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Teaching 21st-century skills from

console to classroom


s a high school history teacher, Terrance Newell didn’t need to read a research study to realize video games and simulations shaped the way his students learned.

Teens who were struggling in his class were working their way through elaborate video games at home: gathering information, navigating complex scenarios, learning through trial and error. Now Newell, an assistant professor of information studies, is looking at how games and simulations can be harnessed to help students learn. As part of his research, he has created an interactive simulation to help students learn how to locate, evaluate and select information using 21st-century technology and traditional resources.

A former teacher who is married to an assistant professor of education, Newell certainly isn’t looking to replace teachers or librarians with virtual counterparts. “Nothing can replace face-to-face teaching. These simulations are not designed to substitute for the teacher or the librarian. We see them using the simulation to supplement the learning process. My research is focused on finding and testing the best ways to do that.

“My ultimate goal is to develop a suite of simulations in content areas like history, mathematics and science that teachers can use in their classrooms.”

P owerf ul Ideas. P roven Result s.

Terrance Newell, assistant professor of information studies

Newell’s game, “21st Century Learning Labs,” tested with an applied computer studies class at a middle school, features a computer-generated community with libraries, museums and other information sources. Student “players” sought out information on virtual computers and in virtual books, guided by virtual “cybrarians.”

The results, published in School Library Media Research, an online journal, showed that, overall, students who used the computer simulation improved more in applied information problem-solving. However, students who worked with teachers face-to-face understood the content of information problem-solving better, while those who used the computer simulation understood the processes better.

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UWM Research Report 2012  
UWM Research Report 2012  

UWM faculty, staff and students are following many paths to creating new knowledge in diverse fields.