Learn Genetics through Dragon Breeding

I remember my high school biology class. Being fascinated by dominant and recessive traits such as eye color, and tongue rolling. I remember learning about how an Austrian monk named Gregor Mendel experimented on pea plants to learn about inherited traits and genetics. It was one of the cooler biology topics. You know what would have made it cooler? DRAGONS!

Well, thanks to SpongeLab, your students can now explore Mendelian Genetics by breeding their own dragons with Dragon Breeder.

Rise of the Dragons

Genetics Lab
Genetics Lab

In Dragon Breeder, you are an apprentice breeder, breeding different types of dragons to earn rewards and hone your skills. There are two types of gameplay, campaign-based and free play.  The campaign is a story based game that moves your through the journal of Esse Ipsum as he analyzes the genetic makeup of different body traits such as body shape, head shape, and wing type. As you move through the story, you receive work orders and take on specific breeding challenges. You earn rewards as you successfully complete challenges. Use those rewards to purchase skills and level up. In free play you practice your breeding skills by breeding and selling dragons with different traits. There is also sky mode where you fly a dragon around the sky looking for chests of rewards.

Learning Tools

Tutorial - The Dragon Breeding Handbook
Tutorial – The Dragon Breeding Handbook

Breeding dragons is not easy. Luckily, there is a tutorial level that walks you through the process. The tutorial level is easy to follow and works to build your understanding of both the game and basic genetics. I would recommend walking through the 8 tutorial levels before starting the game. They are very helpful. I only completed up to level 4 and then started the game. It was fun to click around and see what you can do in the game. However, I think I would have been more productive if I would have finished the entire tutorial.

Worth the Play

It has been a long time since I explored Mendelian Genetics. I think high school me would have enjoyed playing this game. Because, really, who doesn’t like dragons? The gameplay is a little clunky but the game is in beta. Also, I didn’t play through all the tutorial levels before going into campaign mode. So, that is on me.

If you are teaching genetics, give this a try. It might be what you need to hook your reluctant geneticists.

 

Create Interactive AR Story and Game Experiences with Metaverse Studio

If you are a fan of augmented reality games and stories but never thought you would be able to create one of your very own, then you will enjoy Metaverse Studio.

Metaverse Overview

Metaverse Studio is a free online development tool for creating interactive mobile experiences. You can create interactive stories, games, scavenger hunts and more. The premise seems complicated but, thanks to an intuitive storyboard and an amazing library of tutorials, creating a customized experience is easier than you think.

What is an Experience?

Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences
Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences

Before you start creating your own experiences it might be useful to download the mobile app and play some of the experiences created by others. An experience can be an interactive VR tour, where 360 images are combined with user response screens to create an interactive VR field trip. Or, an experience could be an augmented reality quiz, digital breakout, or interactive story. Each experience is a mini mobile game created by members of the community.

There are a bunch of experiences in the library. It reminds me of all of the other user created libraries out there like Kahoot!, Quizizz, etc. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are ridiculous. All are interesting was to use VR/AR/MR technology.

What excites me about this tool is the possibilities of what you and your students can create using the storyboard.

Metaverse Storyboard

The Metaverse storyboard is where all the creative magic happens. The storyboard is a web-based tool for creating experiences. When you peek behind the curtain of a Metaverse experience, it looks like a concept map or a flow chart. Look at the image below. It might help.

Metaverse Storyboard
The storyboard of my first experience. Buttons connect to different the scenes that make up my experience.

The storyboard is where you lay out the framework of your experience, format your scenes, add media and interactive features. My first experience, which you can gaze on above, was a simple choose your own adventure story where you help the unicorn find their cat. You can see the first scene where the unicorn asks for your help. Choose the “No.” button and the game ends with a picture of a sad cat. Say “Yes.” and your spirit panda helps its new unicorn friend find his cat in a strange Back to the Future 360 world. The experience ends with a happy cat. Each of the scenes with gray backgrounds are actually augmented reality scenes.

Key Features

My simple little experience is nothing compared to the sophisticated experiences you can create with Metaverse. In addition to standard scenes, you can add interactive modules and input blocks. It is fairly easy to go from simple two scene experiences to AR scavenger hunts. I’m going to be honest, I need a lot more training on the more complicated blocks and modules before I can use them effectively. Luckily, there is a comprehensive tutorial channel on YouTube. You can watch videos on how to add polls, selfie features, and use some of the code blocks to add inventory management, probability events, leaderboards, and more.  As I said, for a tool that looks simple on the surface, you can create some complicated experiences.

What I like most about this tool is that you can get started right away and create simple experiences, however, you will not outgrow this tool quickly. There are lots of things you can do as your skill increases. As the website says – you can create amazing things! Go give it a try!

 

CoSpaces Edu: Virtual Reality Builder

I want to build amazing worlds. I’m a little intimidated by virtual world builders and 3D modeling tools. Fortunately for me, and other aspiring world builders, there are new tools out there that are easy to use and can help us create our spaces. CoSpaces Edu is one of those tools.

CoSpaces Edu Overview

I want to start this post by saying that this tool is amazing. There are so many features that I cannot cover all of them. I’m going to try and provide a basic overview that answers the question – What the heck is CoSpaces Edu? Hopefully, that sparks your interest and you can take it from there. There is just so much to cover on this application. I spent about an hour playing around so I know I did not uncover everything it can do. I also only explored the free version, not the pro version. My overview will be limited but hopefully helpful.

What the Heck is CoSpaces Edu?CoSpaces EDU

CoSpaces Edu is a virtual reality world builder for the classroom. According to their website, CoSpaces Edu is a place where teachers and students can create virtual reality experiences and animate them using code. To learn more, read through their brochure.

CoSpaces is browser based but you can also download an app for your mobile device so you can view your creations.

To give it a try, set up a free basic account. This account will allow you to create two virtual spaces. If you want to create more spaces and unlock a whole host of advanced features, upgrade to the Pro plan. The Pro plan starts at $3.50 per seat with a minimum of 30 seats. If I were teaching on a regular basis, I would consider this. It seems like a reasonable price for all of the features you unlock. There is even a new MERGE Cube Pro add-on coming soon. Read more about this add-on over on the CoSpaces blog. That could be the tipping point for me. Learn about the pricing plans on the Plans page.

Key Features

CoSpaces is a pretty powerful, yet easy to use VR creation tool. As I said earlier, there are too many features to list in this one blog post, so I’ll list some of my favorites. Tutorial Welcome

  • Support and tutorials – Getting started with creating VR experiences can be intimidating. When you first sign-in to CoSpaces, you are launched into a great tutorial. I walked through it in about 10 minutes and was ready to make my first space. The Welcome space takes you step-by-step through creating your own space and working in a 3D environment. Don’t skip this. It is very helpful.
  • Easy to use Toolbox – I created my first space in a matter of minutes. I set the environment. Then added a bunny and made the bunny eat. I needed a tree so I added it and changed the scale. I then added a flying butterfly and a pink backpack. Because, well, why not. The drag and drop interface made it easy to add. The grid and 3D guides also make it easy to get your assets right where you need them.
CoSpace Bunny
The toolbox as I created my first bunny.
  • Class Management – CoSpaces is made for educators. From your dashboard, you set up classes and manage assignments. Students join your class using a join code. I really like that CoSpaces is COPA and FERPA certified. Good to know.
  • Resources and Support – If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I am a stickler for high-quality resources and support. For me, a tech tool is not useful if it does not include good support resources. CoSpaces passes the HoPinkTech support test. There are some great onboarding resources including a handbook and tutorials. There is a nice bank of lesson plans for STEM/Coding, Social Science, ELA, and Arts and Media. Not a huge list but some great ideas to get you started. They also have some IRL goodies for your classroom such as posters and student certificates. On the support side, there is a Tech Check to make sure you are using the right tech, FAQs, a list of teacher Ambassadors, and a user forum that looks pretty active.
  • Gallery – All registered users have access to the Gallery. Here you can browse through VR spaces created by other users. It is cool to see what folks have created. A good place to get some inspiration.

Bottom Line

As I stated earlier, there is too much to this tool to fit into a short blog post. I’ve only scratched the surface. The bottom line is that CoSpaces Edu is a great way to get started in VR creation. The free basic account gives you enough features to explore so you can decide if you want to start using it in your class. It makes VR creation accessible and not so scary. Believe me, VR creation is scary for me. I am excited about the new integration with MERGE Cube. That is a feature to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing what teachers and students create.

I’ll close with a short virtual tour of my Bunny Tree space. Let the little butterfly and sweet bunny take you to a relaxing space while you wonder what’s in the backpack and why it was left under the tree. Enjoy!

Make your classroom eLibrary Epic! – Epic! Books for Kids

This post goes out to all you bibliophiles out there who can’t seem to get enough books for your classroom. Epic! is a digital library with, according to the website, “over 25,000 books, videos, quizzes, and more!”

Build Your eLibraryEpic

Anyone can create an account and start reading some of today’s most popular picture books and early reader chapter books.

For parents, the first 30-days is free. After that, it is $7.99 a month – which includes no ads and no in-app purchases.

For educators and librarians, registration is free. This comes with a whole host of great resources.

Epic! for Educators and Librarians

I was so impressed by all the resources available for educators and librarians on Epic! Here’s a quick rundown of my favorites.

  • Class management tools – Educators can invite their students to their elibrary using a class code, copy/paste in a class roster or import a roster from Google Classroom. From your class roster, you can assign books and quizzes and share information with your student’s families. Your class roster also lets you monitor student progress on assignments and quizzes.
  • Curated Library – You can build your own custom collections by exploring the entire library. You can share your collections with the educator community or browse through collections from other community members. I have already started building my Unicorn collection. Not only do they have some of the newest titles, I  even found one of my own childhood favorites – Morgan and Me. The Serendipity Book by Stephen Cosgrove. Yay!
  • Vast Collection of Media – Epic! is not only books. You can also find videos, audiobooks, and read-aloud books.
  • Integrated assessments – You can create quizzes right in the books to check for student comprehension. Go to your dashboard to see how your students did on their quizzes.

    Epic! Resources for educators.
    Epic! Resources for educators.
  • Resources – I am most impressed by the resources available for educators. Everything you need to get started is included right there on the website, including a Quick-Start Guide, full guidebook,  a parent letter, a Back-to-School presentation, lesson plans, classroom decorations, and (my personal favorite) the Readerpillar! Look at how cute it is. Your students will love reading and adding to the Readerpillar.

If you have a classroom and struggle to keep your class library up to date with new books or you want to create collections based on the ever-changing interests of your students, then Epic! is the eLibrary for you. Head over to Epic! to create an account and start building your Readerpillar today!

Epic! might just be what you need to help cure your book addition. Ok, not really, we know that that can’t be cured. Just go read.

Travel the World with Google VR Tour Creator

Virtual field trips are my new obsession. I love them. They curb my wanderlust just a little. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at creating my own but my lack of a 360 camera makes it difficult. And, no matter how much I beg, no one will buy me one. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Here is what you need to know about 360 cameras.) I should have known that Google would have a tool to help me solve my lack of 360 camera dilemma and fill my need for creating VR tours.

Google VR Tour Creator

Google VR Tour Creator is an easy to use tool for creating VR tours using either the 360 views from Google Street View or your own 360 images.

Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.
Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.

Google VR Tour Creator has everything you would expect from a Google tool. Easy log-in with your Google account, intuitive interface, and easy to use features. In a matter of minutes, you can create interactive 360 tours of anywhere Google street view has been or, if you have your own 360 footage, you can upload your own images.

Key Features

There are so many cool features of this tool. I’m shocked that I have not played with it earlier. Here are just a few.

Search Google Maps for street views.
Search Google Maps for street views.
  • It’s free.
  • Use Google Street View to find 360 images for your tour. You can easily search Google maps and move your little street view person around to find the perfect shot.
  • Add interactive features to your tour. Using the development screen you can…
    • add a scene description,
    • ambient music,
    • scene narration,
    • identify points of interest,
    • add image overlays (you can only add images, no video or 3D models),
    • and points of interest narration.
  • If you are not sure how to get started, you can choose from the wide variety of templates to help you. Each template is a sample virtual tour with editable elements.
  • Once complete, your tour is published to Poly. You can choose the visibility level. List it publicly or leave it unlisted.
  • Device agnostic. You can view your tour on the computer or use VR apps.
  • Easy to use. My little sample tour below took less than 20 minutes to create.

In the Classroom

Google VR Tour Creator is a great way to get your students started in creating VR experiences. Imagine, instead of reading a report on a location, you can view a 360 tour that includes music, narrative, informative pop-ups, and photos. Not only are your students researching and writing about a place they are also building important media skills. The best part is that there is no special equipment is needed, just a computer and a Google log-in. Even your youngest students should be able to navigate through this application and create their own virtual tour. If you have a 360 camera, they can even take their own footage and incorporate it into their creation.

If you are like me and you do not have the joy of a 360 camera in your life, never fear. Google once again has your back. Download the free Google Cardboard Camera app. I have not yet tried it but, I will give it a shot this weekend. It might be a no-cost alternative to a 360 camera.

There are so many ways you can use VR Tour creator in your classroom. I’m excited to start creating my own virtual tours and playing around with all it can do. What are you creating with VR Tool Creator? Have your students used it? Share your ideas!

Interactive Lessons with Nearpod

I create a lot of presentations and facilitate a lot of learning sessions. I’m always looking for new ways to spice up my sessions and engage my students. Nearpod is a web application that might be the answer to my engagement challenge.

Nearpod Overview

I’ve been hearing about Nearpod for quite some time now but have not had an opportunity to explore it. I feel like a am a little late to the Nearpod party. Better late than never, right?

Nearpod is basically a library of interactive presentations that you can use with students. You, the teacher, can launch a presentation and present as usual. Your students can join your presentation on their device by using your presentation join code. Once they join, they can follow along on their device. As you advance, their version advances too.

In addition to the regular slides, you can include interactive slides for your students. This includes open-ended questions, quizzes, slide they can draw on, interactive simulations, VR tours, and more. As you move through your slides, your students can respond to questions so you can do an on the fly check for understanding. This is what excites me about Nearpod. Below you see an example of one of the interactive slide. I’ve added the Draw It feature so my learners can respond to my question by adding hand-drawn notes.

A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.
A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.

Features

Nearpod has many great features.

Lesson Library
Lesson Library
  • Content Library – You do not have to create all of your content from scratch. There is an extensive library of content. You can explore the bank of free and for purchase lessons, preview content, and save the ones you want to your personal library. Lessons have been created by Nearpod partners such as PhET and iCivics as well as Nearpod educators.
  • Customize and Create – You can customize lessons from the library or create your own. I uploaded one of my presentations and it was super easy to add interactive slides.
  • VR Integration – You can add VR field trips right into your presentation. Students can explore 360 images and then respond to questions.
  • Student Reports – As your students interact with your content, all their responses are displayed on your dashboard. You can view reports to see how your students are understanding the content.
  • PD and Support –  For me, one of the most important features is available support for teachers. Nearpod does not disappoint. There is a great, self-paced tutorial. I walked through it and found it easy to follow and clear. In addition, on their resource page, you can join live webinars, watch on-demand webinars or watch one of the many video tutorials. I love that the videos tutorials are only 60 seconds. You can also join the Nearpod community on Facebook or get tons of ideas on the Nearpod blog.
  • Sign-up – You can use your existing credentials from Google or MS O365 to create an account. Or you can sign-up with your email.
  • Pricing – Nearpod has several tiers of pricing.  You can find them outlined on their pricing page. It is free to sign-up and get started. There are also several free lessons you can use, with many more that you can purchase. Lessons seem to run from $2.99 and up. With a free account, you can create your own lessons and add some of the interactive features. Others, such as the Draw It tool, are only available with a paid account. However, you can sign up for a free trial to give it a test run.
  • Notes – It looks like there is a new feature that allows your students to take notes on their own device as you give your presentation.

As you can see there are many great features to Nearpod. I know that I have missed many.

I’m excited to give it a try as part of my professional development workshops and with the students we work with. Are you using Nearpod? How do your students like?

Get Your Lists Together with Microsoft Planner

I’m part of a great team. Our team has a lot of projects. We are enthusiastic, full of energy, ideas, and different working styles. We work together to develop content, plan events, deliver workshops, build partnerships, inspire learners and do our best not to be overwhelmed by task lists and deadlines and still like each other at the end of the day. Not an easy task – but we do it pretty well. I’ve been looking for a tool to help keep us organized and is SUPER easy to use.

My current task management experimental tool is Microsoft Planner. So far, not bad. We are midway through one major project and I have to say it has helped keep us on track.

Planner Overview

Microsoft Planner is available as part of the Office 365 suite. It is one of those undiscovered apps hidden in the Explore All App section of your dashboard. Basically, Planner is a task list tool. You can create task lists by project, assign tasks to team members, track team communication, and manage deadlines. It is easy to use and easy to see if your project is on track or way behind schedule.

Check out this overview video from Microsoft to learn more.

Pros and Cons

What I like about this tool…

  • Integrates easily with all my Microsoft applications.
  • Easy to set up a new project and new tasks can be added at any time.
  • Assign tasks to one or more team members.
  • Attach related documents to tasks and add comments to tasks. Ideas and conversations do not get lost in email!! Yay!
  • View tasks by due date. There are three ways to view your task lists: in buckets, by progress, and on the calendar. Makes it easy to see project progress.
  • Pushes communication through email. You do not have to open the app to see the current discussion around tasks.
  • Create and manage multiple projects.

Things I’m not crazy about…

  • You cannot add team members who are not part of your organization. At least I have not figured out how to add them yet.
  • No Gantt chart.  I love me a good Gantt chart. For me, it is the easiest way to view a project. There are some nice charting tools in Planner. You can see an overall view of tasks, coded by progress color. You can also view task progress organized by buckets and by team members. This is helpful. The calendar view is also neat and kind of Gantt chart-like – but, it is not a Ganntt chart.
  • The tool is only as good as your team is at using it. Don’t expect miracles here. This tool will not magically keep your team on task and just because you have a planning tool, does not mean that they will use a planning tool. The trick is to find a tool that is not just one more thing to do but instead is actually helpful. Out of all the digital tricks I have tried, Microsoft Planner has been the most successful. I’m hoping that the more we use it, the better we will be at using it.

If you manage projects and are looking for an easy to use tool to keep your team organized, give Microsoft Planner a try. It might just be exactly what your team needs to take them from merely functioning to super-awesome productive!

 

Create Interactive Lessons from any Web Page with InsertLearning

The internet is filled with amazing content. I am always assigning web articles, blog posts, and other web content to my students. I hope they read it deeply and critically think about what they are reading but, I can’t really be sure.

Insert, InsertLearning, formally known as DocentEDU.

Add Interactivity

InsertLearning is a Chrome extension that lets you embed interactive elements, such as discussion questions, multiple choice questions, and other media into any web page. Below is an example of a web page with highlighted text and a discussion question.

Common Core in Action 10 Visual Literacy Strategies Edutopia
Highlight text and add questions to any site using the toolbar.

You can even embed other media such as YouTube videos, Google Slides presentations, or anything with an embed code.

Common Core in Action 10 Visual Literacy Strategies Edutopia (1)
YouTube Video embedded in a website.

There is a long list of apps that can be added to a web page. I’m sure all your favorites are there. Such as FlipGrid, Thinglink, Edpuzzle, and more. The complete list is available once you have created your free account. It even includes easy to follow tutorial videos like the one below.

As you can see, it is super easy to add interactive elements and there are several templates that can help you based on the type of webpage you are using. For example, if I am assigning a current event news article, InsertLearning has sample lessons and discussion questions. Take a look here.

Key Features

There are tons of great features with this tool. Here are just a few.

  • Free access to all features –  InsertLearning is a free Chrome extension. With the free version, you can create an account, create 5 lessons, manage unlimited students, and use ALL the features, not just a limited set. If you want to create more than 5 lessons, there are a few tiers of pricing. An individual teacher can add unlimted lesson creation for only $40 a year. Here is more information on the pricing packages.

    common-core-in-action-10-visual-literacy-strategies-edutopia-2.png
    Easily assign lessons to multiple classes.
  • Assign and Manage Lessons – The dashboard is simple to use. You can create classes and assign lessons to one or multiple classes. Students join classes using a join code. You can even push your lesson out using Google Classroom or via an assignment link. You can also manage student scores through your dashboard.
  • Student Dashboards – Students can use their Google login to create a student account. Once they are signed in, they can use the class code to join the class. They now have a list of all the lessons assigned.
  • Tutorial videos – Ther is a substantial video tutorial library to help you make the most of all the features. You can find them on YouTube under DocentEDU. I already mentioned that this tool connects with many of our other favorites. The video library has videos that will help you incorporate those tools into your lessons.
  • Teacher Ambassadors – InsertLearning was developed by two classroom teachers. They have also created a community of educators called Ambassadors.  It seems like a wonderful support community. You can even become an Ambassador by running your own PD session. InsertLearning supplies all the training materials.

I am excited to start using this in my classes. My courses are mainly online and I’m always looking for discussion board alternatives. I think this has a lot of potential to add engagement to my online readings assignments.

Thank you InsertLearning for a powerful online learning tool!

An Interactive Story with 57° North for MERGE Cube

This app goes out to all my fellow children of the 80s who loved a good Choose Your Own Adventure book. The team at Mighty Coconut have created a beautiful augment reality choose your own adventure story for the MERGE Cube called 57° North.

The Story

57° North is the story of two cousins who are stranded on an island in the Alaskan wilderness. Their survival is in your hands as you choose the direction of the story. The story is intense and action-packed. (I’m going to try to give no spoilers here – so this will be vague.) It is part survival, part mystery as you help the two main characters navigate through the plot. According to the Mighty Coconut website, the story is for 10 and up and should take about an hour to go through once. However, just like any good CYOA story, you have to go back and try all the different paths to see how the story changes.

The Artwork

As you can see from the video and the screenshots, the artwork is gorgeous. Viewing this on the MERGE Cube gives you some depth to the artwork. As you can see in the video, you can move the scene around. The music also pairs really well with the feel of the story. Overall, it is a very nice piece of media.

Playing the StoryScreenshot_20181104-160407.png

To watch the story, you need a Merge Cube (read more about MERGE Cube here), a device, and the 57° North app. The app will run on both iOS and Android. It costs a mere $2.99, less than an ebook. You might also want a set of headphone. The sound works best with headphones and you won’t have nosy folks looking over your shoulder won=der what you are watching. To start the story, open the app with your device and scan the MERGE Cube. The story will launch. What I really like is that you do not need to finish the whole story in one sitting. If you close the app mid story, it will remember where you are and pick up where you left off. You move through the scene by rotating the MERGE Cube. As you can see in the video, when you come to a decision point, you rotate the cube to make your choice. It is a fun way to experience the story.  You can also play this using MERGE VR/AR goggles instead of the MERGE Cube.

In the Classroom

There are many different ways you could use this in the classroom. Here are just a few ideas.

  • Engage those reluctant readers. Get them hooked with this type of interactive storytelling and then hand them a vintage CYOA book or a great graphic novel.
  • Use the plot points in the story to explore STEAM concepts – STEM Read style. Visit the STEM Read website for inspiration. There are some great STEAM concepts in this story to explore.
  • Have your students create their own branching story. They can write one and leave it as a text-based story or turn it into a graphic novel.  Have them create a virtual version of their story. Go old school text-based with a tool like Twine. Read my review of Twine from last year’s 30 in 30. Or use visual tools like PowerPoint, Google slides or even Prezi, to create a digital version of their non-linear story.  I would love to figure out a way to have students create their own virtual stories on MERGE Cube. Maybe I will discover that as I explore the other apps.

I hope this is just the beginning of this type of storytelling. I also hope that Mighty Coconut continues to make interactive stories. I visited their website and there are a couple more VR/AR games available. They are not stories like 57 North but they do look cool. I really want to check out Laser Mazer! I might have to add that to this months list!

Inspiring Stories: Breaking Boundaries in Science from Filament Games

Inspiring kids to explore careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is a large part of what I do on a daily basis. Now, thanks to Filament Games, we have a beautiful new VR experience to add to our toolbox – Breaking Boundaries in Science.

The Experience

Filament Games is known for their high quality, fun, educational games. Breaking Boundaries in Science is no exception. Created for Samsung VR and Oculus Go, Breaking Boundaries lets you or your students explore the working spaces of three groundbreaking female scientists: Jane Goodall, Grace Hopper, and Marie Curie. When you first enter the experience, you are standing in a great hall in front of portraits of the great women. Selecting a portrait sends you to a beautifully detailed virtual recreation of their workspaces. Once you are in these spaces, you can move through and explore these amazing spaces. In the space, you can select items and hear, in the scientist’s voice, a bit about their own story as it related to the item. Cool fun fact – Jane Goodall herself voiced her vignette. It is incredible to hear about her work from her.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES IN SCIENCE
A Screenshot of the scientists from the Breaking Boundaries website.

The gameplay experience is open exploration. The developers at Filament call it a form of non-linear storytelling, told through objects that held personal meaning to the scientists. It is almost like an unstructured Choose-Your-Own-Adventure. Using this strategy, Breaking Boundaries tells a multi-faceted story about the scientific breakthroughs that made these women pioneers in their field and, more importantly, an intimate portrait of who these women were as people.

My Experience

My colleague and I had the opportunity to play Breaking Boundaries back in late August at the Filament Games offices. The experience was impressive. I had to sit while my colleague played first. I sat with anticipation while she oohed and aahed over what she saw in-world.  I was a bit impatient for her to finish so I could have my turn. If you are using it with your students, be prepared for a few impatient cries of “Is it my turn yet?”

When I (finally) got to play, I could see what she was oohing and aahing about. The detail in-world was gorgeous. From the stars in the sky and bugs on the ground in Jane Goodall’s camp to the sparking equipment and dusty chalkboards of Grace Hopper’s office. Marie Curie’s lab ceiling even leaked when it rained. It was inspiring to hear their stories in their own voices. (The voice actors for Hopper and Curie were spot on.)

I didn’t get to experience it, but my colleague selected the right things to get Marie Curie herself to appear! I wanted to keep trying but, we couldn’t stay there forever.

Classroom Uses

If you have a Samsung VR or Oculus Go, I highly recommend this VR experience. It is a free download. There are lots of ways you can use this in the classroom. Full disclosure – my office at NIU worked with Filament to write the accompanying activity guide. So – check it out for ideas on using this in the classroom. You can access the resources here.  It was a lot of fun to think about all the ways to use this with students.

Extras

While we were at Filament, we had the opportunity to sit down with Dan Norton, the Cheif Creative Officer of Filament and Ethan Cayko, the producer of Breaking Boundaries. We picked their brain about all kinds of things. Everything from designing educational video games, career paths in the gaming industry, and their own paths to get them to where they are today. It was a fascinating interview with two fascinating people.

STEM Read Podcast!
STEM Read Podcast!

You can listen to our interview with them and author Jennifer L. Holm on Episode 12: Games, Goldfish, and Greatness.

I hope you and your students enjoy Breaking Boundaries in Science as much as I did!