Imagine engaging students in a scenario-based learning activity

If you’re lucky like me and teach in an enlightened English department, it is easy to imagine. At regular intervals our curriculum engages students in hands-on, multiple player, role-playing scenarios that introduce and develop overarching themes.

With Web 2.0 tools we can begin imagining more. We can take those same successful learning activities and put them in a form that practically all our students are doing every day: video games.

From today’s Washington Post:

“”There is a revolution in the understanding of the educational community that video games have a lot of what we need,’ said Jan Plass, co-director of the Games for Learning Institute, based at New York University and funded by Microsoft to research how video games can help learning… The Pew Research Center reported in September that 97 percent of youths aged 12 to 17 play video games, and half said they played ‘yesterday.’

Time spent glued to the screen is … particularly high in wired, affluent communities… where a survey this year showed that almost three out of four students play video games or use the computer for non-school-related stuff an hour or more each night.

The literacy learning activities I’m imagining would use as models the open-sourced multi-player role-playing games-based such as Halo (a game run on Microsoft platforms). How much more engaging would English coursework be, especially for boys (like those in the creative commons licensed photo above), if the learning activity were placed on a gaming platform? And if a female student could learn in a Second Life classroom that resembles the Sims she enjoyed playing as a little girl?

Given a good game engine, one could translate successful classroom activites into a “game versions”that make the activities even more engaging.
For instance, the Floodrock series my boss developed in the early aughts would do well on a virtual platform. In one multi-player, role-playing learning activity called “Gangs at Floodrock High,” students meet together in groups to collaboratively interpret and interrogate various colorful characters–male and female– as they inquire into a pressing threat to the community: the presence of gang members.

Armed with video, audio, and now game-frames, wouldn’t the pursuit of truth in the halls of Floodrock High gain higher interest? And couldn’t more students learn in more ways (that give them “new” literacy skills) at Floodrock version 2.0?

I’m thinking so.

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