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Designing Games to Address Real-World Problems

I recently gave a keynote presentation as part of Teachers College: The Next Generation, part of the Academic Festival 2013.  In began the talk by describing three real-life “boss level challenges” — the really daunting challenges of (1) motivation and engagement in classrooms, (2) preparing students for tomorrow’s jobs, and (3) climate change and sustainability.

Next, I showed a picture of silk factory workers from the 19th century during the Industrial Revolution era and juxtaposed it with traditional classrooms.  The old goal of education was to mass-produce assembly line workers to have one (the same) skill.  Learning looks very different today. In the kind of BYOD (bring your own device) era that we find ourselves in today, learning is about tinkering, creating things, collaborating, approaching it like an entrepreneur, understanding systems, bridging cultures, and self-directedness.

Finally, I showed the current progress of three projects that target the three “boss-level” challenges described above.  EcoChains: Arctic Crisis, a multiplayer card game, addresses empathy and systems thinking by asking players to manage and protect Arctic species in an ecosystem from threats like industrialization and poaching.  Greenify, a mobile app, tackles the challenge of fostering sustainable communities through user-created real-world missions.  Finally, Scholar’s Quest/Science City Heroes is a gamification of education project that attempts to apply game-based principles to support a mastery orientation and better dynamics that support learning.


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