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Role Playing Games in K-12

Harvard Professor, Chris Dede spoke at TIES this morning about an alien role playing game, where students worked in teams, and each team member had a code that was needed for the group to move on.
From a tech standpoint, kids learn the interface in 3 minutes, teachers in 15 minutes, so professional development is not on tech but more pedagogical, on how to have a discussion, classroom management strategies, and engagement strategies to get students to care.
By giving the students a common experience, they are then able to have worthwhile discussions. The study is looking at how much face to face vs. virtual time is optimum.
He said the active learning in role playing instruction comes from the progressive movement. The technology makes 3 things possible:
  • higher order skills that can't be taught in lecture format
  • Sophisticated forms of assessment
  • Where the progressive movement got corrupted was based too much on teacher engagement, and the technology allows students to continue learning without being completely dependent on the instructor's engagement.

Dede stated that people are going to realize that there is a flawed set of curricular standards, assessment tools, and accountability tools.
He hopes that the next administration looks to improve these to get a better leverage on learning.
The key will be to evolve rapidly enough to meet the challenges of our rapidly changing society.
He believes there needs to be a variety of pedagogy to student learning, not just one or the other.
He suggests using the emersive role playing at the beginning of a course so that students discover what they don't know, midway during the course for diagonostic formative evaluation, and then at the end as a summative experience.


Web 1.0 gives you top down access to information from experts. Web 2.0 gives bottom up wisdom of the community viewpoints. Web 3.0 will be a set of tools for blending expert knowledge with community input. He is looking at alternative social tagging (Edtags) to explore this in education.

Dede's Web site

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