2/23/2012

Teachers of robots so students can learn more

As teachers we are charged with increasing the amount of knowledge in the world. We work with our students whatever their age to help them gain skills and information. Most of us, though (myself included) are in the business of spreading information rather than generating new knowledge. Now, what if you knew you could aid researchers by playing online games? What if, just by goofing around on the internet, you could add to the knowledge pool in addition to passing it on to students? Well, you can.

One such game is devoted to fixing mistakes in an index of old Finnish newspapers. These fixes increase the accuracy of text-based searches and therefore increases the amount of information available for all of us online. The site is called Digitaltalkoot. The games are set up with moles as the characters. In the game, you are to double check the computer's reading of a selection of text. You get points as you play.

Perhaps more well known are the games designed to increase scientific knowledge. These online games include Foldit and EteRNA.  Both of them deal with solving biological puzzles involving shapes. Foldit deals with proteins while EteRNA deals with RNA. You earn points by making shapes that are likely to to exist in nature. The games have worked so well, Foldit players have been able to help in AIDS research!

These are great examples of how digital systems can improve our understanding of the world. Here is proof positive that a well designed system can help the world learn new and important information from people who are just having fun!