At the Academy of Aerospace and Engineering at John Wallace Middle School, we have seven STEMPilot Edustation flight simulators that we use every week in class. Generally, we use them during our last elective period as flight training devices to explore some aspect of aviation. Lately, I am beginning to plan more uses of these simulators in science and math lessons. For example, this week I plan to use the simulators in Algebra to gather data on aircraft climb performance, then plot a “best fit” line. The simulators give students a hands on way to explore a topic, gather data, analyze trends, and do many other STEM related tasks. Students tend to associate flight simulators with video gaming, and while we treat the simulator lessons as seriously as other lessons, there is definitely an element of fun involved when you get to fly. This use of gaming technology in learning is part of a general trend called gamification.
Gamification is not just a trend in education. It actually started in marketing, as companies realized they could attract customers more readily by enticing them with a game or competition, such as McDonalds’ McVideogames. Businesses today also are looking at gamification in the workplace as a way to boost employee morale, as discussed in this Forbes magazine article. Making learning fun, especially in elementary and middle school, is crucial to keep students engaged. Gamification helps do that.
For teachers or others looking to use flight simulators in creative ways to teach science or math, feel free to look at this set of Flight Simulator STEM Lessons I wrote. This is a work in progress, and I welcome comments.