Click!Online: Girls Solve STEM Mysteries at Spy School

 

6.4.10 | Spotlight talks with Emily Sturman of the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh about Click!Online, a web-based augmented reality game for adolescent girls that teaches science, math and technology.

Click!Online recently won a Learning Lab award for innovation in digital media as part of the 2010 Digital Media and Learning Competition.

At the Click! Agency, a fictional online spy school, girls entering 6th, 7th and 8th grades work together to solve mysteries related to biomedical science, environmental protection and expressive technologies.

Participants collaborate in a science-based social network and use virtual laboratories combined with real world inquiry to solve challenges. In the case of the perplexing peach, for example, one of the Pittsburgh Steelers has fallen mysteriously ill. Girls must examine case files of patients, figure out how to extract their own DNA, and visit the Del Monte peach processing plant to uncover the source of the mysterious illness.

“We focus on girls because there is a huge disparity in girls’ representation in the STEM workforce,” said Emily Sturman, assistant director for the Girls Math & Science Partnership at the Carnegie Center. 

Sturman said that research shows girls’ interest in STEM subjects drops after 4th grade and that women are dramatically underrepresented in STEM related fields like computer science.

“Women can contribute so substantially to the STEM workforce,” she said. “The unique ways that women work with each other - we’re more collaborative, we’re good problem solvers - are exactly the types of skills that are critical to ensuring that our workforce is as creative and innovate as possible.”

To this end, the project focuses on hands-on inquiry workshops that encourage collaborative problem solving and participatory learning.

“We know that hands-on inquiry is important to learners of both genders, but we at the Girls, Math & Science Partnership really emphasize the altruistic components of the science,” Sturman said. “Because we know that if girls feel that what they are doing can positively contribute to the world or help other people, they are much more likely to stay engaged.”

Sturman says this approach not only helps the girls stay connected, but also teaches civic responsibility.

“For example, in Click Level Two, which is all about environmental protection, they are not just testing water quality, they are learning about the broader implications of poor water quality on the health of our rivers,” she said.

“By emphasizing the broader implications of this content, we’re teaching girls that they can be savvy consumers and savvy citizens of our community.”

Related: For more on augmented reality games, see Views from the Vanguard of Using Mobile Media for Learning at Spotlight.

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