Virtual Makerspaces: Computer Games & Simulations for Your Classroom
Often incorporated in school libraries, Makerspaces are dedicated areas where learners get together to explore, discover, and make all sorts of things. They are great spaces for rekindling an interest in studying amongst youngsters. What’s more is that they are ideal for hands-on exploration while having a strong correlation to STEAM education (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math).
It is expected that increasing numbers of schools will incorporate makerspaces, making use of mobile learning and creating environments where students can participate in their own education by doing and creating.
But what if your school library doesn’t have enough space to include a makerspace? What if there isn’t another building with enough space that you can repurpose? Or you have the space but you don’t have the funds for the necessary materials?
Creating a virtual makerspace may be a great option.
What exactly is a virtual makerspace? A virtual makerspace is a one-stop, web-based space where users may access digital tools for engaging in online maker-style activities.
Simulations and games have great potential to improve science learning in elementary, secondary and undergraduate classrooms. These resources can individualize learning to match the pace, interests, and capabilities of each student and contextualize learning in engaging virtual environments.
Virtual laboratory packages are growing in popularity in high schools and middle schools. K-12 science teachers can use a simulation or game to capture students’ interest and let them explore the unit topic in an immersive environment.
The Taiga Park curriculum unit in Atlantis Quest is an example of a popular simulation which has been used by thousands of students in elementary schools and after-school clubs.
The Mystery of the Taiga River is a game-based science project that immerses students aged 10 -14 in the Taiga River National Park as investigative reporters and scientific investigators to find out what’s behind the demise of the river and the dying fish. Students test the water quality, talk with various stakeholders (loggers, farmers, fishermen) to solve the problem and restore the health of the river.
With this simulation and others, students can travel to virtual places to play games that have educational value. While in the simulation they can create their own persona and communicate with classmates and teachers.
The Atlantis Remix project is aimed at children ages 9–16 and has online and off-line learning activities for kids.
Simulations drop participants in entire worlds where they play a central role and affect situations. Can you think of a more exciting way to learn?
More than 100,000 children on six continents have participated in the Quest Atlantis and Atlantis Remixed projects.
Symbaloo is a virtual makerspace designed for K-12 schools to complement their physical makerspace so that children and teens can experience making on their own device, anytime, anywhere. On the tile interface of Symbaloo, learners can click on a tile to explore any number of interesting maker activities, from making crafts to simple robots and learning to code.
For STEAM Craft Edu’s Planeteers, the award-winning game features a virtual makerspace and open-sandbox experience to students where STEAM education is encouraged in the curriculum. From building and crafting almost anything they can imagine, the game also features a 3D coding platform for students to learn 21st century skills. You can download the game here and try it for yourself or for your school: https://www.steamcraftedu.com/download/
Simulations and games have great educational value. These tools allow students some control over the pacing and content they are exposed to, which translates into an opportunity for individualized learning that matches each student’s unique needs.
Using games as a learning tool makes sense because students are already playing games for entertainment. Some of the students, who would normally not be interested in learning science, find science fascinating once they are introduced to educational games.