I never began the PhD with a particular career strategy in mind. Well, when one reaches a ‘certain age,’ having long-term plans becomes less pressing. Had I never begun the PhD and was still in work, my intention had been to retire on or before my sixtieth, but that path of course changed back in 2015. Renewed and reinvigorated, my aim became simply to remain open to interesting possibilities. It was surprising and rewarding how many potential avenues began to appear.
Although it seems no more than a few days since I was in the viva discussing my thesis, things have moved on apace. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to co-author one paper with Martina and Richard exploring the entangled nature of our doctoral research; that’s now been submitted for review. I’m also discussing another writing opportunity, though that is still at the early stages and it would be premature to discuss it further just yet.
I’ve also been blessed that a number of opportunities to once more become employed have arisen and although I wasn’t looking for work, I can’t ignore interesting and exciting possibilities. One such opportunity came in the form of a six month full-time research assistant post on what appeared to me to be a fascinating project. A few weeks ago I submitted an application, was successful at the subsequent interview, and now find myself in that post and back in full-time work.
Located here at Sheffield Hallam University, I am supporting the RAIDING Project (Researching Adaptivity to Individual Difference in Number Games) as it enters its 3rd phase. The project’s initial aim was to develop and evaluate a mobile touchscreen game that helps children (Year 3 at this stage) to develop arithmetic fluency i.e. the ability to quickly solve simple arithmetic problems. It is an interdisciplinary study and builds on recent research findings in neuroeducation, cognitive psychology and computer science. Improving children’s arithmetical fluency should help to strengthen the foundations on which their mathematical capability is built.
Phase 1 was devoted to development during which the game mechanics and underlying code could be tested and adjusted. This was followed by a more extensive evaluation phase in which the different elements of the research study could be tested to determine what effect playing the game has on children’s mathematics learning. This brings us onto the current phase where we will be launching a wider study across several schools and involving far more pupils.
The game is delivered through 7” tablets and each school participating will be loaned a class set for the duration of the study. Internet connectivity is not needed and all game and performance data are captured on each device. The schools recruited will have at least two classes in Y3. Each will undertake pre-tests (Westwood 1 Minute Test) on paper and the tablet, then one class will begin playing the game – 20 mins per day for 10 consecutive days. The other class will most likely be having maths as usual. Both classes will then have a midpoint test before they swap over so that the second class can begin playing the game. After the second group have completed, a final post-test will be conducted.
If you’ve watched the above video, you’ll have noticed the game is located in space and that there are two phases: minigames to develop mathematical capability (times tables and number bonds) and the metagame which supports sessioning to ensure players are not spending too long on each visit, and return triggers which make them keen to return. There are far more details in the early project publications (see below), but initial results are promising, with significant improvements in pupils’ arithmetical fluency over the course of the project. You can hear a much more detailed explanation of the findings, plus further description of both the background and the project design from the team lead, Tim Jay in this presentation he gave at the University of Nottingham.
MEES, Martyn, JAY, Tim and HABGOOD, Jacob (2018). Designing an adaptive learner model for a mathematics game. In: CIUSSI, Melanie, (ed.) Proceedings of the 12th European conference on games based learning. Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, 800-807.
MEES, Martyn, JAY, Tim, HABGOOD, Jacob and HOWARD-JONES, Paul (2017). Researching adaptivity for individual differences in numeracy games. In: CHI PLAY ’17 Extended Abstracts : Extended Abstracts Publication of the Annual Symposium on Computer-Human Interaction in Play. ACM Press, 247-253.