Blast from the future

Katie Salen’s perspective on learning is so far ahead that she seems like she is speaking from the future. Her views are synched with the emerging realities that the TeacherSolutions 2030 team describe in our work. By the year 2030 teaching could become a student centered profession that gives students the education they need and […]

Katie Salen’s perspective on learning is so far ahead that she seems like she is speaking from the future. Her views are synched with the emerging realities that the TeacherSolutions 2030 team describe in our work. By the year 2030 teaching could become a student centered profession that gives students the education they need and deserve.

In the future kids will need to collaborate, work in teams, engage in complex problem solving, practice empathy, and adopt new identities, all in an environment where it is safe to take risks. According to Salen, all of these skills are taught through game design. At Quest to Learn, a grade 6-12 charter school in New York city,  founded by Salen’s Institute of Play, students participate in project based learning grounded in an approach that intertwines game theory and learning theory.

In the interview below, Katie Salen says a lot of important things but, the one that really made me do a double take was this, Salen says,

“One reason games are so motivating for kids is that they actually know that it was designed for them to be successful within it. They don’t often think about that in the classroom sometimes. I don’t know that they think about the classroom as an environment that has been designed for their success. It often feels like a nemesis or challenge that they have to go through, but they’re not quite sure that they are going to be able to do it.”

That comment hit me like number two pencil in the eye. It blasts an asteroid sized hole in our standards based educational reforms. The current path, so defined by testing, sets kids and teachers up for just that, the chance to fail. That is why we are losing bright kids and brilliant teachers, because, they don’t feel like the educational system is set up for their success.

Games as Salen describes them are actually a stronger accountability system than the current make or break, end of year test. Salen describes how games actually have assessment built into their design. Every second of every game, kids know how well they are doing, they are solving problems scaffolded to just the right level of challenge, and when they are successful, they know it. When they aren’t, its no big deal, just start a new game or go back a level and learn what you needed to learn to move forward.

Listening to Salen describe how learning, assessment, and game theory are so interrelated I couldn’t help but think, if we aren’t too late, the future is now.

Image from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Katie_Salen