12466 ED: Games and Learning in Schools with Disadvantaged Students
Organizer: Kelly Mendoza
Participants: Tanner Higgin, Reina Cabezas, Mat Frenz, Lucien Vattel, Jim Pike, Sujata Bhatt
What are innovative models of games and learning happening in California schools with low-income and historically racially disadvantaged student communities? What can we learn from them in terms of what’s working – and what’s not? What are successful relationships between schools and developers that test and improve products for different student populations? This panel brings together educators and developers (or those in both camps) to discuss different models of innovation with games and play reaching disadvantaged student communities. We’ll first explore Epic, an Education for Change public charter middle school located in one of Oakland’s poorest and high crime neighborhoods. Epic (opened in August 2014) re-imagines middle school by using features of gaming. Students re-define their personal narratives as heroes in their own Epic journey, in which classes are redefined as magical worlds, and lessons as heroic quests. Epic is a science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM) school with a rigorous curriculum. Students discover their inner hero though four houses with strong cultures, encouraging teamwork with integrated rituals woven around a larger school narrative. Reina Cabezas, an Engineering Teacher at Epic School, will share how game mechanics are integrated into the school culture and the assessment system to foster students’ self-expression and achievement. Mat Frenz at Glasslab Games, who works with Epic School, will share how they collaborate with weekly on-site play testing, feedback from teachers who pilot games, and professional development collaboration to better inform implementation strategies. In addition, Lucien Vattel, founder of GameDesk and Director of PlayMaker School, will share PlayMaker’s model based on the principle that students should be empowered to create meaningful relationships with knowledge by interacting, playing, and making. Play Maker, launched in 2012 in partnership with New Roads School in Los Angeles, incorporates principles of game-based learning into the instructional model, but with an additional focus on making and discovering. PlayMaker recruits students from historically disadvantaged minority backgrounds and low incomes to create a racially and economically diverse community of learners. Students work with an “Adventure Map” that guide them to choose a personalized learning path, which includes a combination of low tech and high tech activities. Students also complete formative assessments tied to Common Core Standards. Lucien will also share how PlayMaker informs GameDesk’s research and product development. Lastly, Jim Pike, a third grade teacher at Ascension Catholic School in Los Angeles, and Director of Education at Learn by Gaming, will share his own model of innovative learning with games. Jim designed, developed, and implemented “Mathcraft”, a Common Core Math curriculum centered around the popular video game Minecraft. Jim teaches in South Central Los Angeles, where much of the student population is living below poverty level. Learn how his Mathcraft curriculum dramatically increased student math scores and improved the academic culture of his class. Dr. Tanner Higgin from Common Sense Education, who researches race in videogame culture, will moderate the panel.