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IES Contract

Title: Mission US: An Interactive Solution for Middle School History Learning
Center: NCER Year: 2013
Principal Investigator: Langendoen, David Awardee: Electric Funstuff
Program: Small Business Innovation Research      [Program Details]
Award Period: 2.5 years Award Amount: $1,050,000
Type: Fast Track Award Number: EDIES13C0027

Phase I Amount: $150,000
Phase I Period: 6 months
Phase II Amount: $900,000
Phase II Period: 2 years

Purpose: In the most recent National Assessment of Educational Progress only 17% of 8th grade students performed at or above the proficient level in U.S. history. One way to engage students in learning history is to create history learning resources that are designed to be relevant and appealing to young people's interests and regular activities. Surveys find that almost all teenage boys and girls play digital games, and the majority of teens play daily. This project will leverage the potential of games and technology to engage students and increase history skills and content knowledge.

Project Activities: The team, consisting of graphic artists, content specialists, computer scientists, and programmers, will initially create wireframes and a functional game prototype. Following feedback from a group of students and teachers on the user-interface, the team will produce an online tablet app.  Iterative refinements will be conducted at major production milestones until the intervention is fully functional.  Once development is complete, the researchers will assess the usability and feasibility, fidelity of implementation, and the promise of the product to improve outcomes in a pilot study.  The study will include 200 8th grade students in eight classrooms. Four classrooms will be assigned to play to game as part of the curriculum over three to five class periods, and four classrooms will be taught the same historical content using the business as usual curriculum without the game. Each group will complete pre- and post- assessments to assess differences in history knowledge and skills.

Product: This project team will develop a tablet-based interactive role-playing game that immerses 5th through 9th grade students in the history of the Great Depression. The game will provide players an experiential understanding of the hardships that beset Americans in the 1930s and their strategies for survival, as individuals and as a nation. Features of the game will include story-based immersive narrative missions where student's decisions continually drive the action, tips and hints for students who are struggling in the game, writing tools, and interactive maps. The game will can be integrated within a course or used as a supplement. A teacher dashboard will be developed to facilitate the use of the game within classroom settings. Finally, the final product will include upgrades to existing games, including City of Immigrants and the The Hardest Times. The upgrades will publish these games to tablets and will include deeper in-game assessment opportunities.