Students engage with one of three technology-based activities:
Students as Active Protagonists in a MUVE
After watching a 5-minute interview of real-life STEM professionals talk about their journey to the job they are in now, students take on the identity of a space explorer who must solve a series of puzzles to save the ship’s captain. Scaffolds and feedback are designed to incrementally build students’ self-efficacy via mastery experiences. Using the STEM interviews, the environment is also designed to target students’ self-efficacy via vicarious models, where the professionals describe struggles they faced and how they overcame them. Ultimately, we hope students relate to these young professionals in such a way that they can tell themselves, “If they can do it, then so can I!”
Learning about the Growth Mindset
This intervention is a web-based module designed to teach students that, with effort and the proper strategies, students can grow their abilities in math. The module is designed as a teen-friendly adventure in which students learn about how the brain functions and how to optimize it. It also teaches students that the brain is like a muscle because it grows stronger and more capable through hard work. Finally, students have the opportunity to write in an eJournal how what they learned in the modules can be directly applied to helping them succeed in their math class.
Passive Assimilation of Information
Teachers often use their own repertoire of digital movies and clips to engage students and motivate them to do well in math. These are very economical options that require relatively little preparation compared to the above two activities. We are designing video segments that consist of a mixture of documentary material (e.g., the beauty of patterns in nature) and material from the entertainment industry (e.g., movie clips of Stargate or Star Wars) that deal with mathematical patterns. This serves as a way to test whether the motivational and/or learning affordances gained by using highly immersive and more costly activities is worth the investment for educators.