Academic Game Review: Nanocrafter
An Opportunity for Exploratory Play
EDLT 728: Game, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds for Learning
Dr. Mark Chen
Abstract Research verifies the important role of exploratory play in the development of cognitive ability, creativity, and concept management (O’Rourke, et al). Nanocrafter is the newest game to leverage exploratory play, offered in Beta from the Center for Game Science at the University of Washington (CGS). Announced at the Games for Change conference in April, 2014, Nanocrafter offers progressing levels of skill building for solo or team player as they visualize and build nanoscale representations of synthetic protein bonds. Synthetic protein bonds do not exist naturally and must be combined by scientists through synthetic biology. Synthetic biology and DNA protein bonds can be the medical solution to real-world challenges, such as disease treatment and debilitating medical conditions. Nanocrafter leverages the cognitive precepts of Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (UbD), Strategic Design, and socio-affective attributes such as peer-review and collaborative groups. It also offers an engaging way to encourage high-school students to strengthen STEM core competencies. Keywords: games, simulations, protein bonds, synthetic biology
Science is an inquiry-based subject requiring deductive and inductive reasoning, process thinking, and patience with trial and error. (Exploration-Driven Online Science Education). Nanocrafter follows The Center for Game Design’s distribution of Foldit. Following the success of Foldit which was originally created to facilitate innovative brainstorming among the scientific community (Chen, et al._____), Nanocrafter promotes situated learning through trial and error and the multiple iterations required for theory testing to prompt thinking in synthetic bonding.
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