First-of-its-kind video game prepares future educators


February 14, 2013

Much is being made over the explosion of video games in the classroom to teach a future generation of K-12 students. But what about the future teachers who will be teaching them?

At Arizona State University, education students are reaching into their virtual future with the click of a mouse to test their teaching skills in typical school scenarios. Playing the video game is part of a first-semester course requirement for undergraduate students in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Focused on professional success, the video game is being played by 277 teaching students in 396 field experience courses at the university this semester.   Download Full Image

“This cutting-edge preparation for future teachers is the first of its kind in the nation,” said Mari Koerner, dean of Teachers College. “Our students may have grown up with technology, but using it to role play as real-life teachers is something new.

“The game is used to enhance their experiences in real classrooms. Our students practice in the virtual world, so they can be more successful in the real world.”

“Teacher Leader: Pursuit of Professionalism” is the first in a series of interactive, three-dimensional video games being designed by the Sanford Inspire Program and ASU’s Center for Games and Impact. Field experience educators and clinical staff recognized the importance of preparing novice teachers with the professional skills they need to be successful in the workplace. Content for the game is rooted in Teach For America’s professional values.

As this initial version of the game is implemented in ASU classes, educators and staff are evaluating its success. The public is invited to the official launch of the video game at 8 a.m. March 26 at ASU SkySong in Scottsdale. Those interested can register at asu.edu/gamelaunch. This fall, a second video game featuring a different topic but also directed toward teacher candidates is expected to be rolled out.

An ASU student playing “Teacher Leader” first creates a student teacher avatar, selecting the color and style of hair, clothing and shoes. Next, the avatar encounters a couple of scenarios at school and the student has to respond. One scenario involves an uncomfortable situation with the student teacher’s mentor, while the other addresses being diplomatic in the teachers’ lounge. That evening, the avatar must choose how to spend time preparing for the next day’s lesson. The student is scored as he or she plays, with choices having consequences later in the game as the avatar implements the lesson plan.

“It’s a different application compared to how we normally are taught,” said Marcy Steiner, an ASU student from Peoria, Ariz. “With the video game, you can see how your decisions shape your image as a teaching professional. There are options that are good and options that are better. It really makes you think.”

During the lesson, teaching students receive immediate feedback on their performance in various situations based on four areas or competencies. The professional competencies were adapted from the Teach For America teacher preparation curriculum:

• Suspending judgment – identifying moments when they might be unfairly judging someone

• Asset-based thinking – consciously seeking out the positive aspects of a person or situation

• Locus of control – focusing on what is within their own ability to control

• Interpersonal awareness – recognizing the limits of their own perspective and trying to understand the viewpoints of others

At the same time, the course is designed so that instructors can build on lessons learned through the video game as part of their classroom instruction. Teachers also can access data on student progress and decision-making.

At the end of the game, the students receive their scores and get a chance to re-play the game so they can improve their responses, Koerner explained.

“The game-based technology allows these students to take their teaching for a test drive, even make mistakes, without causing negative consequences they might experience in a real-life situation,” she said.

The partnership that created the video game underpins a broader effort to refine best practices in teacher education. The end goal is to improve America’s public schools. Known as the Sanford Inspire Program, funding comes from entrepreneur and philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who invested $18.85 million in 2010 to launch the Teachers College-Teach for America partnership. The program has garnered national attention for its innovative approaches to preparing teacher candidates. More information is available at sanfordinspireprogram.org.

Despite its effectiveness in readying future teachers for the classroom, the new technology will not take the place of traditional methods anytime soon, Koerner said.

“It’s not replacing, it’s not instead of,” she said. “It’s enhancing how we teach our students to become professionals.”

CTI rolls out manufacturing engineering degree


February 14, 2013

College prepares students to transform domestic manufacturing industry

This fall, the College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) at Arizona State University will introduce the only Bachelor of Science in Manufacturing Engineering degree offered in Arizona. Download Full Image

“As President Obama said in his State of the Union, we are experiencing a period of dramatic transformation in manufacturing, and there is a need to invest in and advance the manufacturing economy in Arizona and in the United States,” said Mitzi Montoya, vice provost and dean of CTI. “Our ability to rebound in this economy is a direct function to be a producing economy as opposed to merely a service economy.”

A study conducted by the Brookings Institution found Phoenix to rank 16th among the top 100 U.S. metro areas in number of jobs within the manufacturing industry. The concentration of high-technology manufacturing in such areas of aerospace and semiconductors in the Phoenix metropolitan area continues to create a demand for highly educated manufacturing engineers to fill the pipeline for future growth.

Manufacturing is often the culmination of the engineering process. Successful manufacturing enterprises balance design, sustainability and quality with production to sustain competitive advantage in the global market.

The applied nature of manufacturing is well-aligned with the mission of CTI and to the needs of local industry. The manufacturing engineering program will give students an applied education in a hands-on, experiential, team-based learning environment. Students will experience a strong emphasis on practical work through the engineering ‘project spine’ – a real-world project each semester, culminating with a two-semester college-wide capstone project on multi-disciplinary teams. The project spine is supplemented with more detailed modeling, simulation and manufacturing processes curriculum.

“Our students thrive on designing solutions to real needs and the manufacturing engineering program will provide opportunities for students to make impact in meaningful ways,” said Ann McKenna, associate professor and chair of the engineering department at CTI. “By its nature, manufacturing engineering embeds thinking globally, and engages students in the entire design process from developing a concept to seeing that concept through manufacturing, supply chain and end-of-life.

"Manufacturing engineers work in an ever-changing, fast paced, and complex environment to design the processes to make products with the required functionality, to desired quality standards, based on customer needs, at the best possible price, and in environmentally-friendly ways.”

Students in the manufacturing program will have access to state-of-the-art fabrication facilities at CTI that mirror the same equipment they will see in the industry. They will graduate with the ability to model, simulate and analyze manufacturing production processes for both small and large-scale environments.

CTI’s recently announced partnership with TechShop, a national membership-based, do-it-yourself workshop and fabrication studio, will supplement students’ access to a wide range of machinery, tools and software to turn their ideas into reality. TechShop is slated to open this fall, with memberships available to ASU students and community makers and innovators.

“CTI already has the foundation for a successful manufacturing program,” said Montoya. “The combination of faculty expertise, well-equipped facilities, a project-focused curriculum and our embedded engagement with industry will make this a strong program that can aid both Arizona and the nation in their quest for high levels of manufacturing competitiveness.”

Graduates of the manufacturing engineering program will be prepared for a variety of manufacturing environments such as high volume/low variety mix found in industries like consumer goods, as well as high value/low volume environments often found in aerospace. Career opportunities for manufacturing engineers include direct manufacturing support, manufacturing management and quality control and assurance in large and midsized-established manufacturing companies as well as small or start-up companies.