Saturday, August 17, 2013

Hello, 2013-2014

It's been a while.

I became a very bad blogger at the end of last school year. In fact, just as the Minecraft project became exciting, I stopped. I hope to avoid doing that this year.

(Sidenote: If you want to skip my musings, just scroll down to the next two posts. One is an outline of a Minecraft project I want to try this year; the other is the curriculum outline & handouts for the Civilization project from last year)

It's been a busy few months away. While working at the same school, I now teach 8th grade humanities. This means I have a lot less time and freedom to incorporate games into my class. We have tests to prepare for, standards to cover, and around 100 years of American history to get through. I'm excited about quite a few projects my partner teacher and I have planned -- essays about revolution, a spoken word poetry performance, pen pals in the developing world -- but I will, as much as possible, keep this blog close to its central theme of games in education.

My view of the role play-based-learning & games can . . . play in education has expanded drastically over the last several months. I started working with the wonderful USC-based CollegeologyGames team and their games designed to help prepare under-privileged for the college application process. A couple of my friends started the summer camp Learn By Gaming, and interest is high enough for them to continue the program every Saturday throughout the school year. Over in Playa Vista, The Incubator School, a middle school with a mission based on entrepreneurship and 21st century learning,  is starting its first ever school year just a few short weeks after hosting a professional development in conjunction with the Conney Center that I attended with a few other LA-based educators. And, last week, I was on Southern California Public Radio talking about Minecraft.

The times, it seems, are a-changin'. Game-based learning isn't a mainstream practice, but it is becoming a part of the mainstream conversation about education. The values of play are gaining recognition, a "gamer" philosophy is something the majority of people can relate to, at least tangentially, and the tools at our disposal are getting better by the day.

I want to try a few things this year. I'd like to extend my use of games and gaming concepts beyond activities with Minecraft or Games for Change, and make them more of an integral part of how my students and I approach learning and problem-solving. I don't want game-based learning to be perceived as something that only exists on a computer or tablet -- far too many schools and children don't have access to those luxuries (well, except for cell phones, but that's a whole other fascinating conversation) -- so much as an active, creative and joy-filled way to interact with the world. I have no idea how this will look. I don't know how to achieve it. Let's try to figure it out together. 

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