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Access Opportunity Introduction
I wanted to give students the opportunity to explore other career paths that they may not know use math, such as video game design. Our school does not have the funds to go on many field trips outside the building, so it made sense to try to do one inside the building. I was hoping to use a laptop cart so that students could also do some self-exploration after the Discovery Education module. I could not get a laptop cart for the day, so I used my projector to show the virtual field trip to the class.
Access Opportunity Research and Plan
Virtual field trips can be accessed on Discovery Education’s website: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/Events/virtual-field-trips/explore/ Specifically, the “Madden: Football by the Numbers” field trip would fit in nicely with the 6th grade math curriculum.
Virtual field trips give students the opportunities to discover new places and ideas without needing to leave the classroom (Scholastic). Virtual field trips are an ideal way to engage reluctant learners. The virtual field trip to Madden and how they use math to create football video games exposes students to real-world applications of math. Many of my students have expressed interest in video game design and football, and this virtual field trip combines both. Students respond well to knowing the real-world applications of their knowledge, so a virtual field trip is likely to increase engagement in the classroom. This particular virtual field trip functions somewhat like virtual job shadowing. Job shadowing is effective at getting students to critically think about their future job prospects and what having a job is like (Adams, 2013). While not a perfect substitute, this allows for students to still see the real-world applications of school, even if it does not allow for students to get the more subtle benefits of job shadowing, like knowledge of workplace norms (Adams, 2013).
Why is this important?
Students from low-income backgrounds are more likely to have low expectations for their own future career prospects (American Psychological Association). Students often lack knowledge on what potential careers exist (Conley and McGaughy, 2012). Coding skills are essential in a 21st century economy (Freeman, Cummins, and Hall, 2017, p.20), and video game design is an accessible application of computer programming that many students interact with daily.
I hope that students will have new knowledge of a career that uses math, video game design. The activity appeals to existing student interests, sports and video games. The activity then takes these interests a step further and exposes students to careers that appeal to their interests. Students should realize that math has many real-world applications, and then be able to do versions of those applications themselves. Students will use their knowledge of scale drawings and new knowledge of how Madden games are designed to design their own video game. Students will also use their knowledge of statistics and Madden games to compile their own player statistics.
Students will have another door to access to the curriculum through this virtual field trip, contributing to the goal of 80% mastery for every student. Further, students will gain new knowledge about potential careers and applications of math they otherwise would not have access to. This contributes to our long-term goal of students being college and career ready.
Why a Virtual Field Trip?
A virtual field trip is a great way to increase student engagement, expose them to new careers, and apply their knowledge to a new context (Scholastic). Exposing students to new careers and what those careers entail helps them start to visualize their own futures (Adams, 2013). Students from low-income households typically have low self-confidence in their own future prospects (American Psychological Association) and little knowledge of what careers exist (Conley and McGaughy, 2012), so the Virtual Field Trip has high potential for long-term impact. The more students can have high expectations for their own futures, the longer the impact of the opportunity. Very few of the other opportunities had as much of a long-term impact on students. Additionally, in the short run, this opportunity still allows students to apply their knowledge in a new context and increase engagement for normally disinterested learners. The virtual field trip may not be an obvious choice for low income students from northeast DC to be exposed to, nor does it have a substantial number of obstacles getting in the way of accessing the opportunity. Therefore, it is an obvious choice to provide my students, having a substantial amount of impact and engagement without being difficult to provide.
Virtual Field Trip
As students watched the virtual field trip, I periodically paused the video for checks for understanding and questions. Many students did not realize so much planning and effort goes into designing realistic video games. Students commented that it was unexpected that video game designers used so much math to make high-quality games. Some students verbalized an interest in becoming a video game designer, and we discussed as a class how they can get an education in computer science or video game design after graduating high school. Without going on the virtual field trip, students would not have known the details about this career opportunity, or known that so much math goes into one of their favorite hobbies. Going on a virtual field trip instead of just reading about this phenomena made the experience more real as well.
After the virtual field trip, students had to answer a few questions to demonstrate their understanding and then explain the impact of the field trip on them. While a few students expressed interest in becoming a video game designer, the overall consensus was still that students wanted to do other professions.
The student pictured above, for example, understood that a wide variety of data went into designing quality video games, and that many of the math concepts we learn about in class went into making these video games. While this student ultimately has even higher aspirations than being a video game designer (being a lawyer), they still learned new information about a field they would have otherwise not been exposed to.
The student pictured above understood that they took a lot of data in order to create a realistic video game. While they were ultimately not interested in becoming a video game designer themselves, they were also still exposed to real-world information they would have otherwise not been exposed to. While the student enjoys playing video games, they do not often receive the opportunity to understand the mathematical work that is behind designing the video games.
While I am glad I tried to do a virtual field trip, I believe it was the least successful of my access opportunities. Since technology constraints made it ultimately very similar to simply watching a highly educational movie, students were not exceptionally engaged in the field trip. Watching a video and pausing to ask and answer questions is not the same as skyping a video game designer or going to Madden headquarters in-person, I do not think I would repeat this experience, as other opportunities expand access more effectively. I am still glad that students got to see how mathematics is used in video games.