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Animating science

Edutainment - A new videogame and line of comic books aim to make physics, chemistry and biology more fun for school students. Is this a good way to go about learning science? Bhavya Dore reports.

mumbai Updated: Apr 12, 2010 01:08 IST
Bhavya Dore
Bhavya Dore
Hindustan Times

In a room at the coaching academy, IITian’s Pace, Talwinder Singh and Shiv Kumar are locked in an air-borne video-game battle. Singh takes a shot at the target, but not before he correctly answers a question based on a relative velocity equation.

For these ex-IITians currently testing the new game, work consists of developing video games with embedded science concepts for students.

Move over blackboard, it’s time to learn relative velocity, war-craft style. “Learning in class is nothing compared with learning through a game, students are going to get addicted to this,” said Pravin Tyagi, director of IITian’s Pace, ahead of the game’s online release next week.

It’s not just videogames — science education through so-called fun ways have arrived with a line of comic books and animated films. “Edutainment” is the new buzzword.

“Children want to be entertained, which is why we decided to approach science education from that perspective,” said Saurabh Saxena, director of Mexus Education which has brought out a line of science textbooks in comic book format.

Students themselves appear to be relishing the entertainment quotient in science teaching. “Obviously it’s more fun than a regular textbook, there’s a story and everything,” said Atulya Kumar, a Class 9 RN Podar School student who has read two of the new comics.

It’s easy to see how even a videogame approach to physics could be fun for some, with whizzing aircrafts, taking shots at targets and vanquishing the enemy. But is it likely to appeal to a female constituency not widely known to be game-crazy? Tyagi admitted this was the case but insisted girls would also take to it.

Such products are designed to side-step classroom teaching and directly woo children as consumers of knowledge and entertainment. But the very fact that they are premised on story telling and gaming devices also means that while children enjoy them, they may not replace conventional approaches.

“These work very well as supplementary reads,” said Tanya Valecha, principal of Rustomjee Cambridge International School at Dahisar. “But sometimes the language is too casual and ultimately the traditional textbooks do provide depth and detail.”

This turn in visual learning, if done authentically, can be good for science education, pointed out Professor Jayashree Ramadas, Dean of Faculty of Science Education at TIFR’s Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education. “But there is the danger of using the wrong kinds of visuals which could spread the wrong ideas about science. That is what we need to be careful about.”

First Published: Apr 12, 2010 01:07 IST