Some middle school students may find learning more like a game this fall.
That's because some of their teachers are learning game design and other creative skills while students are on break this summer.
Middle school teachers, all from Allegheny County, have been hard at work this month at The Institute of Play's MobileQuest CoLab workshops. During these workshops, approximately 18 educators are getting the chance to master basic game design, then practice creative activities in small-group settings.
Last week at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit's Center for Creativity at the Waterfront in Homestead, they studied the key concepts of game-like learning, systems thinking and mobile games during several workshop sessions.
This week, teachers will apply what they learned, working with sixth- and seventh-grade students. The students will be part of their own MobileQuest game design and technology summer camp at Carnegie Mellon University.
This is the first time the Institute of Play has offered this free professional development program outside of its headquarters in New York City.
Kevin Conner, curriculum and instructional technology coordinator for the AIU, has been following this type of learning for the past couple of years and is participating in the sessions.
Mr. Conner said a student on one of the videos they viewed commented that he sort of got tricked into learning.
"Some of the teachers have already commented that there is that pressure on them to measure everything and sometimes it's nice to have students learn things that they're interested in, even if it isn't always measurable," he said.
Mr. Conner said that while many of the teachers at workshops have already dabbled with integrating games and mobile technology into their classroom, no one is employing it day in and day out.
The program also is helping educators to whom this concept is new to incorporate it into their classroom.
"It's not that much of a leap from what they're already doing," he said.
"It's changing those activities that they're already doing and just taking some of these principles to heart."
During one workshop session, Mr. Conner said teachers participated in a scavenger hunt with a twist during which they scanned QR codes in search of the seven principles of game-based learning. Some of the codes contained irrelevant information, which he said served to further challenge them on their quest.
"Right away we were engaged and very motivated to find one of these principles," he said.
Teachers' reactions so far have been positive, Mr. Conner said.
"I think they're very enthusiastic about it," he said. "You can kind of see the wheels spinning already like, 'how can I do this with my students?' "
MobileQuest CoLab was created and facilitated by the Institute of Play, a nonprofit design studio. It was founded in 2007 by a group of game designers in New York City, in partnership with the AIU, the Sprout Fund and with the support of the Grable and Benedum Foundations.
For more information, visit www.instituteofplay.org.neigh_west
Shannon M. Nass, freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.