Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Game Theory

Posted By on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 2:32 PM

Lately, we've been keeping an eye on national education reform, if only b/c of Memphis' unique place in it.

But Memphis isn't the only place looking for new models and innovation in education. Last week's NYT magazine was all about the intersect of technology and education, and included a long piece about a public school in New York that uses video games as their basis for teaching.

(It also included a Q&A with national education secretary Arne Duncan.)

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Quest to Learn is a middle school, now in its second year, conceived by professional game designer Katie Salen and funded in part by the MacArthur Foundation. Salen also directs a research-based organization called Institute of Play that examines the connection between games and learning.

It might sound radical to design an entire school around gaming, but the people involved make a pretty good case for using video games and technology: Children who have access to computers master point and clicking with a mouse by age 4. When it comes to getting a child's attention and keeping it, game designers are "getting something right that schools, in many cases, are getting wrong." Failure in a game is considered "brief, surmountable, often exciting" while failure in school is discouraging.

And we live in an increasingly digital world, one that most children have to learn about outside of school.

From the story:

"Quest to Learn is organized specifically around the idea that digital games are central to the lives of today's children and also increasingly, as their speed and capability grow, powerful tools for intellectual exploration. ...

A game, as Salen sees it, is really just a 'designed experience,' in which a participant is motivated to achieve a goal while operating inside a prescribed system of boundaries and rules. In this way, school itself is one giant designed experience. It could be viewed, in fact, as the biggest and most important game any child will ever play."

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