Education is recognized both regionally and nationally for its tradition of preparing practitioners and researchers to become leaders and agents of change in schools, universities, and community agencies; generating and disseminating research; and actively participating in education reform. 
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Tags: english education, Jayne Lammers, research, video games