Defending science, defeating ignorance

The 15th International Conference on Thinking(ICOT) has just begun here at Queen’s University, Belfast, and we’re sitting listening to a keynote presentation by Diane F. Halpern from Claremont McKenna College in California. Diane and her colleagues Keith Millis and Arthur Graesser are the Project Director of Operation ARIES introduced in the video below:


ARIES (Acquiring Research Investigative and Evaluative Skills) is an educational program that teaches scientific reasoning/critical thinking using principles from the science of learning and serious games. Students learn via an interactive text, which is followed with an automated tutoring session that involves two animated agents and the human student. Through a cover story that the world is being taken over by aliens who are using bad science, the program’s goal is to create durable learning that transfers across academic domains.

Students log in to become investigators with the Federal Bureau of Science, with their first task being to read an online text that introduces them to over 20 core concepts in science which will help them understand how to identify the flawed scientific thinking being promoted by the ‘aliens’ in the game.

Diane and her team have been researching the impact of using this game by secondary students, referencing other research around the use game-based learning to stimulate learning, presenting the results of a number of experiments demonstrating significant learning improvements in learning.

A stimulating keynote to start the conference, linking key understandings and ideas about thinking and learning, with authentic science concepts – all embraced in the context of a stimulating online game.

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