GlassLab and Beyond: Who’s the Designer and Who’s the Learner of the Next-Gen Game-Based Ed-Tech

By: Dr. Idit Harel Caperton 
The so called “gamification of education” has taken on multiple forms as computers and tablets become more common in the classroom and as games are becoming a dominant media in our lives. At the root of all “game-based learning” is the unique opportunity to engage students in learning where they want to be: inside video games. The ESA reports 32% of gamers are under  18 years old, and the industry only continues to grow.
But game-based learning appeals to educators, too. More so than rote memorization, game play can develop problem-solving skills, computational thinking abilities, and thoughtful understanding of course content. Game integrations in the classroom can also help track student progress and provide real-time achievement badges and assessment reports to teachers.
A recent Huffington Post by Vicky Phillips of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation features a new and exciting initiative called “GlassLab,”  designed to provide these gamification benefits by producing educational games collaboratively with leaders of the gaming industry (Electronic Arts), learning organizations (Institute of Play), and academics from the education assessment field.  Striving to create the best of game-based learning tools, GlassLab prioritizes embedded assessments to reflect student attainment of subject-matter knowledge and 21st-Century skills through game play. Teachers can use scores and game progress reports to track student learning, which they can then use to hone in on how to personalize lessons for various students of various abilities.
I applaud GlassLab in blending together experts from various fields to address the needs of the modern classroom, serving tech-hungry students and using gaming technologies for learning assessments.  In fact, I actually consider the program a “cousin” to my company’s game-based learning product, Globaloria.  But a critical difference distinguishes Globaloria from GlassLab: students in Globaloria not only play games, they also figure out how design and program educational games, and are being assessed on both playing games and making their games.
The game design process engages students in deep learning that teaches them to create and code, not just consume, game media. This is not just a valuable professional skill for the future, but also empowers students to drive their own learning in the now.
Think about learning to read versus learning to write.  Both sides of the learning equation are important.  Reading skills are essential, but the ability to write adds another layer of comprehension to reading abilities. This scaffolding effect applies also to making games—developing skills in design and coding improves student computational thinking exponentially and increases their critical reading of games.
Gamifying education gives students and teachers a new way to engage with learning and skill assessment. Gaming is a fun and effective way for learning for students, and it provides teachers with immediate access to student comprehension and skill development– enabling personalized instruction.
As the ed-tech industry continues to refine personalized learning tools for the classroom, I urge educators to elevate learning to the next level by empowering youth to not only use gaming technology for play or skill-assessment, but to become the architects of it all. Because along with that will come students’ architecting their own learning, while driving computational creativity, and invention

Idit Harel Caperton, PhD, is the  Founder, President & Chair of World Wide Workshop. Globaloria is an education innovation by World Wide Workshop.

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