Published: Sept. 20, 2022

After many months of designing and planning, Strand 3’s co-designed unit “How can we make video games that reflect the world we want to live in?” launched in May. Imple- mented by two math teachers at the Denver Center for International Studies at Montbello - a secondary school in Denver Public Schools - iSAT’s co-design team supported the roll out as the teachers taught and adapted the unit over the course of three weeks. Designed to focus on teaching AI through investigating causes of racism in gaming and what to do about it, the unit is organized as a sequence of nine lessons. It focuses on how computers learn through AI, how that compares to how we learn, and the societal impact of AI. Intended as an interdisciplinary unit, with strong connections to topics and standards in English lan- guage arts, social studies, and STEM, the co-design team met with the teachers before, during, and after the launch to provide support and answer questions about the unit. Their feedback, including their adap- tations and data collected, informed the design of the team’s week-long Professional Learning workshop held in June.

Teaching the Teachers

The June workshop aimed to prepare a new cohort of teachers to adapt and implement the Games Unit this fall. The goal was to support new teacher participants with a specific focus on the socio political dimensions of technology and expansive forms of collaboration. In attendance were two Denver Public School administrators, two education techs, and five teachers from four different Denver schools, including one online school. Also in attendance were the two pilot teachers from the initial implementation in May, providing a great perspec- tive of being able to share their first hand experiences with the new teachers. Feedback after the workshop was overwhelmingly positive from all in attendance. The attendees were able to expand their thinking about issues such as race and justice and how these can be present in technology.

Bill and Arturo leading PL

iSAT members Bill Penuel and Arturo Cortez lead Professional Learning for Denver teachers

One teacher shared, “I have learned more about the landscape of video game design and production over the course of the workshop. I’ve learned that even innocuous and kid-focused games like Minecraft can be surrounded by racist communities sometimes.”

Another said, “I feel like I have a much better grasp of technological injustices and that I have a better grasp on how to have these conversations in the classroom and navigate the the discussions for the students in an age appropriate and healing way.”

Expanding Implementation 

With the successful Professional Learning workshop fresh in their minds, the new cohort of teachers will im- plement the Games Unit in their classrooms this school year. The iSAT co-design team is continuing to work with the teachers to identify opportunities for adapting and improving the unit. To this end, iSAT will support teachers by offering office hours in August and Septem- ber and develop a professional development pathway within the district to support new teachers in imple- menting the unit next spring. The iSAT team will also conduct classroom observations at strategic timepoints in the curriculum to capture variations in how teachers are utilizing these curriculum materials and the degree to which these modifications promote collaboration.

Teacher instructing games unit

A Denver teacher explains one of the unit's lessons to her students

Data Collection and Cross-strand Collaboration

The co-design team has also been hard at work analyz- ing data to help answer one of the team’s core research questions: In what ways can inclusive co-design pro- cesses empower stakeholders with diverse identities to envision, co-create, critique, and apply AI learning technologies for their schools and communities? Their efforts include analyzing data from both the curriculum implementation and the teacher learning workshop and outlining the research questions and potential data collection strategies for Denver Public Schools’ teachers who will be implementing the Games Unit in the 2022- 2023 school year.

Strand 3 and Strand 2 members are also designing and implementing lab studies that promote cross-strand collaboration. The focus has been on taking the components of lesson 6 – of the 9 lesson Games Unit - and modifying it to a 5-part lab study that could be used for two purposes: 1) to generate high quality collabora- tion data that could support machine learning towards automated analyses of collaboration, and 2) to provide empirical grounding for revising components of lesson 6.

Kids working on Games Unit

iSAT records valuable data in the classroom while students work through a lesson in the Games Unit

The co-design team is also working with an Institute-wide Classroom Data Collection team to facilitate collection of high-quality, multimodal data as the unit is being implemented in classrooms. These data serve many purposes - analyze the implementation of the unit, train machine-learning models, and support foun- dational research into collaborative learning. Together, these analyzes will inform the design of the AI Partner, which will support collaborative learning with the unit. This fall is going to be an exciting time for Strand 3 and the co-design team at iSAT!