Astria takes off!

Astria takes off!
Students absorbed in the game play

“The planet Astria is doomed to destruction by an approaching asteroid, and you, Alpha Leader, must save it. Only you can engage the help of scientists and world leaders to find a solution to the threat. Your planet needs you!”

The educational game Astria: Countdown to Impact lifted off in Term 4 last year with 4 classrooms at 3 schools taking part in game play. Each of the playing partners became Alpha Leader, reading through documents from both reliable and unreliable sources to fully investigate all possible solutions and save the planet Astria from imminent destruction. With the pretence of a planet under attack, students’ cognitive and social skills were tested and extended by problem solving, goal seeking, planning, decision making, and critical thinking.

Developing in Digital Worlds researchers Jacinta Oldehaver and Naomi Rosedale in one of the classrooms

The core skill focus of Astria is critical literacy, and the game was in fact developed in response to project profiling data indicating limited classroom opportunities to engage in critical literacy practice. The game provides students with a collaborative game experience in a low risk and highly engaging context, while asking them to identify bias, credibility of source, and whether particular statements can be classed as “facts” or not. In this way, the Astria educational game develops critical thinking, critical literacy, and vocabulary skills for both upper primary and lower secondary students (years 7-10).

Various measures were undertaken including students’ base line skills, skill development and interactions. Firstly, students and teachers completed a game experience questionnaire which asked how often they played games (or used games in the classroom), what sort of games they had played, their educational focus, and whether any of the games offered the opportunity to learn critical literacy competencies. Then, at the beginning of the game play, the students took a test of critical literacy which was embedded in the storyline.

After playing the game in class for one hour, students were required to blog about their experience. Finally, when students resumed play the next day, they completed a post-test of critical literacy which was, again, embedded into the storyline of the game. A small sample of students were also asked to screencast their game play so that researchers could analyse their interactions while in the Astria world.

The Developing in Digital Worlds research team has now began to analyse the game play data, and hopes to feed this back to schools by May this year. The Astria game will be tweaked in accordance with student feedback, and the final version of the game will be released in June.

Check out some of our student blog posts below!


Data collection now complete

Data collection now complete

The Developing in Digital Worlds study is now in its last phase, and our data collection operations are now complete. If you participated in the Developing in Digital Worlds study over 2015-2019, we would like to sincerely thank you for your support and involvement.

We are now turning our attention to the analyses and dissemination of findings to national networks including:

  • school boards of trustees
  • Communities of Learning (CoLs)
  • parent communities
  • education trusts for our participating clusters of schools
  • Māori and Pasifika advisory groups and community networks
  • Ministry of Education

Direct knowledge transfer will also be delivered through initial teacher education and professional development at the University of Auckland. Check out our Findings page for key research on teachers, parents, and students.

To read our findings, click on the banners below. Our complete findings can be found on this page.


NZ Herald: Teaching kids to be better thinkers

NZ Herald: Teaching kids to be better thinkers

A recent feature article in the New Zealand Herald has profiled the Developing in Digital Worlds study and its impact on New Zealand’s social and economic future. The study is at the forefront of international research on digital pedagogies, the article reported, and New Zealand stands to benefit socially and economically from the findings.

A key finding is “the need for New Zealand children to be better critical thinkers (reasoning and problem-solving) with better critical literacy, the art of seeing beyond words to the motivations that produced them.” Professor Stuart McNaughton, who is the principal investigator on the study, added that “we’ve seen that generally New Zealand children have a relatively low rate of critical thinking – one of the key assets people will need, along with critical literacy, in a digital future.”

To read the full article, visit the NZ Herald website.

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