Hellenic Open University
Image source: http://foldit.wikia.com/wiki/Special:Images
Name of the videogame/app
Foldit - Solve puzzles for science
Name of the producer
University of Washington Center for Game Science, University of Washington Institute for Protein Design, Northeastern University, Vanderbilt University, University of California, Davis, and University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth
How to find it
Main technical requirements
MacOSX (Internet connection is required)
Native Virtual Reality Support
12-17 years, 18+ years
Use in Educational contexts
Degree of required tutoring
Autonomous use after teacher introduction/explanation
Foldit is an online puzzle game at its core with a rich scientific context. While it's not an easy game, hundreds of thousands of people with no experience or training in science have been trying out and playing Foldit for years. It contains protein-folding puzzles whose solutions have challenged scientists for decades. Playing this game and trying to solve the puzzles, the creativity of the students could contribute to the scientific research on the properties of proteins that may lead to scientific breakthroughs in treating disease, etc. By solving an increasingly difficult set of puzzles that use actual scientific data, students explore the limits of protein expression and mutation and find new ways to fold proteins into new shapes.
It is recommended that students should have an understanding of proteins before playing the game. An inquisitive, self-motivated and clever student, with some gaming and puzzle-solving experience, will find Foldit very challenging. However, students might need to search the community-created resources to understand why the changes they make are helpful or not.
Foldit community of players is large and active and the provided Wiki offers a lot of tips, tricks, info about structures.
Students must be familiar with the Community Rules before playing the game. This will help them understand Foldit etiquette, especially when using the global chat where all Foldit players can communicate and support each other.
Learning Object / Suggested activities with students
Teachers can use this game as a research assignment, or to challenge very advanced students as they progress through their studies. This is best used with students who show potential in the areas of biochemistry, engineering, planning, and/or logic.
The game offers the option to create a private group of students that will play the game. Teachers can have access to the group's profiles and view students' achievements. The game also allows private group chat so students can communicate and collaborate only with members of their group during the game.
Teachers should play Foldit and familiarize themselves with the game prior to assigning work for their students. It is strongly recommended for teachers to be present in-chat to answer questions and provide guidance while students are playing, especially for Middle School and High School students. Teachers should try assigning a subset of the introduction puzzles because doing all of them is very time-consuming. Additionally, the videos found in the Foldit Wiki could be used in a biochemistry class for more literacy on the subject.
Skills and competences
Skills and competences acquired
Foldit builds students' problem-solving, critical-thinking and communication skills. Students will also learn how to persevere and juggle multiple tasks.
Teachers could create quizzes based on the knowledge received from the game, or the knowledge required to progress in the game, in order to assess students' skills on the topic.
Critical thinking, Problem solving, Creativity, Team working