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'Gamification' School Opens in LA

shared from california-teacher.org | September 25, 2012

Related Topics: gamification of the classroom, games, GameDesk, Playmaker

GameDesk, a nonprofit organization that develops game-based learning initiatives, has now begun running their own classroom. Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, GameDesk has started a school in Los Angeles that focuses on gamification of the classroom – education driven and delivered through games and digital simulations. ‘Playmaker' opened its doors on Sept. 6 to 38 enrolled sixth graders, and will be working in partnership with New Roads independent schools in northern California.

The students at Playmaker will be working with low- and high-tech games as well as creating physical models and participating in group activities. In a unit on kinetic and potential energy, for example, students will be watching videos, playing games, creating digital roller-coasters, and creating real-life models. Other activities they will experience include flight simulation and historical "time travel."

The students will also be directing their own learning paths using an “Adventure Map” that will allow them some control over their learning experience. Curriculum at Playmaker is designed to be interest-driven and the activities were created to align with Common Core academic standards. Instruction is focused on teaching practical digital skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and social emotional learning principals.

GameDesk is modeling the school after the first game-based school ‘Quest to Learn,’ which opened in New York in 2008. More than just a school for digital engagement and learning, however, founder and executive director of GameDesk Lucien Vattel hopes that Playmaker will serve as a nursing ground for discovering and fostering new digital and educational concepts that will then spread to other schools around the country.

GameDesk is also creating several other platforms from which to experiment, test and share their ideas. The company received $3.8 million from AT&T that will go towards creating a learning laboratory called the Learning Center, to serve as an area and classroom for developing and testing their newest digital learning tools.

The donation will also be used to create a national online portal providing educators free access to a large library of digital learning content and support for teachers on how to integrate digital learning into their classrooms.

“Up until now we have only been able to support schools here in LA. With AT&T’s support, we’re going to be able to scale up and get these new learning tools out there for everyone,” Vattel said. “Our work encompasses collaborative efforts from leaders in academia, education and the entertainment industry, and as a result we’re able to build and curate a compelling library of 21st century interactive content.”

“This game-changing approach to teaching kids critical skills and concepts through high quality gaming and digital simulations is driving innovation in education,” said Beth Adcock Shiroirshi, Vice President of Sustainability and Philanthropy, AT&T. “We need unique approaches to teaching and learning like GameDesk provides in order to bring about exponential change in U.S. graduation rates and make sure students graduate ready to hit the ground running.”