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Don Tapscott

New game-based high-school history course

For a couple of decades I’ve been advocating a new model of pedagogy that involves technology.  For example, I just published a piece in the Edge on the Demise of the University.
The purpose of introducing technology into schools isn’t to simply digitize existing processes and leave the basic broadcast teaching model unchanged.  Instead, technology opens the door to new techniques that focus on the student and allow students to proceed at their own pace.
In this spirit, imagine students studying American history with the same concentration and enthusiasm they display when playing their favourite video games.  After all, 97 percent of high school students are avid gamers.

That’s the goal of Conspiracy Code, an online game based course released this week by Florida Virtual School (FLVS), and 360Ed, Inc. an education game development company.  Students play fictional characters in an espionage-themed adventure game set in the metropolis of Coverton City. Students must build their knowledge and understanding of American history in order to stop a vast conspiracy that threatens to erase and change the course of history. You can see a short video overview of the game here.

In the rich multi-media environment, students connect with characters, course plot, and content and absorb historical facts at a higher level of thinking. Students test their knowledge during in-game challenges, engage in student-to-student collaborations and discussions, exchange information with peers (similar to group projects), and eventually use their knowledge to complete culminating mission assessments, each step eliciting a better understanding of the material.  By the time they complete the game, they’ve learned a full course of high-school history.
“Conspiracy Code is everything I would have liked to do in my brick and mortar classroom but didn’t have the time or resources to accomplish. It engages kids through game play, but challenges them to interact with history in the most creative, research based methods available,” said David Wilson, FLVS American History teacher. “There is higher level critical thinking involved, project based learning, student collaboration, authentic assessments, and plenty of reading and writing. At the end of the day, I know my students are becoming excited about history and I know that this course will inspire many students.”

As students collect clues, they are given many opportunities to process what they are learning at increasingly-higher levels. They strengthen higher-order thinking, written communication, problem-solving, and collaborative skills through:

* Playing engaging concept practice games
* Responding to a variety of question types
* Writing assignments and essays
* Completing authentic game-based assessments
* Participating in discussion-based assessments

The company says the game-based technique provides a student-centered approach that increases retention of content, concepts, lessons, and skills.  The flexible environment allows students to select pace of play, and qualitative and quantitative research shows this helps students perform better. It offers a sequential learning path to challenge students to master content or concepts before advancing in the course. Constant and immediate positive feedback from teachers boosts confidence, reinforces lessons, and strengthens content acquisition.  Tracking and evaluation tools help teachers work with a larger number of students, each operating at their own pace.
The company says that its beta testing in the lab and field has been “promising and exciting.”  I look forward to hearing the results after a year of actual use.

Tags: School/College


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