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SD&T Innovative Thinker Speaks at Education Conferences

DJJ SD&T psychometrician Umit Tokac gave a presentation at the international Association for Educational Communications and Technology conference in Jacksonville, Florida, on November 6, 2014. His presentation, titled "Effects of Game-Based Learning on Children's Math Performance: A Meta-Analysis," examined the influence of computer game-based learning versus traditional classroom instruction on math achievement for children from pre-K to fifth grade. After conducting a meta-analysis on seven studies examining different math learning games, Tokac and a university colleague found that game-based learning is more effective in improving students’ math achievement than traditional classroom techniques. The improvement was consistent regardless of the students’ age, socio-economic status or learning disadvantages, such as speaking English as a second language and Down syndrome.

“I did this presentation for fun,” said Tokac.  “My main area of interest is artificial intelligence methods. I am interested in adapting these methods, which are now being used in computer science and economics, to monitor and forecast students’ educational skills and abilities.”

Tokac is in for even more “fun” as a result of the study. He has accepted an invitation to present at the American Education Research Association (AERA) annual meeting next year in Chicago. AERA is one of the biggest conferences in the field of education, with approximately 15,000 attendees anticipated from all over the world. For that presentation, the study is being expanded to capture data on game-based math learning among students from pre-K to twelfth grade. 

Tokac’s interest in innovation is an attribute highly valued by SD&T director Denny Clark. “The innovative thinking demonstrated by Umit and other SD&T staff members makes our office a fun and interesting place to work, and strengthens our ability to serve those who serve kids,” said Clark.

As the staff psychometrician, Tokac ensures that juvenile justice officers have a high-quality certification test to correctly measure their knowledge as they prepare for their work with youth. He validates curricula and tests by reviewing exam questions and matching test items with course content and objectives. Tokac started working with SD&T in June 2014 at DJJ headquarters in Tallahassee.

Tokac is a Ph.D. candidate in measurement and statistics at FSU. He has a master’s degree from FSU in that subject, as well as a master’s degree in math education from Gazi University in Ankara, Turkey. In addition, he is certified in online instructional development. In his spare time, he likes to play soccer.

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