Three weeks ago, I launched the SCS EPIC Academy pilot with a group of educators in Surry County Schools. In case you missed my last post on EPIC Academy, it’s a fully-online, game-inspired, approach to professional development. Through a quest-based learning approach, teachers and administrators can select challenges that interest them, complete them in at a pace that’s right for them, and explore these topics to a depth of their choosing. Follow a quest chain to its culminating “Epic Quest” and you’ll unlock an official SCS Badge. That’s the elevator speech version, anyway.
So, what’s the response so far? To date, 40 district educators are active in the system. I just shared with them their collective accomplishments just a moment ago. Together, they have:
- Accumulated a total of 7880 XP! (That’s 7.8 CEU’s!)
- Completed 217 quests.
- Acquired 91 achievements.
- Submitted 201 quest ratings (for an average rating of 4/5 stars).
- Shared 681 educational resources via Pinterest.
- Discovered one ninja and her secret quest chain!
- Unlocked 2 official SCS EPIC Academy Badges!
Beyond the numbers, however, our teachers are sharing some incredibly thoughtful reflections (especially on a game-inspired approach to learning). Consider this reflection by one our guild members, tarheelgirl:
Considering the seductiveness of autonomy in gaming is a new thought process for me. What would it be like to set parameters and then allow students to chose a series of experiences to “test” their abilities? I am also drawn to the idea that children need to experience (really feel) success before they will be motivated to keep reaching for it. If you have never had chocolate….then you do not crave it and certainly will not walk on the treadmill to earn yourself a Hershey bar. If kids never feel academic success, then how will they know what they are striving to attain. Quick, easy success early on in acquiring a new skill could lead for more applied interest.
And, this thoughtful response from teacher_heather:
How will students learn to grow and change if they don’t learn to fail first? I couldn’t help but think of when I used to play Mario as a kid. I remember I would get so angry if I didn’t get past Bowzer to rescue the Princess. I would take note on what I did wrong, fix it, and finally rescue the Princess! Of course after hours of playing, I would get bored and voila! I would find a secret tunnel that would lead to another land and find a few hidden treasures along the way. If we give kids something to work towards through gaming, mixing math, science, etc. along the way and let them know that failing is okay, they would be more willing to do their best. I would have to say the same for teacher’s professional development.
To say I am proud to be working alongside such professionals would be an understatement.
So, what else is going on? I am encouraging players to set personal goals for themselves this week and gave them some examples: “I’m going to reach 300XP by week’s end.” “I’m going to unlock my first badge this week.” “I’m going to write a new blog post tonight.” I’ve also challenged them to explore ways that we can use 3DGameLab’s newest feature, Teams. Personally, I keep going back to Hogwarts, there. I just need a sorting hat.
Lastly, the secret quest series. To date, one player, iluveducating, has discovered the ninja, and has embarked on her quest to find the three hidden keys. As a “game designer” (yes, air quotes, there… term used very loosely), I’m torn between dropping serious hints, and simply letting it unfold over time. I’m leaning toward the latter, though it’s taking self-discipline!
In March, I’ll be presenting the pilot for the first time to our Board of Education and will also be doing a session at NCTIES 2015! Stay tuned!