Getting to Know C4C Educator Megan Scoppa

Posted By: EDWARD WANG | Pedagogy Director, PlayMada Games

What classes do you teach? Where do you teach?
I am a classroom teacher in Kingwood, Texas, which is just northeast of Houston.

How long have you been teaching?
I have taught at Kingwood High School for the past 3 years. I am certified science composite, but have most recently been teaching On-Level chemistry for the past few years.

What inspired you to become a science teacher?
I read an article a few years ago about how students enjoy science, just not science class. I wanted to change that, and since I have the unique background of being a scientist in real life, I thought I’d give it a go!

What initially motivated you to bring Collisions into your chemistry classroom?
I first learned about Collisions at CAST 2016. First it was just the free shirt, but then I saw the amazing visualizations it has! This is really useful for visual learners, which most of my students are.

Describe how have you used Collisions in your classroom?
I have used Collisions as an introductory tool. I utilize the teacher resources listed on the website for individual investigation labs. This year we have used it for covalent bonding, IMFs, and we will use it next week for acids and bases. There is no comparison for the information that is shown in the tutorial levels and the sandbox!

How has Collisions impacted a specific student (or group of students)?
Some of my students enjoy games over lecture (surprise!), and these are the students who suddenly become more engaged and interested in what we are learning. Then, they can use their knowledge to help others, creating a student-centered learning environment. Also, just being able to “see” electrons being transferred or rearranged, along with molecule formation helps student understanding tremendously.

What has surprised/excited you the most about using Collisions in your classroom?
I enjoy that I can use it all year long with all of our chemistry topics and that the levels are related to each other, since that’s the way it is in REAL chemistry.

4 Tips to Implement Game-Based Learning

By: EDWARD WANG | Pedagogy Director, PlayMada Games

The benefits of incorporating games into our classrooms and into our lessons are clear. Games are a great way to engage students, they allow students to progress at their own pace, and they allow students to work and learn independently. But that does not mean incorporating games into the classroom is easy. So here are four tips for successfully implementing games into your lessons:

1. Play the game before your students play.

This is likely the most obvious of the tips, but it’s also one of the most common mistakes teachers make when incorporating a digital game into a lesson. But what may be less obvious is to play the game like you are a student, not like a teacher that knows the content extremely well already. A game like Collisions: Play Chemistry was designed to allow students to freely explore and make discoveries on their own. The Ions game, for example, allows the player to attempt to remove any electron from an atom, not just valence electrons. As chemistry teachers, it’s second nature to immediately begin by removing valence electrons to form a cation. For many of our students, that’s certainly not a given. Playing the game beforehand, allows you to familiarize yourself with what happens in the game when a student tries to remove an inner electron and other moments of discovery that will invariably happen throughout gameplay.

2. Prepare questions to ask your students during and after playing the game.

As a student, whenever my teacher gave me a reading assignment there were always questions for me to answer along with the reading. I usually read these questions beforehand to focus myself. As teachers planning to incorporate a digital game into our lessons, consider crafting two sets of questions for students: one set of questions to verbally ask individual students as they play and another set of questions for all students to answer after gameplay.

Questions during gameplay should point out a particular concept encountered during gameplay. For example, in the Covalent Bonding game in Collisions, students can create polar bonds and see the shared electrons shift. Stop and ask that student, “Why do you think those shared electrons moved closer to the fluorine atom than the hydrogen atom?”.  Have a handful of these questions ready to use as you walk around the classroom during gameplay.

Post-gameplay questions should be designed to check for understanding and relate specifically to the learning objectives for the lesson. For example, “How does electronegativity (red glow in the Covalent Bonding game) affect the location of the shared electrons in a covalent bond?” is a great question to assess student understanding of bond polarity. For more sample questions, visit the Teacher Resources section of our website and download the Teacher Quick Start Guides.

3. Regularly reference the game in subsequent lessons.

In the days and weeks after playing the game, keep referencing aspects of the game. Phrases like, “Remember when you saw the shared electrons shift…” help students draw connections between the concepts being discussed and the visuals in the game. Using an LCD projector and the Sandbox in Collisions, you can also quickly show a particular visual or interaction in the game to highlight one specific concept. As you make more references to the game, students become less likely to view games in your classroom as time fillers.

4. Know the technology requirements and test the game before class.

While there’s no way to completely eliminate unforeseen technology problems, the more you know ahead of time, the better. Test the game at school on the same devices students will be using. It’s also a good idea to try the game during school hours to see how it performs during peak internet usage times. If you are using tablets, check that you are able to install the game without the assistance of an IT person (the web version of Collisions runs through any browser and does not require any installation). Some schools and districts filter access to certain websites. Testing the game on the school’s network will ensure your students are not blocked by filters during your lesson. (If you are blocked, we can provide your IT person with a whitelist to change that!)  

Ions and the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

Ions and the NGSS Crosscutting Concepts

By: EDWARD WANG | Pedagogy Director, PlayMada Games

As teachers across the country implement the Next Generation Science Standards, lesson plans are being written to incorporate Science and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas…aka the Three Dimensions of Learning.

This month, let’s take a look at a few NGSS Crosscutting Concepts than can be used with the Ions game in Collisions®.

Patterns:  As with all of the games in Collisions, there are many patterns for students to uncover in the Ions game. Within the game, students can discover for themselves the pattern for which atoms gain electrons vs. which atoms lose electrons, the connection between the charge of an ion and the number of electrons gained/lost, the trend for ionization energy, and the trend for first, second, and third ionization energies.

One easy way to assess students is to ask them to take a screenshot of a pattern that they discovered in the game and write a description of the pattern/trend.

Cause and Effect:  Each one of the patterns in the Ions game identified by students can be further investigated to identify the cause. For example, in Ions Challenge Level 4, there is not enough energy to ionize lithium, but there is enough energy to ionize sodium. What factors account for this difference in ionization energy? Students can use the Ions sandbox to gather more evidence and draw their own conclusions.

Structure and Function:  Hopefully students are thinking about the structure of atoms and shielding as they are thinking about ionization energy and ions. To further drive home this connection, students can play the Ions-Atoms connected levels. In these levels (which become available after the player has completed all regular levels in Ions and in Atoms), players must construct their own neutral atoms by building a nucleus, then placing electrons in the appropriate orbitals, ordering their atoms from smallest to largest radii, and finally ionizing them with the available energy in the bank. After completing each connected level, have students reflect on the atomic properties they were focused upon as they built atoms to be ionized.

Featured Resource :
Ionization Energy Lesson Plan
In this lesson, students will use Collisions® to explore and compare first, second, and third ionization energies.

Taking the Memorization Out of Electron Configuration

By: EDWARD WANG | Pedagogy Director, PlayMada Games

Ever watched a teenager play a new digital game? They don’t read any of the rules first before playing. They’d rather just explore and figure it out for themselves. If they lose a life in the game, they happily use the experience to quickly inform and adjust their next attempt to succeed. They quickly figure out intricate rules and patterns in games through exploration and iteration without prompting or frustration.

In many chemistry classrooms, learning electron configuration involves many rules and a complex pattern for fill order. Students are given the rules: Aufbau Principle, Hund’s Rule, and the Pauli Exclusion Principle. Students are given the pattern for electron fill order to memorize or given the Diagonal Rule (aka Madelung’s Rule) to help them.

Isn’t there another way for chemistry students to learn the patterns in electron configuration? The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) include patterns as one of its Crosscutting Concepts, and we know young people regularly look for patterns in games. Our resource of the month is a lesson plan that allows students to use the Atoms game in Collisions® to explore electron configuration. Through the game students will uncover the electron fill order pattern while discovering the concepts covered by Hund’s Rule as well as the Aufbau and Pauli Exclusion Principles. The lesson plan includes two student worksheets to guide their play/exploration/learning and a student assessment to determine individual mastery of the concepts.

Featured Resource :
Electron Configuration Lesson Plan
In this lesson, students will use Collisions® to explore electron configuration, Hund’s Rule, and the Aufbau Principle.