I have been mulling over a question posed to me at this past AERA meeting. A well-respected scholar, after hearing about the college access games we are developing, expressed doubt over the positive effects of a game where players role play the college preparation process. “What you are saying,” he shared, “is like me saying that there’s going to be a rise in bird shooting among teenagers because so many of them are playing Angry Birds.”
It was a fair question—actually, a very good question.
Over the past couple months, I have made presentations about Collegeology Games at the 2012 Digital Media & Learning (DML) conference (geared towards media/technology/game savvy academics, practitioners and industry folks), the western region National College Access Network (NCAN) conference (attended by mostly college access practitioners), the recent AERA annual meeting, and to numerous high school classrooms. What has really hit home is how different audiences respond to the project.
The DML crowd was enthusiastic about using the game for social good; NCAN practitioners expressed a mix of enthusiasm for a new tool that they thought students would gravitate towards and trepidation from some of the less technologically-experienced practitioners about how to implement the game; academics at AERA either loved the project or were quite skeptical. And then there are the high school students …
Last week, Mission:Admission went live in two technology classes. It was unbelievable to see students instantly get sucked into the game we have been working on for three years. Students quickly learned how to navigate the game, leaned over giving each other tips, weathered a few technical glitches, and agreed to play at home. They have since been providing thoughtful feedback to us on game play.
In order to address the Angry Birds question, however, the next few weeks of game play are going to be critical—and observing game play in two classrooms will not suffice. Funding from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) is enabling us to conduct a mixed methods comparative case study to examine how the game affects students’ college knowledge and college going efficacy at three Title I Los Angeles high schools. We have administered pre-tests to all juniors and recruited 300 students to playtest the game over the course of three weeks. In a month we will return to administer post-tests to all juniors. We are also able to analyze server-level data in order to examine students’ game playing strategies (If they were accepted into a college, did they then move on to securing scholarships? Did they apply to FAFSA? Did students request letters of recommendation in advance of deadlines?). And of course, we’re also interviewing students, teachers, and counselors to gain deeper insight into their college and digital profiles. By summer, we’ll be better equipped to respond to the Angry Birds question in academic terms. For now, we are encouraged by Mission:Admission’s reception by our target audience—low-income, Facebook consuming, high school students.
Feel like trying it out for yourself? I would love YOUR feedback on the game. You can log on here.