Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Game Design as a Catalyst For Learning

Over the course of this school year, I have been fortunate enough to share ideas on technology integration with Judy Wilson, my children’s principal at P.S. 3 in Staten Island, NY.  Many of these conversations focused on my own son’s use of technology as a catalyst for creativity, problem solving, and critical thinking developed by playing Minecraft and using iMovie to storyboard and create his own movies.  These conversations eventually led Judy to include Nicholas in a pilot program at the school where students would be creating virtual reality games after the regular school day.  As someone who loves educational technology and knowing how much my son does as well, my wife and I figured this was an unbelievable opportunity that couldn’t be passed up.
My son and PS 3 student Nicholas playing a virtual reality game created by his peers.

After participating in the program for over three weeks, Judy invited us to see firsthand what the students had been doing.  This was where I finally learned about VR Quest™ developed by Warren Black.  Warren developed this program for middle and high school students, but Judy convinced him that elementary school students could do it.  With the help of teachers who stepped out of the box to work with the kids – Justine Kostenbader (Technology) and Mr. James Laieta (Language Arts) – the after school program was born.  The resulting pilot consisted of mostly fifth and fourth grade students as well as just two students in the second grade.  I cannot begin to explain how excited I was when I found out that my son Nicholas was one of the two second grade students authentically engaged in the design of games to solve complex programs.

VR Quest™ is a fun and educational project-based learning (PBL) model that integrates fully immersive Virtual Reality technology.  It enriches students’ lives by offering computer and real-life skill instruction delivered through comprehensive projects in the subject areas of science, history and social studies.  Each VR Quest™ project has a specific content area as its "lead" theme. As the project unfolds, a myriad of other subject areas and disciplines are woven into the mix to create a rich and challenging cross-curricular experience. Check out what some schools in Hawaii are doing with VR Quest™.

VR Quest™ students work as a team to create a Virtual Reality multimedia environment. They develop a vested interest in their project by becoming an integral part of a production crew and participating in a challenge or theme, which relates to their own lives. Creating their virtual worlds helps students develop skills in game design, art, storytelling, 3-D animation, computer literacy, research, reading, problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork. Upon completion of the project, students enter their virtual worlds via a head-mounted display and interact with their creations.

The two lead themes that students could choose from were ancient Egypt and Mars.  Can you guess which theme most of them chose?  The entire activity is connected to the Common Core and consists of seven specific steps:

  1. Define objective
  2. Brainstorm
  3. Research on Macs
  4. Storyboard by hand
  5. Build the interface
  6. Pilot test of game created
  7. Take completed project home to play

Below is a video highlighting the work done by these students.

video

It was so exciting to see what my son and his classmates had created.  It was apparent from their presentations that the project focused on essential skills sets (communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, global awareness) and was thoroughly engaging.  Just watching these young children line up to play each other’s games and explain what they had created at 7:00 PM was a testament to the effectiveness of this program.  I commend both Judy Wilson and Warren Black for providing my son with this enrichment opportunity.  Now I have to work on brining this amazing program to the students of New Milford High School.

To learn more about VR Quest contact Warren Black at 631-365-2506 or wblack@vrquest.com


9 comments:

  1. Interesting concept. I'd love to see more and where it is grounded in educational literature. How scalable is this technology and curriculum?

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    1. Hi Len,

      You may contact me regarding VR Quest and I will answer your questions. wblack@vrquest.com or 631-365-2506

      Warren Black

      Delete
  2. I hope to explore both the literature piece and scalability if we get the program here as a pilot. If so you want in?

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  3. Eric- I teach English as a Second Language, K-5 at a Year-Round School in Durham, NC. I would like to know more, see if I could possibly bring to my school. Would love to find out more.

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    1. Hi Ms. Isasi-Brown,

      I am the CEO of VR Quest. Thanks for your interest. Did you know I have a VR Quest program running at Stony Brook University? Please contact me if you would like to discuss integration of the product. wblack@vrquest.com 631-365-2506.

      Warren Black

      Delete
  4. Barbara - Send me an email (esheninger@gmail.com) and I will have Warren Black from VR Quest reach out to you.

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  5. I am Principal at a Middle School in Brampton, Ontario, Canada. I would love to explore this technology in our classrooms. I wonder if this technology would fit into our integration of assistive technology so all students could benefit from its learning potential. Eric, if you could possibly connect us to any resources or people. Thank you. I am rather intrigued...

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ms. Meyer,

      I am the CEO of VR Quest. Thanks for your interest.Please contact me if you would like to discuss integration of the product. wblack@vrquest.com 631-365-2506.

      Warren Black

      Delete
  6. Andreas - here is the contact information Warren Black at 631-365-2506 or wblack@vrquest.com

    ReplyDelete