Thursday, May 10, 2012

3 Challenges for a game design school

I’ll be blogging in response to a webinar series offered by at the invitation of the National Writing Project’s Digital Is.

Maybe the most inspiring thing about listening to Antero Garcia, a young teacher who has pushed on the boundaries of pedagogy in a very difficult teaching environment, is that words like “problem” and “challenge” seem to have only the best connotations when he says them.  In this week’s webinar, Garcia detailed some projects he has lead in his high school English class in south central Los Angeles. He shared his thinking about technology in schools and participatory learning. He also described a detailed game his students played which they later opened up to the larger community. After he did all of this, he asked a question:

He asked the connected learning community, "How do we do this with teachers who aren't necessarily oriented toward (game design) practices?" Garcia explained that he’s helping plan a new public high school in South Central Los Angeles, the Critical Design and Gaming School. His concern is that the school will be staffed with veteran teachers who might not have any interest in the type of pedagogy the new school hopes to employ.

As fascinated as I was by the air quality problem he posed to his English class, this problem- starting a school- strikes me as infinitely more interesting and exciting- not to mention difficult- than solving air quality problems in LA.  

Here are three ways I would frame the challenges he faces: 

1 H
ow can you incorporate game design into professional learning, instructional planning and community development so teachers begin to connect game design with tangible learning? For teachers who have never attended schools built on game principles, applying game theory to teaching will be very hard, especially if they have not learned a great deal in their lives from playing games. Since opening a new school will be a huge learning experience for every staff member involved (just ask someone who has opened a school), this is an opportunity to put your pedagogy to the test with adults.

What are some ways you can temper your commitment to the project- and to change- with a gentle voice and and a welcoming ear that honors the experiences of veteran teachers? In his book Instructional Coaching: A partnership approach to improving instruction, Jim Knight compares the delicate task of asking teachers to change with going over to your sister’s house and asking her to change her parenting. Your new school will symbolize in many ways the idea that teaching practices ought to change. This will sound like a criticism to many. How can you keep those folks involved?

Can you solicit dissent to better inform your overall design? Since you endeavor to rethink pedagogy and reform education, you need everyone’s best thinking, not just the small group of technophiles, or the passionate gamers who may teach in your school. How can you keep critical thinking at the forefront of your work with staff?

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