ACT asks students to solve 'crisis in space' video game, as part of collaboration study

Published: May. 14, 2019 at 5:11 PM CDT
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Schools in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are looking to solve a "crisis in space," and organizers hope it could lead to better learning. The "crisis" is far from a worldwide concern- it's a computer game.

ACT is hoping kids' love of video games could help them figure out how to help students learn.

Some may think these students are coming out victorious most of the time, considering there is a crisis that needs solving. However, staff with the ACT says even with all of the answers, it still took staff members seven tries to do it perfectly.

The game is challenging, but scientists involved with the project say about a lot more than winning.

"You start out not really knowing what to do," said David Edwards, a Lead Data Scientist with ACT Next. "The whole point of it is to figure out what to do."

The game, titled "Crisis in Space," is a problem-solving game students are volunteering to play in both the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City school districts. Two students are placed in separate rooms using a headset as their only way to work together.

But as the students play, their progress and communication is recorded by ACT.

"We're just trying to figure out ways of improving our ability to measure collaborative problem solving," Edwards said. "Specifically, really in order to help students learn how to collaborate better."

Edwards said while students play, they track almost everything- from communication skills to where someone focuses their eyes.

"We'll watch the player's face and see whether or not they're showing signs of frustration or happiness," Edwards said. "Especially in the face of failure and success."

The front as a video game helps, but educators are hoping this game could make a difference to help students learn or inspire them for a potential career.

"It's not just Fortnite or some of those other fun games that they play on their free time," said Elizabeth Bruening, the Principal at Northwest Junior High School in Coralville. "But it can also be used to solve real-world problems and prepare them for life after high school."

"If they find it fun, and it's helpful, then we really kind of hit the sweet spot as something they're wanting to do that also helps," Edwards said.

Edwards said ACT will take all of this data, and over the next year they will break it down and explain their findings.