Tyto Online uses an online video game format to engage students in science learning aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The game uses storylines, a suggested NGSS instructional strategy wherein educators use an anchoring phenomena and students drive learning through a series of explorations to make sense of the phenomenon, learning science. For example in Tyto Online, they may engage in a series of 4-7 15-minute quests wherein they collect evidence to figure out why a seal is sick, learning about bioamplification of microplastics. Data collection in this example includes examining ultrasounds, making models of the food web, and building arguments from evidence to explain the problem. Through this process, they develop critical science and engineering skills and understanding of concepts like cause and effect alongside science content knowledge. The current platform covers four middle school science topics, has a teacher dashboard to assign content and receive basic assessment data.
Usability & Feasibility Research
A primary source of support for our usability and feasibility is our live users: over the last year, we’ve supported over 11,500 students, with active users completing an average of 6 quests. We receive regular feedback from these users via surveys, interviews, and support data, so that we are regularly incorporating improvements to improve usability and feasibility across varied settings.
NSF Phase I (18 7th grade students). Key findings: students’ scores increased an average of 12% for Science & Engineering Practices11, 100% of students enjoyed the prototype, and only 3% of student discussion was off-task, with 50% spent coordinating and discussing science!
IES Phase I (69 8th grade students). Through pre/post tests, student usability forms, and focus groups, we found: (1) acceptable usability ratings for the storylines (4.9/7), indicating on average students found it “somewhat easy” to figure out how to complete tasks. We then identified key areas for improvement through thematic analysis, which have since been improved; (2) statistically significant 6.74% improvement in a pre/posttest on content knowledge. Due to schedule limitations, some classes did not complete their storylines, and when comparing growth scores against percentage completion of the storyline, the correlation is 0.957, indicating exposure to the entire intervention greatly improved performance.
This product is intended as a supplemental science product for use with middle school students in grades 6-8 and their teachers. It can be used flexibly across in-person, remote, or hybrid instructional models, all of which have been common for the existing platform due to COVID19’s impacts on school models.
Tyto Online has been optimized for low IT resources, designed to run in modern web browsers on accessible low-end devices that are common in schools, such as Chromebooks (recommended with 4GB of RAM); it also supports Windows and Mac devices. The cost is currently $10 per student, which includes all content. Teachers can start quickly with embedded onboarding guides, or their district can purchase a PD, which is an initial 2-hour session. Teachers can use the game as either an inquiry-based introduction to a new topic, or as applied practice after direct instruction.