Keith Macartney, a sixth grade science teacher at Federal Hocking Middle School, is participating in the STEAM grant with Ohio University. The grant is being used to investigate the feasibility and viability of integrating games and virtual simulations into the middle school classroom and curriculum.
Mr. Macartney’s classroom was abuzz with activity on the day of our first meeting, with students eagerly working on various assignments. As the students departed for lunch, it was obvious that they had developed a true rapport with their science teacher and truly enjoyed the time that they spent investigating science in his classroom.
With particular interests for biology and life sciences, Mr. Macartney soon identified himself as a lifelong science aficionado. Furthermore, he was quick to interject that biology was his passion, even expressing a special interest in marine biology. “It has been this passion and fondness for biology that has played a major role in my career,” says Macartney. He also attributes significant influence to teachers whom he had in school, “some of whom were great and others who were not so great.” Among his major influences, Macartney lists his high school art and science teachers. According to Macartney, these teachers made their subjects stand out by making their classrooms fun and memorable.
Having only taught for a short period of time, Macartney indicated that there were few changes that have taken place in the field of science education since he began teaching five years ago. Macartney says that one thing that has changed, however, is the emphasis on writing skills. Mr. Macartney believes that the new focus on writing skills will help students to become more prepared for the standardized tests that they are obligated to take each school year.
Mr. Macartney feels that gaming and virtual simulations are going to play a huge part in education in the future. “Many more things are possible in a virtual world than are in the real world classroom,” he said, “But some investigations are too dangerous and some are cost prohibitive, but in a virtual environment these are all moot points.”
Macartney feels that there will always be challenges to the gaming movement, but these challenges will continue to shrink as research continues to show that technology is the most effective way to reach today’s youth. As the field of education continues to move forward, the students at Federal Hocking are clearly ahead of the curve, thanks to Mr. Macartney.