One of the myriad ways in which technology is transforming the world is its provision of outstandingly engaging, easily-accessible, often-individualized games for the world’s digital audience. It was never going to be long before innovative educators recognized that video games were transfixing swathes of their users, keeping them engaged, and creating truly immersive experiences. It was, likewise, never going to be long before educators started to consider how they might harness the power of electronic games to improve student engagement, creating gaming experiences that combined leisure and learning, pedagogy and play.
The brainchild of Professor Ping-Cheng Yeh of National Taiwan University, PaGamo, the winner of 2014’s Reimagine Education competition, offered one such example of how gamifying the classroom can improve educational experiences for students worldwide. The global MOOC replaces homework worksheets with a platform that places learners into a fantasy world that provides a wealth of territory to be conquered – but only if they prove their knowledge. Correct answers correspond to students gaining territory from other users, while PaGamO’s real-time data analytics provide teachers with instant feedback on student performance.
Less than a year after winning Reimagine Education, the global exposure provided by the conference allowed PaGamO to grow their user base to over 326,000 at the time of going to print. More than that, it was quickly adopted in a range of disparate learning environments, including the teaching of Mathematics in China and Dentistry in the United States. It was acknowledged as an outstanding example of the way in which effective gamification can transform higher education.
We were fortunate enough to catch up with Dr. Kathy Perkins, Director of our other Overall Winner for 2014, PhET Simulations from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
With over 100 million uses per year in over 80 languages, the PhET Interactive Simulations project at the University of Colorado Boulder is engaging and educating the next generation of scientists and engineers, worldwide. Since being founded by Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman in 2002, the PhET team has developed a collection of 130+ openly-licensed simulations that are transforming K-16 STEM teaching and learning (https://phet.colorado.edu). Each PhET simulation creates an animated, interactive, game-like environment in which students learn through exploration and discovery, build connections between STEM topics and the real world, and access the models used by STEM experts. These simulations are designed to be highly flexible tools that can be used by teachers in many ways – from lecture demos, to labs, to homework – and across levels from grade school through college.
In 2014, PhET Interactive Simulations and our Director, Dr. Kathy Perkins, were excited to learn about the inaugural Wharton-QS Stars Reimagine Education conference and competition. The combination of the competition and the conference brought together a group of innovative leaders from all over the world, who were passionate about rethinking and improving learning in higher education. We greatly valued the opportunity to learn from the diverse projects and approaches represented, to be inspired by the forward-thinking messages of the keynote speeches, and to build new connections with our peers around the world. We were greatly honored when the judges for Wharton-QS Stars Reimagine Education recognized PhET’s impact on student learning with the Overall Award. The PhET team has continued to lead and innovate – with new efforts to advance the interoperability of simulations, accessibility for students with disabilities, and compatibility across diverse devices.
In 2016, the PhET team launched a new product line, PhET-iO simulations (https://phet-io.colorado.edu) – PhET simulations enhanced with powerful interoperability features that enable education solution providers from across the sector to easily and quickly transform their STEM products into more engaging and interactive learning experiences. By leveraging PhET-iO’s customization capabilities, versatile API, and multiple backend data streams, partners can flexibly configure and fully integrate PhET simulations into an array of product types – from virtual labs to adaptive tutorials, from e-textbooks to next-generation assessments – and then capture data on student interaction to assess student achievement, power personalized or adaptive-learning engines, or provide feedback to teachers and learners. With PhET-iO, the PhET team opens up a wealth of new opportunities for STEM products. Now, you can not only measure what students answer, but the process they use to come to their answer!
To ensure that all students can experience the PhET simulations, the PhET Team – with investments from the US National Science Foundation and University of Colorado Boulder – is pioneering new technical and pedagogical approaches for making the highly interactive environment of a PhET simulation accessible to students with disabilities. Collaborating with leaders in the field of inclusive design, the team has made significant progress and is establishing new standards for how keyboard navigation, descriptive text, and sonification can be combined to enable non-visual learners to truly experience the inquiry process of science (https://phet.colorado.edu/en/accessibility).
Finally, responding to the changing landscape of learning technology, PhET recently launched a new iPad app. The PhET iPad app will reach parents and bring these engaging STEM learning tools into the home, as well as providing another access option for teachers in the classroom. From mastering multiplication, to exploring energy, the PhET app offers something to engage every learner. Whether at home, on the road, or anywhere, the PhET app is now available in the Apple App Store (https://appsto.re/us/VBwMdb.i), with translations available in the coming months.
This year’s Reimagine Education was the most competitive to-date, with over 500 applications received for our 14 award categories. Our panel of judges have repeatedly remarked on the high quality of applications this year, with hours of conversation and reflection necessary to determine – with difficulty – on each of the 14 shortlists for this year’s competition. Therefore, on behalf of the Reimagine Education team, I’d like to offer warm congratulations to all who have made it through to the penultimate judging stage. There are only a few brief steps left to be completed for those wishing to remain in contention for our Overall Award.
- Finalise your place at the 2016 Reimagine Education Conference: Anyone wishing to remain in contention for the Overall Award will need to be prepared to present in front of our panel of VIP judges at this year’s conference. Quite aside from this, this year’s conference features an outstanding lineup of luminaries from across the overlapping worlds of academia, educational technology, and government education departments. Please do check out our full agenda here, and be sure to secure your place at reimagine-education.com/conference.
- Book a presentation slot: As one of our shortlisted candidates, you’re automatically entitled to showcase your project, research, or initiative at this year’s conference. We have a series of 7-minute presentation slots sorted into tracks, so as to ensure that your work is received by the most appropriate audience. Our booking system is now live, so please do make sure that you don’t miss out on the opportunity: from the 14th November, we’ll be opening any remaining presentation opportunities to longlisted projects.
- Reserve your place at one of our hotels. More information about this procedure, and the options available to you, can be found in the next article.
The Inn at Penn, a Hilton Hotel, has informed us that it is sold out for the first day of the conference (Monday 5th December 2016), meaning that the only remaining availability is for the 6th December. However, our Logistics team has worked to provide a series of alternative options for this year’s conference. These are enumerated and explained below:
This hotel lies approximately five minutes by foot from the University of Pennsylvania, and approximately five minutes by foot from the Inn at Penn. Room bookings start from US$149 per night.
This Hilton hotel lies approximately fifteen minutes by foot from the University of Pennsylvania, and approximately fifteen minutes by foot from the Inn at Penn. Room bookings start from US$179 per night.
Airbnb provides a cost-effective option for delegates. Prices and locations vary, but offerings within reasonable distance from the University Pennsylvania range from between US$22 and US$230.
We hope that these options provide a solution to your accommodation needs, and remain at your service should you require any further assistance with ensuring that your Reimagine Education experience is as comfortable and convenient as possible.