Anybody can teach science: Does texting affect safe driving?

Teach science while playing video games—it’s that easy!

You do not need all the answers to teach science—you simply need an inquisitive mind and be willing to carry out an investigation. You can teach science, even when you don’t know diddly-squat! The following is a simple experiment you can try while playing racing video games. The purpose is not to teach specific content, but to teach the process of science: asking questions and discovering answers. This activity is to encourage young people to try to figure things out for themselves rather than just read an answer on the internet or in a book.

Does texting affect safe driving?

This activity can be done in 20 minutes or multiple days, depending on the interest and questions the youth have. Materials needed are a video game system, racing game, two phones with texting capability, pencil and paper.

Use Science and Engineering Practices to engage youth in the experiment. These are connected to in-school science standards that all children must meet.

  • Asking questions and defining problems
  • Developing and using models
  • Planning and carrying out investigation
  • Analyzing and interpreting data
  • Using mathematics and computational thinking
  • Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  • Engaging in argument from evidence
  • Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Asking questions and defining problems

Is it safe to text while you drive? Do you think some people can text while driving while others cannot? How could you test this safely?

Planning and carrying out investigations

Have youth drive a course on the video racing game. Keep track of how many times they crash and their time on the track. Repeat the same course while another person is texting them and they try to respond. Keep track of how many times they crash and their time on the track while they are texting.

Using mathematics and computational thinking

Create a chart with the driver, number of crashes and time to complete course, like the one below. How much of a difference did texting make?

Driver

Number of crashes (without texting)

Time to complete course (without texting)

Number of crashes (with texting)

Time to complete course (with texting)

Developing and using models

What are some of the situations that occur while driving that the video game model did not include? How could you make it more realistic? Would you say this test is helpful for determining if texting while driving is safe?

Analyzing and interpreting data

Are certain types of people better at texting while driving than others? Older or younger people? Males or females? Does experience with either driving or texting make a difference?

Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Based on what you observed, is there anything you could do to make texting while driving safer? How would you design a car differently based on the prevalence of technology?

Engaging in argument from evidence

Do you think if someone could test while driving safely in the video game they should be allowed to text while driving in real life? Why or why not?

Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information

Would this be helpful information to share with law enforcement? Do you think this would be a helpful exercise during driver's education courses? How could you share this information?

Related questions to explore

  • Are there other driving situations you could safely test using a video game? Eating and driving? Listening to music? Having a conversation on the phone? Answering trivia questions?

Asking questions like those mentioned above about something we see a lot, but may not know a lot about, is a great way to explore science around us in our everyday lives. Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM content are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success. To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2015 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

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