Sunday, January 25, 2015

Immersive Learning with Real Gamification

       Several of my recent posts have been about poverty and test scores.  A monotonous diet of test score data can leave you with the impression that test scores are the same as educational outcomes.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Test scores are an easy way to measure family household income but authentic learning has never been easy to measure or even completely nail down.  This weekend I would like to paint a small picture for you of an example of authentic, immersive learning.

        This was the weekend of the Global Game Jam.  More than 52,000 people in cities over the world showed up to create a game based on a common theme.  After listening to the theme there is a short brain storming session, then attendees are given an opportunity to pitch their ideas. All skill levels are welcome, so I packed up my family and headed to Franklin, one of two hubs in Tennessee which were hosting the jam.

       This years theme was, "What do we do now?"  In the brain storming session we moved around the room thinking aloud with a variety of people.  Many of us initially thought of apocalyptic games along the lines of alien invasion, zombie uprising and other things like that.  After 20 minutes, people were given the opportunity to pitch an idea.  My usually shy daughter overcame her fear of speaking in crowds to share her idea.  Her game story line involved a family with a single mom. Mom was suddenly called into work and she has to scrape the bottom of the baby sitting barrel.  The player can pick from four baby sitters and the 3 child characters in the game react. Each baby sitter leads to the children being left to fend for themselves.  When odd circumstances cause the baby sitter to abandon his/her post the three children ask, "What do we do now?" The player then has a series of choices to select from with outlandish consequences.

      When she pitched her idea she had a team of 4 people sign up to help.  This 8 year old child helped create story boards, 'lead a team',  provided voice talents, described characters to her artist, and came up with a dizzying array of ways things could go wrong with a baby sitter or with a group of children turned loose in East Nashville.   This weekend she watched the process of game creation from beginning to end.  She has seen some things happen this weekend and been exposed to technology she probably couldn't have conceived of before she walked through these doors on Friday. In less than 4 hours what's completed in our game, along with hundred of others, will be uploaded to the Global Game Jam site.

       This weekend I have thought often  about the type of "flash flood learning" all of us were able to enjoy.  This was available because:

  • the Nashville Game Developers sponsored a hub here
  •  we were able to find out about because we have access to connected technology
  •  had the resources to travel to Franklin and participate.  This learning is utilized by very few young people because they do not have access.

        I'd would wager my daughter is likely one of the youngest game developers here.  There was a first grader here as well who developed his own program using Scratch through MIT. Em was able to 'lead' a team which was a great boost to her self confidence.  She did not walk into this office as a developer.  She walked in as a child with a great imagination.  Then a team of people surrounded her and brought her twisted, funny, little world to life.  It has been amazing!

       There are several resources we've learned about that might be interesting to you.  There are free sound effects and royalty free artwork available on the web.  Just search Google for 'creative commons' to find them.  Soundbible is an excellent website for free sounds but please pay careful attention.  Do not click the download now button in the ad or you could end up with Vosteran on your computer.  If that happens you get to learn about system resets and Malwarebytes to expunge it from your machine.  Adobe had a suite of software for developing cartoons and games that is web-based. Deep discounts are available to teachers and a trial version is also available.  Check it out this summer if you want to create some cool animations for next fall.

       We were able to work with many talented people this weekend.  My daughter wants to take a minute to thank all of the people who helped her this weekend.  Without the team of women who joined our group none of this would have been possible. Brook Rucksdale and Lee Perry both provided outstanding support and displayed "mad" Google skills.  Samantha Collier is an extraordinary artist who brought all of the characters to life.  Kai Vilhelmsen provided several of our male voices and recorded all of the dialogue.  Phillip Smith created the original music score.  Several young people and adults loaned their voices to bring our script to life.  Thank you all for making this possible. Specific credit will be posted along with our game.  If you would like to see the games you can find them at  Our game is called "Where are Their Parents- East Nashville Style".  We understand you can search by location and by title.  We will know for sure after 4pm today.
        I wish every child could have immersive learning experiences like the one we had this weekend. From these opportunities lasting, useful knowledge springs.  Authentic learning in schools is an endangered animal in the current climate. We will get what we measure.  We are not measuring for immersive, authentic learning experiences.  The policy makers selecting the tests do not all recognize this type of learning so they measure what they know to measure.  They trust the test makers instead of the professional educators.  This leads to more tests, more stress, and less joy.  As a society it's past time to reform education reform and bring memorable learning back to America's children.

       In the meantime we will continue to augment our public school education by finding great events, having daily conversations and creating great memories that will last a lifetime.  We look forward to hearing from our neighbors about what they think of our work. Oh, I also wanted to tell you the lost pet is real. She returned home after 3 days and the cat now has a fan club following on Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. Ugh! I wrote & suddenly it is gone. You write well and this article is good. Your Em is pretty amazing. When I get on my computer I am going to check out the games! You are doing a great job.