Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Games Based School

PlayMaker is a school that has been designed and developed by the GameDesk Institute funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and launched in partnership with New Roads Schools.  So what is so special about this school?  The school’s philosophy is that children learn best by playing, making, discovering and enquiring.  They aim to transform the learning process and bring the education system into the 21st century.  Rather than simply talking at children and telling them what to learn, the children are empowered to customise their own path and develop meaningful relationships with subject material.

Image courtesy of PlayMaker School
The school aims to give children hands-on, play-based experiences that engage learners and give them a deeper understanding of the subject matter.  They have re-worked learning spaces, grade levels, traditional subject areas and so on, to create a highly engaging, exciting and 21st century school.  Four main principles guide the school:

  1. Learning through play
  2. Learning through making
  3. Learning through discovery and enquiry
  4. Learning through interest-driven curriculum

How does this work at a student level?
Students are in control of their own learning.  They have an ‘Adventure Map’ which is essentially their curriculum but one which they can interact with, personalise and reflect upon.  The Map is made up of curriculum units, which explore a certain subject area in a cross-curricula and project based way (see '10 Benefits of Project Based Learning’).  For example, the roller coaster unit teaches students about friction, speed and distance, kinetic and potential energy, measurement and digital film-making through various exercises including building a physical roller coaster, creating a digital roller coaster and making a short film.  The modules are made up of elements that are great for different types of learners (see ‘Games Based Learning Supports Multiple Learning Styles’).  Once students have completed a module, they ‘unlock’ new areas of the curriculum.

Image courtesy of PlayMaker School
On completing their Adventure Maps, students can see connections between modules and reflect upon their learning (their choices, their progress, standards they have covered etc.).  It also acts as a self-assessment tool for the student as they can see gaps in their knowledge.  This can also be seen and analysed by parents and teachers.  This is added to by a Character Sheet, which records the development of student skills and knowledge.  This feedback encourages students to further develop their self-regulating learning skills.  

The curriculum maps to U.S. standards but also focused on competencies that the PlayMaker school deems important such as systems thinking, problem solving, social-emotional learning, critical thinking, collaboration and other life and career skills (see ‘21st Century Skills and Games Based Learning’).  The school is open source so that the community of teachers and schools can learn from the school (its successes and mistakes).  I imagine that we will start to see more and more schools like this in the near future and hopefully some of them will crop up in the U.K..

Visit the school’s site for more information: http://www.playmaker.org/

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  1. Wow. This school sounds amazing! I will make sure to watch this school for exciting innovations. It will be interesting to see the impact of this kind of playful learning.

    Keep up the great blog! BTW... I wanted to share a book that might inspire you too.


    The author has an awesome history of making and playful learning that's rockin my world. I hope you enjoy it.

    1. Hi Michael. Thanks for your kind words! That book looks very interesting and it's good to know that it gets the GameDesk seal of approval.

      Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you for the write-up Paul.

    Michael - as a part of the GameDesk team I appreciate your comments about PlayMaker. Our mission is to rethink education through playful learning and our school is a living laboratory for curriculum we want to share with the world.

    We have the book Invent to Learn all over the office right now! Currently reading and enjoying it. We're also participating in the National Hackathon this weekend. Would love to stay in touch about the work we're doing and possible collaboration.

    1. Hi Jennifer, thanks for your input and insight!

      I am so excited about what you guys are doing for education. Do let us know about any updates etc., I imagine your school could become a running theme on our blog. Our email address is pfinfo@pixelfountain.co.uk - to keep us updated and for possible collaboration. Thanks again!

  3. I agree your concept . we shouldn't prepare of it however let's apply it into our life. it is often been a bonus of yourself if you're a well educated person. Also, you may grasp several things that will assist you to attain all of the items you would like. Educator

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