EPIC Teaching Academy

Most of my past projects have focused on leveraging games and gamification in the K-12 classroom with students, however, a project specifically for teachers is long overdue.  EPIC Teaching Academy, turns the attention to educators and their professional development.  Though, I’ve tossed these ideas around for awhile and even built a loose framework, my new district, Surry County Schools, is truly the right-place, right-time to launch this project.  There’s been incredible support.

The EPIC Guild BannerSo, what is EPIC?  It’s really the result of some conversations and observations over the past several years in my primary role as a provider of teacher professional development.  The catalyst was a conversation two years ago at EdCamp Raleigh.  There, a group of educators from across the state including Bill Ferriter (@plugusin), Bethany Smith (@bethanyvsmith), and many others talked about what we, as educators dislike about professional development and what we really want in  our PD.  It was an incredible conversation, as most are at EdCamps.

Of course, I have my niche passions within the education arena, so instantly began to see opportunities to leverage a playful, game-like approach as a solution to many of the problems the group had with typical professional development.

EPIC Teaching Academy is program I’m developing, using 3DGameLab as a platform, that will offer players (yes, players) the opportunity to explore professional development topics of their choice to a depth of their choice.  These learning quests will increase in complexity and commitment as players progress through successive quests as they progress toward unlocking an official badge showing their mastery of a particular topic.  These badges can be shared through the educator’s website, social media, and/or badging system like Mozilla’s Backpack.

Of course, my ultimate goal is to move beyond simple gamification toward truly game-like experiences.  Perhaps a hidden Easter Egg (a la Ready Player One)?  Perhaps we’ll divide schools into teams like a local Hogwarts to host some fun, competitive learning experiences?  Likewise, a hope is that our educators, through this experience, will gain a greater understanding of the merits of an approach like this, ultimately paving the way for student badging.  Here, my friend, Dr. Bron Stuckey (@bronst), has offered some great starters and inspiration!

Tomorrow I’ll begin recruiting district teachers to participate in a pilot beginning in February.  Along the way, I hope to collect some data, pre- and post-, of their attitudes toward professional development overall and of the EPIC experience.

Here’s a presentation that I’ll be sharing that explains the program in a bit more detail:

 

 Time for some fun!

-Lucas

NCTIES 2013!! Game On: Play to Learn

ncties2013

So, needless to say, I’m pretty excited about this year’s theme for the conference.  There are a number of fantastic sessions related to games and learning.  My session resources can be found here:

Game on!

-Lucas

NCSLMA 2011 – Gaming Librarians!

I had a fantastic two days at NCSLMA 2011, where I was honored to present on using video games in education.  Sarah Justice did an amazing job of organizing a great learning and networking opportunity.  Of course, anyone who has a Doctor Who Quote in their signature gets big props from me:

 

 

Gwyneth Jones delivered an call to arms for librarians across the state!  Let her passion for learning and “little monsters” (a la Lady GaGa) be an inspiration for us!  You can find her resources here and be sure to check out her blog, The Daring Librarian.

 

During awards, the media center of one NC school was described as “the hub.”  I love this!  That’s exactly what our media centers should be!  A hub of:  learning… inspiration… creativity…  engagement.   What will it take to make your media center that kind of hub?

 

There were so many great educators there, and I didn’t have enough time to meet them all.  The ones who I spoke with and who braved my sessions seemed genuinely passionate about learning and eager to try new things.  Today, some even endured part of my presentation on the street!  (Yeah, there was a fire alarm!)  There were great sessions scheduled during each time slot!  However, that’s the beauty of sharing and the web.  If you missed my sessions and are interested in learning more, all of my resources are here.  Steal… liberally.

Teachers Playing World of Warcraft

There is a certain thrill for me watching adult learners exploring a totally alien environment.  Maybe it’s the mad scientist in me?  I’m having those very sorts of opportunities in August as Peggy Sheehy and I lead teachers from around the world through quest-based learning experiences in 3DGameLab.  Our group’s quests revolve around the concept of using World of Warcraft (or similar MMO’s) in the classroom.  Our first week has simply been a chance to orient folks to World of Warcraft.  Simply put, we just want them to play the game, immersing themselves in the fantasy world of Azeroth.

As we move into week two, we’re asking our participants to look at the game through the lens of education and instructional design.  World of Warcraft is an incredibly complex game.  This first week has reminded me of just how much I take for granted:  the jargon, game culture, and of course the technical side of things.  We have a range of prior knowledge among our participants from those who have multiple level 85 characters, the highest level in the game, to those who have never experienced any virtual world, much less a game-based virtual world.

One of the first quests for our explorer-teachers this week is to examine how the game’s designers essentially are instructional designers.  The game has to teach you how to play the game.  This requires a great deal of thought, planning, and testing on the part of the designers.   Blizzard Entertainment, the makers of World of Warcraft, have become masters of this, as their subscriber numbers (around 12 million) indicate.

We asked our teachers both newcomers and veterans alike to reflect on their first experiences in the game and to consider what lessons we might apply to our classroom instruction.  The first responses coming in are very telling:

After a couple of unhappy days, something happened that turned it around for me. People started helping me – not only that, but on two different days, very advanced players went on quests with me. What a totally different experience it was! I loved playing. It was so much fun, and I was learning a tremendous amount by following their lead and asking questions. It’s lonely to struggle by yourself, and many times I thought that this must be how students feel when they get stuck and are not allowed to work with anyone else.

This response really highlights the value of the social component, something that good games typically foster but too often our classrooms discourage.  Another teacher shared this observation:

Each quest would expand the area you could investigate. Each quest would introduce you to more and more challenging obstacles to overcome. Some quests taught you how to fish, earn money with a trade, and use different talents. You were not tossed in the middle of the pool with all your skills in place, you had to learn them one or two at a time. New skills built upon previous knowledge.

This mastery-based approach is not common in our schools, primarily because time for learning is a set constant.  The mentality is, “if you don’t get it, sorry, we have to move on.”  Keeping your experiences within your “regime of competence” is a concept also reflected by this educator:

WoW is good at starting you off small – just a few spells, easily defeated baddies, and quests that let you go practice your skills without aggroing mobs. The game is also good at keeping you within your skill realm. You won’t find any level 30 foes in the level 1 areas so you’re usually pretty safe from biting off more than you can chew.

On the concept of feedback to the player (what we might call assessment), one of our educators shared this observation:

I could see that I was making progress, and that was motivating. Also the frequent advancing in levels at the beginning stages. I was so happy when my level went up! I’ve rarely seen this technique done in education, but it could certainly be borrowed.

I was so impressed by the thoughtfulness and reflection of these educators I had to go ahead and share it.  There are many more educators who’ll be sharing their reflections on exploring World of Warcraft this week.

Are you a gaming educator?  What parallels can you make between game design and good instructional design?

Three Things I Didn’t Tweet from #ISTE11

@PCSTech says – Where preaching is happening, it’s directed at the choir. #iste11

60secMy first session at ISTE 2011 was with Will Richardson.  It was an excellent rallying cry.  A call for us to wake up.  The problem?  The people who really need to hear that message aren’t in the audience.  Will’s talk frightens me.  Why?  Because what he’s describing is simply the current state of technology.  He’s not speaking as a futurist, here.  And, as our learners move forward the relevance gap between school and the real world grows wider and wider.  In an age of automobiles we’re educating them to be buggy whip makers.  I worry about this gap, because, as one colleague said it, “this new landscape of technology is like the Wild West.”  Our kids are rushing in but typically without the guidance and wisdom of adults who are also pioneering ahead.  The result?  Well, just spend some time on XBox Live or look at what the average video posted to YouTube or the dialogue on Facebook.  I want them to share their lives and their creativity in these new media.  They should be.  But, they need guidance from us.

@PCSTech says – The real innovation is not in technology but in thinking. #iste11

ipad2bubblesheetI spent enough time in the vendor area to make it from one end to the other.  I am pretty confident in saying that I saw ZERO examples of any tools that were revolutionary.  I didn’t see any gadget, tool, service, or resource that fundamentally shifts instruction.  Every demonstration was instructor-centric.  “Look at what you as the teacher can show your students…”  Interactive white boards are bigger, snazzier, and offer more razzle dazzle than ever before.  Student response systems have only made standardized testing easier.  Like we need it. Some of the technology I saw was downright disgusting, like this tool that allows you to use an iPad 2 to score standardized Scan/Bubble sheets.  Seriously people?

@PCSTech says – Please don’t put “educational” or “serious” in front of “game.” #iste11

koduIf you are a gamer or a member of the 97% of our student population who plays electronic games, then you know what real games are like.  When you go home, you immerse yourself in the fast-paced action of Call of Duty, conquer dungeons with your guild in World of Warcraft, or get your daily workout while dancing in front of your Kinect.  Educators, please don’t try to sell your “educational” or “serious” game as a game in that light.  It won’t help the cause of advancing games as a viable tool for learning in our learners’ eyes.  When it comes to games in education, there are two areas I think we should pay close attention to:  student-created games like Pat Yongpradit is doing (using tools like Kodu/XNA, GameStar Mechanic, or Game Maker) and the use of commercial, off-the-shelf games (like Civilization, SIMS, or World of Warcraft).

For me, the real meat of the conference came in the conversations between sessions and over meals.  EduBloggerCon was quite possibly the most valuable experience of all.  I think the un-conference format really fosters deep conversation and networking and I’m hoping to adapt the format for professional development in my district.

Coming This Summer: 3D Game Lab

Teachers! Looking for a great way to incorporate game-like elements into your curriculum? Lisa Dawley is hosting a completely online professional development program and access to the 3D Game Lab!  I’m proud to say that I’ll be contributing to this program in August.  It’s going to rock!  The official website and information about signing up can be found here – http://www.3dgamelab.org.  Check out the video and the flyer below.

-Lucas

The WoW Factor: Cognitive Dissonance and WoWinSchool the Focus of THE Journal Article

erudIf you haven’t read the recent issue of THE Journal, be sure to take a look at the article.  It’s a great discussion of how the Cognitive Dissonance Guild is supporting educators’ explorations in the virtual world, World of Warcraft.  There’s also discussion of our very own WoWinSchool Project!

-Lucas