Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Personal Passion Project: Let the quest begin!

"Learning is what most adults will do for a living in the 21st Century."
Alfred Edward Perlman

I have been exploring ideas around the transformation of education through gamification for a couple of years now and so I am excited to finally have found something to really support this in my teaching and learning. In a nutshell, 3D Game Lab is a platform in which teachers can create quests that allow students to select their own learning pathways. Like a game, students can earn experience (XP) points and rewards as they work toward 'winning' a class.

As an educator who believes in the power of agency to foster student engagement, I have been trying to create personalized learning environments using a variety of digital tools to help. I've had blogs and class web sites; tried flipping my classes; used digital learning menus; implemented Genius Hour or passion projects; and created Edmodo groups - all to try and allow for my students to have choice in how they learn and how they share their new understandings with others. While these tools and strategies were a step in the right direction as my students were definitely engaged, it all felt too disjointed and it was difficult to manage so many different approaches. I kept thinking if there was only a way to bring all of these different elements together; some type of platform that would keep track of all the students achievements and accomplishments.

One of the things I loved about Edmodo was the ability to create and award badges for students when certain tasks or activities had been completed. The students loved receiving the badges, but they could only share them with their classmates or others they were connected to on the site. They were unable to share these digital badges on their WordPress blogs / digital portfolios, where they communicated about their learning with the wider community. This led me to look for alternatives and that's when I discovered the Open Badges Movement.

As I learned more about the philosophy surrounding open badges I became more convinced that this is the direction forward - that such a movement will support the transformation of education. I created my Mozilla Backback and began to explore. I loved it! So much choice and so many opportunities to connect with like-minded others. This was some of the best professional development I had experienced and I immediately began to think of my students and how much they might benefit from such choice and control over their learning.

It was through this exploration of open learning that I found 3D Game Lab. After trying a demo account I have now signed up to make the most of what I believe will provide the type of learning environment I've been striving to create. I am 'playing' to learn how to best use the platform as I complete quests about game-based and quest-based learning. Once I earn my 'builder' badge I plan to design quests for my students and colleagues and that's when the fun will really begin!