Journal of Science Education and Technology

, Volume 20, Issue 4, pp 347–362 | Cite as

Using Video Games to Support Pre-Service Elementary Teachers Learning of Basic Physics Principles



The purpose of this work is to share our findings in using video gaming technology to facilitate the understanding of basic electromagnetism with pre-service elementary teachers. To this end we explored the impact of using a game called Supercharged! on pre-service teachers’ understanding of electromagnetic concepts compared to students who conducted a more traditional inquiry oriented investigation of the same concepts. This study was a part of a larger design experiment examining the pedagogical potential of Supercharged! the control group learned through a series of guided inquiry methods while the experimental group played Supercharged! during the laboratory sections of the science course. There was significant difference F(2,134) = 4.8, p < 0.05, η2 = 0.59 between the control and experimental groups on the gains from pre-to-post assessment with an effect size of d = 0.72. However, while students in the experimental group performed better than their control group peers, they rated their knowledge of the topic lower than the control group (M post-control = 3.0, M post-experiment = 2.7), leading to further examination of their laboratory journals. Results of this study show that video games can lead to positive learning outcomes, as demonstrated by the increase in test scores from pre- to post-assessment. Additionally, this study also suggests that a complementary approach, in which video games and hands-on activities are integrated, with each activity informing the other, could be a very powerful technique for supporting student scientific understanding. Further, our findings suggest that video game designers should embed meta-cognitive activities such as reflective opportunities into educational video games to provide scaffolds for students and to reinforce that they are engaged in an educational learning experience.


Electromagnetism Pre-service elementary teacher education Elementary science Video games Supercharged! Electrostatics 



This work is supported in part through a Hewlett Packard Foundation—Teaching with Technology Program Grant# 189660. We also would like to thank Kurt Squire at the University of Wisconsin for allowing us to use Supercharged!


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of EducationChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Department of Curriculum and Instruction, Teacher Education, and Special EducationLynch School of Education, Boston CollegeChestnut HillUSA

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