Quest to Learn: NYC’s game-based school

New York City’s Quest to Learn, created in collaboration with New Visions for Public Schools, is a proposed 6-12th grade school based on game-inspired teaching.

Mission critical at Quest to Learn is a translation of the underlying form of games into a powerful pedagogical model for its 6-12th graders. Games work as rule-based learning systems, creating worlds in which players actively participate, use strategic thinking to make choices, solve complex problems, seek content knowledge, receive constant feedback, and consider the point of view of others. As is the case with many of the games played by young people today, Quest is designed to enable students to “take on” the identities and behaviors of explorers, mathematicians, historians, writers, and evolutionary biologists as they work through a dynamic, challenge-based curriculum with content-rich questing to learn at its core.

Rather than playing commercially-available videogames, the school aims to utilise ‘game-like learning experiences’ via partnerships with third-party development studios.

Via Flux.

CANVAS: a virtual world for pupil artwork

canvasLearning and Teaching Scotland’s educational games initiative Consolarium has announced CANVAS, a virtual world allowing local authorities to display pupils’ art. Based on the OpenSim application and created by Aberdeen-based company Second Places, CANVAS (Children’s Art at the National Virtual Arena of Scotland) has the appearance of Second Life while being hosted on LTS servers, so affording them far stricter controls than standard Second Life islands. Each local authority in Scotland will have the opportunity to curate one of 32 separate galleries held on the server.

While I understand the use of OpenSim as suitable for adapting virtual worlds to specific uses, I’m still unsure whether pupils (and indeed, local authority staff) will adapt well to the less than user-friendly camera system within Second Life-style virtual worlds. Is a fully 3D virtual world perhaps unnecessary for the purpose of displaying 2D artworks? I can imagine an application more in common visually with the 2D Club Penguin that would allow users to view artworks without the extra complication of navigating a 3D space.

Nintendo DS Classroom unveiled for Japan

2132382504_viewToday Nintendo and Sharp System Products unveiled DS Classroom, allowing DS consoles to be linked to a central computer and used with specialised educational software.

Known as “Nintendo DS Kyoushitsu” in its native Japanese, the new system pairs up the DS with a PC. Teachers make use of software on the PC to interact via Wi-Fi with students through their individual DS, DS Lite or DSi units that have been equipped with a Nintendo DS Classroom cartridge. The system allows a single PC to interact with up to 50 DS units. Everything is handled locally, so no internet connection is required.

Examples of classroom uses are multiple choice tests and quizzes requiring free response questions to be answered using the DS stylus, with student responses reflected in real time on the teacher’s PC.

The system will be available in Japan from February 2010.

PSP Go to result in cheaper PSPs for schools?

2lke160Rumours of Sony’s PSP Go console appear to have been confirmed. The hardware features slide-out controls and digital-only distribution (i.e. no UMD slot) and is apparently far lighter than previous PSP iterations.

Unlike Nintendo’s new DSi console, there appear to be no new features that would benefit classroom use directly. However, the rumoured Autumn release of the PSP Go may mean that there is surplus stock of the perfectly serviceable PSP-3000 hardware available for schools at bargain-bucket prices…

Co-op games to promote speaking and learning skills

pixeljunk_monstersWith Jim Rose’s review of the UK primary curriculum placing particular emphasis on speaking and listening skills, I’ve been thinking about games that promote communication. Of course, most games can be played with contributions from other people and there are plenty of multiplayer competitive games. However, my girlfriend and I have developed an obsession with co-op Pixeljunk Monsters on PS3, and it’s become obvious that perfect-clearing some of the trickier levels hinges entirely on our ability to articulate tactics clearly to each other.

While organisations such as LTS’ Consolarium use videogames as sociable starting-points for cooperative classroom project work, most games so far selected are singleplayer or competitive experiences (for example, Myst, Wii Sports and Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training – although Guitar Hero provides a different type of co-op experience). Perhaps there’s a place in schools for using commercially-available but less overtly educational games that require speaking and listening skills in order for pupils to succeed?

Some examples that spring to mind include LittleBigPlanet and Pixeljunk Monsters on PS3 (and with the persistant rumours of the lower-cost slim PS3, perhaps this hardware will soon become more affordable for schools), and the classic PS2 puzzle game Kuri Kuri Mix.

Mobile phones in learning

nonzero_logoThere’s a handy page of links over at Teachnet to websites allowing constructive use of mobile phones in learning contexts. This includes resources to share cameraphone images, including the ability to upload to blogs directly from the phone. There are also links to resources such as TextTheMob, allowing instant display of survey results and messages direct from mobile phones.

Learning and Teaching Scotland videos on iTunes

iTunes U is part of the iTunes store featuring lectures and audiobooks from universities and museums, all available for free. Learning and Teaching Scotland, in typically trailblazing fashion, are leading the charge to add videos aimed at teachers developing and supporting 3-18 education and the new Scottish Primary curriculum, ‘Curriculum for Excellence’. While not games-based, exploiting iTunes in this way is an effective way of using current leisure software for the delivery of educational materials, and could be a conduit for pupil-focussed materials as well as teacher support.

To access the videos you’ll first need to download the free iTunes software, then go to the LTS section on iTunes U.