Blended Learning and Game Design: The Perfect Fit
Bev Vaillancourt M.Ed., Educator, Instructional Designer
According to the Clayton Christensen Institute, in 2000 about 45, 000 K-12 students took an online course. By 2009, that number had skyrocketed to 3 million K-12 students. It is anticipated that by 2019, roughly 50 percent of all high school courses will be delivered online. Blended learning is an integral part of the growth of online learning as more and more school districts take advantage of the personalized learning and ease of assessment blending learning offers.
One of my first assignments with Zulama was to teach Games Through the Ages (now Evolution of Games) to a group of middle school students in three different countries: the United States (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and California), Singapore, and Greece. It was, in every way, an amazing experience. I say “teach,” but really what I did was facilitate and mentor. The kids absorbed the online content, worked with their families to make and play games like Ur from ancient Mesopotamia and Senet from ancient Egypt, and grew into a collaborative and supportive group of students through their discussion posts and the sharing of their completed WebQuests. It was a wonderfully enriching experience for me to work with kids so invested in learning for the fun of learning. They grew in knowledge and gained an appreciation for the global learning network right at their fingertips. Learning just happened, naturally and unencumbered.
Missing from this wonderful online experience was the value and importance of face to face contact with students. It’s the teacher in a classroom offering accolades, support, and always asking the probing questions that sparks innovation and creativity, and for kids fosters a belief in their capacity to learn and learn big. Teachers bring effervescence to a subject and inspire iteration by asking a simple, “Are you satisfied with what you’ve created?” And then, teachers help students take the next step in their learning journeys by looking beyond the content to where the content can lead them.
I often wished while teaching my online Zulama students, that I could have had all of them together around a table to share their excitement about the cultures they were studying and the games they were creating. Such an opportunity would have underscored the energized learning that happily bounces around a classroom where students assume accountability for their learning while deep diving into collaborative projects. Invested teachers inspire new ideas, creative moments, and a desire to learn, especially in a blended learning environment that is interest driven, personalized, and game-based.
Blending learning offers an ideal setting for Zulama’s courses in game design. Here students become self-reliant learners by assuming ownership of the content delivered online, and then invest themselves into the group dynamics of IDEA teams (Innovate, Design, Engage, Assess). Within their IDEA teams they design and build products that deepen their knowledge of cultures, storytelling, computer coding, and 3D modeling. The basics of game design parallel the learning process: rules, voluntary participation, feedback, and goals. Blended learning and game design become a perfect fit.
Blended learning offers unlimited opportunities to turn kids on to learning. With blended learning, test and forget give way to a desire to learn, share, collaborate, iterate, and excel. Teachers play a pivotal role in the blended learning environment, not as subject matter experts, but as facilitators of that curiosity and directors of sustained knowledge acquisition. Game design creates a template for the process through its focus on helping students become collaborators, communicators, critical thinkers, and creators: the 4 Cs of the 21st Century Skills. And it all happens within the blended learning courses that make up Zulama’s Entertainment Technology Academy. They serve as a foundation and a model for education’s bright future.