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IES Grant

Title: National Research & Development Center on Instructional Technology: Possible Worlds
Center: NCER Year: 2008
Principal Investigator: Brunner, Cornelia Awardee: Education Development Center, Inc.
Program: Education Research and Development Centers      [Program Details]
Award Period: 5 years Award Amount: $9,197,582
Type: Multiple Goals Award Number: R305C080022

Topic: Education Technology

Purpose: The Education Development Center's Center for Children and Technology (CCT) is collaborating with colleagues at the Center for Science Education (CSE) on a research and development project examining the use of a portable gaming environment to support middle-school science and literacy instruction. The team will develop and evaluate the Possible Worlds intervention, a portable multimedia-enhanced curriculum that uses the Nintendo Dual-Screen (DS) portable gaming environment to support science and literacy learning among 7th grade students.

Established through a five-year, $9.2 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education, the CCT is composed of nationally-recognized experts in literacy and science education, instructional and advanced technology development, professional development, and evaluation. Their academic backgrounds include education, psychology, computer science, statistics, research methods, and game design and production.


The gaming application will include the development of three integrated supports, namely: (1) a motivating story context that unfolds over time and in which students have a competitive role and are challenged to "act as scientists"; (2) communication capacities between teacher and multi-player students to enhance classroom problem solving and teamwork; and (3) mini-games that build specific science knowledge and concrete literacy skills. Possible Worlds will be universally designed for 7th graders, including those who are struggling, by offering multiple points of entry into subject matter and literacy.

Possible Worlds will use a formative research process in which teachers and students will design activities and a larger game narrative that is both compelling and educationally substantive. The research team will field-test the modules with teachers and students in classrooms, observe their experiences, and gather feedback, all of which will inform subsequent development of the modules. Additionally, the team will create professional development materials to support the integration of the intervention within existing classroom practice.

Efficacy Study
The research team will conduct a randomized control trial to test the efficacy of Possible Worlds. The study will include 60 science classrooms from 30 schools within three districts. In order to assess the product's impact, student achievement on standardized measures of middle-school science and literacy learning will be compared between classrooms receiving the intervention and control classrooms, which will use the standard curricula. Three-level hierarchical linear models (with students nested within classrooms nested within schools) will be used to examine the effect of the intervention on student achievement.

Project website:

Key Personnel: Cornelia Brunner, Katherine McMillan Culp, Marian Pasquale, Wendy Martin, John Parris, Naomi Hupert, James Diamond, Ashley Lewis, Shari Metcalf, Chad Fasca

IES Program Contact: Dr. Edward Metz
Telephone: (202) 208-1983

Products and Publications

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

Culp, K. M., Martin, W., Clements, M., and Presser, A. L. (2015). Testing the Impact of a Pre-Instructional Digital Game on Middle-Grade Students' Understanding of Photosynthesis. Technology, Knowledge and Learning, 20(1), 5–26.

* During the development process, this intervention's name changed from SuperSleuths to Possible Worlds.