I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some thinking we've been doing in the area of "gaming" and "gaming theory". It reflects experiences as far back as last January's North American Jewish Day School Conference, which I blogged about here. The end of that blog post was my reflection on my experience facilitating a session for Barry Joseph of Global Kids on Gaming 101. He gave a wonderful overview on the impact of gaming on education and provided lots of rich resources.
I have been influenced by this TED talk by Jane McConigal: "Gaming can make a better world" which has been among their most viewed:
I have also been inspired by thought-partner Rabbi Owen Gottlieb:
And have been recently working with Nicky Newfield, Director of Jewish Interactive, on potential new projects.
Although I have no groundbreaking program or initiative to announce at present...I am quite confident that all this thinking and collaboration will yield exciting fruit, and soon. Here is where I think we are heading:
White Paper: Gaming & Jewish Education
The last three years in my position as Head of the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School, a K-8 Schechter Network Day School of nearly 130 students located in Jacksonville, Florida, has overlapped with an explosion of interest in 21st century learning and educational technology. In large ways, our school has been shaped by the works of leading figures in this educational movement – Heidi Hayes Jacobs, Angela Maiers, Alan November, Mike Fischer, and Chris Lehmann to name a few. And in small ways, I believe our school has contributed to the movement as well, by serving as a living laboratory and our creation of edJEWcon – a yearly institute for 21st century Jewish day school education, launched in 2012 with 21 Jewish Day Schools throughout North American and representing the full ideological spectrum. As our work in this area deepens each year, new opportunities for innovation arise. It has become to clear to us that gaming and gaming theory represent the next frontier.
A leading feature of 21st century learning is giving students the opportunities to own the learning. Knowing that Bloom’s Taxonomy recognizes “creativity” as the highest rung onthe ladder, we are interested in giving our students opportunities to create meaningful, authentic work. From a motivational standpoint, gaming provides us with a tangible example of our target audience spending hours upon hours failing to achieve! But rather than becoming despondent, kids find this kind of failure motivating – they will spend hours and days working on new skills and seeking new discoveries in order to accomplish their goal. Deep gaming allows for the possibility of harnessing students’ desire for creativity and motivation for success to the curricular aims of a school.
Although this would apply to any aspect of the curriculum, it is in Middle School Jewish Studies where perhaps the greatest opportunity lies. It could be because the current quality of curricular materials is less. It could be because student motivation for Jewish Studies is oftentimes less in, at least, some kinds of Jewish day schools. It could be that for some students virtual Jewish experiences may the only Jewish experiences (outside of school) available. For those reasons, and for the benefits of creating integrated curricular learning experiences between secular academics, STEM and Jewish Studies that many Jewish Day Schools find desirable either for expediency, mission or both, we believe the creation of a virtual gaming environment built around key periods of Jewish history has the greatest academic and commercial potential.
We envision our Middle School students having the opportunity to build upon existing curriculum by creating avatars who can interact in key periods of Jewish history. It would call upon skills taught in Bible, Rabbinics, Social Studies, etc., and also include opportunities for remediation and enrichment. We envision our day school students and faculty perhaps integrating their 21st century learning skill set in mastery levels by creating new events, periods, storyboards, characters, etc. This provides the greatest range of differentiation possible, from playing the game to co-creating it.
As an additional footnote, because of our school’s location within an educational academy at a large Conservative synagogue, we recognize there are yet additional applications of a game such as this with a larger population of supplemental school students. We can imagine a game which allows the player to experience key moments of Jewish history being desirable either for the schools, parents and Jewish students who would unlikely be able to experience that subject matter (at least to day school depth) with the limited hours and curriculum supplemental schooling provides.