So, I’ve been given this new module to teach next year: a basic introduction to electronics for those with little background in the subject. One of the books I’ve been reading recently (“Why Don’t Students Like School?” by Daniel T. Willingham) has confirmed what I’ve read elsewhere: that’s it almost impossible to acquire a new skill without a lot of practice.
On the other hand, just repetition of endless examples is rather boring; students don’t have much incentive to do it in a higher education environment where they don’t have to hand in regular homework every week; and having come to university and now consider themselves paying customers, this sort of exercise may not be what they are expecting or willing to engage in.
In any case, I don’t really want to write a lot of examples, and I certainly can’t mark hundreds of papers every week, and really why should students really engage with what can be a bit of a tedious exercise anyway?
So… perhaps time to try and experiment. The circuit theory game. Something that can be automatically marked, but something that will hopefully engage students by giving them scores not just at the end, but as you go. Throw in some elements of game, and with any luck the students will get engaged. Rough idea: they get a certain number of marks for getting a certain score in the game: the greater the score, the more marks. And to get marks you have to progress through the levels, solving problems against the clock.
There’s a very early prototype of the program available now – I’d welcome comments. What could make this more engaging? Is the scoring system sensible? Should the levels automatically increase after a certain number of questions, or should this be left up to the user – the higher the level the more points you get. Your best score for twenty questions gives you a mark – and you can make as many attempts as you like (after all, I’m trying to encourage practice here).
Oh by the way, I got a little bored going between typing on the keyboard and getting out my calculator to work out the sums, so I built a simple calculator into the program. Just type an expression like “3 / (82e3 + 100e3) + 4” into the answer box, and it should work out the expression for you.
There are still a few bugs in it, but it should give you the idea anyway. All comments welcome: will it work? How could it be improved?