NOS Card Game


This learning design challenge originated from a science instructor in the Faculty of Education. This activity was one which was pivotal to the underlying assumptions and foundational knowledge of science for new teachers being exposed to science instruction for the first time. As a result of the rapid deployment of online courses in Fall 2020, this particular interactive activity that was possible in face-to-face classrooms with physical objects needed to be reconceptualized and redesigned.

The Nature of Science (NOS) card game for science instruction in the Faculty of Education is a physical card exchange game. As learning designers in the ETS team, we helped redesign the NOS card activity as it transitioned to an online, digital format.

First, we needed to fully understand the activity. This was accomplished through multiple conversations with the course instructor and then reading through the research materials she provided. This helped frame the activity, historically and contextually, as well as build a sense of how the activity would happen in a physical classroom. One important design consideration was the technological skills and fluencies of both the instructor (as they would be responsible for describing the gameplay) and the students. The final game design resulted from the belief that the most familiar and easy to navigate digital tools available to UBC faculty and students should be used. The technology had to allow students to seamlessly engage with the game and not be a barrier to their understanding of the content and ideas being presented throughout the activity.


The game setup started on a UBC blog site, then moved to a Google Jamboard location, and eventually transitioned to an MS Teams PowerPoint template. This transition occurred as most of the students had little familiarity with the UBC blog environment but were familiar with copying and pasting graphic objects within PowerPoint.

As you explore this activity, please begin with the instructions that have been outlined in a set of PowerPoint slides. This will help you understand how the students engaged in the activity, and how the instructor helped guide the students through the process and gameplay.



The game was conducted over two synchronous sessions using video-enabled technology (Zoom), making sure that students were familiar with the navigation and logistics of breakout rooms.

  • In order to manage the set-up and organization of the game template, we took apart and reconstructed the game cards for digital use.
  • Two spreadsheets were created to store and reference the card information as well as track their usage in the game system
  • Each card was created as an individual PNG file so that it could be inserted onto a slide in the game
  • Students then manipulated those cards in the ‘trading’ action that would normally occur in the physical classroom

Each student in the class was assigned one slide in the deck as their starting page, which was pre-populated with their starting set of cards. The trading of their selected cards was done by students copying and pasting one card from one of their peers’ slides to their own slide. The eight original cards on each student’s page are never deleted, merely moved to the ‘discard’ pile.

NOS Card Details

Download Excel sheet with NOS Card Details

NOS Card usage in the PPT template

Download Excel sheet with NOS Card usage in the PPT template

NOS Card Game Template

Download the PPT template

Pedagogical Pros and Cons

While this activity has a clear pedagogical purpose – that of bringing awareness of perspectives and biases into science education – this could become hidden or mired in the challenges of the technological act of trading cards. During the delivery and synchronous action of playing the game, it was important to ensure that there was time for students to meet together (in breakout rooms on Zoom) to talk about the positions, concepts, ideologies, and perspectives evident on their cards. The activity is as much about the content of the cards as it is about students making critical decisions about the values presented on each card. While the original gameplay in the physical classroom is bound by time (limited to 2 minutes for card exchanges) in the online version of the game the instructor could make decisions on the length of time given to the students by setting the breakout room timer depending on the complexity of each section.

One negative to this form of engagement is the lack of personal and human connection that comes with exchanging cards in a physical setting. While the copy/paste action in the digital version of the game achieves a similar outcome, it is not as emotionally charged as the physical swapping of an actual card. In this way, students may be less engaged or attached to those cards with positions or perspectives in which they may be firmly entrenched. It is easier to ‘let go’ of a digital image than a physical card.


Allaire, F.S. (2018). Cobern and Loving’s card exchange revisited: Using literacy strategies to support and enhance teacher candidates’ understanding of NOS. Innovations in Science Teacher Education, 3(3).


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