Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Cool Ed Tech at the Montreal Science Centre

I love science and tech museums, so while visiting Montreal this past weekend, I made sure to stop by the Montreal Science Centre.  They have some really cool stuff there, but I was most intrigued by two of their exhibits that centred completely around a single piece of ed tech.

The first such exhibit was Mission Gaia.  It contains more than 20 gaming tables with screens both on the horizontal surface and on a vertical screen perpendicular to the table.  A camera is positioned above to detect where you place rubber circular tokens and thus what decisions or moves you are making. As explained at the link above, the game is divided into three sections: "A recap of terrible ecological and human disasters," "sustainable development in a large North American city," and then an attempt at "sustainable development to the whole planet."

My friends and I played until the beginning of the third segment.  We all felt that the technology was very well done, the content was great, and that the game had potential.  Unfortunately, it was almost always unclear what your goals were in terms of the game mechanics.  We concluded that you pretty much could just "choose everything" and it didn't really matter.  The game design definitely needs some work, but an improved version could definitely go far in bringing awareness to players.

Later in the day we stopped by the idTV exhibit.  The room was set up like a mission control with tiered seating and giant screens at the front.  A group of up to four people gathers in front of a computer and puts on some chunky headphones.  With the help of a video guide, the group chooses a controversial scientific topic to research and prepare a short news video on.  The group watches news clips, arranges them into the video, and even records their own intro and outro.

This setup was far more effective to us than Mission Gaia (thanks to the latter's weak game design).  We didn't have a huge amount of time, so we just watched a few of the clips and then somewhat randomly put them together into our little video.  Even then, we could see there were differing points of view and even opportunities to decide which videos to trust (for example, not the political scientist talking about biology).  We can really see how students that spent the full half hour with their topic would learn a lot about it and form their own informed opinions.

Overall, I really applaud the Centre for managing to make everything interactive yet still compelling.  I wish all museums, whether about science or something else, could do the same.


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