Game-based Learning: Seeing is Believing
You could see the future of education–at least one facet of it–in the bright eyes and smiling faces of student game designers at a special event last month at the East Austin Prep Academy (EAPrep). The event was the school’s third annual Globaloria Globey Awards, which recognizes the best work of 6th, 7th and 8th graders who created their own social-issue video games over the course of the entire school year. Proud parents and other family members of the finalists filled the Southwest Key Community Room at EAPrep to cheer for the young game designers as the winners in several categories were announced.
This year 300 EAPrep students participated in Globaloria, which provides a year-long curriculum and other resources to both students and educators. Through the program, students learn to create their own video games–from research and design to programming and presentation. They also learn to work in teams and with teachers and experts to solve engineering issues that are part of the game development process. One EAPrep student, Michael Alvarez, not only won an award for his game Forest Rats, he also won a 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Award for game design, which will be presented to him at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
The Globaloria curriculum at EAPrep is aligned with the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills for Mathematics (TEKs), ELA and Technology Learning. A major sponsor of Globaloria at EAPrep is the AMD Foundation, whose signature education program “AMD Changing the Game” supports similar projects in the U.S. and several other countries.
The excitement surrounding the Globey Awards reinforced the tremendous interest in game-based learning at this year’s SXSWedu conference in March. At a conference where “Innovations in Learning” was the theme, “gamification” was the focus of several excellent panels and meet-ups throughout the three-day event. There is an emerging consensus among many educators and researchers that interactive gaming not only inspires and engages students, but also teaches STEM skills along with other important 21st Century skills such as collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving and digital literacy. At the Globey Awards it was easy to see how game-based learning is making an impact on many proud and happy middle school students.
There’s a famous line from a W.C. Fields movie where a naïve onlooker at a gaming table asks Mr. Fields, “Is this a game of chance?” The great comic puffs on his cigar, glances up at the young man and replies, “Not the way I play it.” Globaloria and other innovative game-based learning initiatives give students a chance to discover the joys of learning many of the core skills they will need to thrive in the 21st Century world. Game-based learning is a strategy that some viewed as a gamble, but today it looks like a good bet to enter the education mainstream. It was not hard to see the benefits and promise of gamification at the Globey Awards, where everyone associated with the program looks like a winner.