Notes from #SXSWi: A New Culture of Learning: Gaming, Tech, Design #newlearn

I’m attempting to write up every single session I went to at SXSWi. Will be mostly about games, but also how tech can kill, neuroscience, digital anthropology, civic science and more.

Trailer for TiltWorld

Heather Staker, Nicole Lazzaro and Scott Stropkay: A New Culture of Learning: Gaming, Tech, Design

http://schedule.sxsw.com/2012/events/event_IAP9607

This fascinating session invited us “to imagine a future of learning that is as powerful as it is optimistic”. It was a discussion on “exploring play, innovation, and the cultivation of the imagination as cornerstones of learning” with three speakers:  Heather Staker, of the Innosight Institute, a “a nonprofit think tank devoted to applying the theories of disruptive innovation to problems in the social sector”, which sounds pretty interesting; Nicole Lazzaro, founder of XEODesign, a “Player Experience Design” consulting company; and Scott Stropkay, a “Lateral-thinker, envisioneer, strategist, designer, prototyper, builder” and founder of Essential Design. You can listen to the whole thing on the link above, and I recommend it, but here are some of my highlights from the session.

Nicole Lazzaro introduce us to her 4 keys to fun, or principles of game design, available as a poster. It sounds like XEO design do a lot of interesting research as part of their design process, including something called facial emotion coding (this?). She also mentioned the work of Clayton Christensen, author of Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns. And she introduced us to the new release from her company, Tiltworld, a iPhone game that aims to both educate players about the environment but also have a direct impact in that points gained result in trees being planted in Madagascar. Games in general were much discussed as effective learning tools.

The panel discussed innovation in the classroom. A good example, apparently, is work being done in Singapore where large scale efforts are underway to change the way kids learn. Another was the Carpe Diem school which offers online as well as campus learning and puts the emphasis on students taking control of their own learning. I liked the concept of teachers as coaches, helping individuals to “get unstuck”. The Carpe Diem school is an example of something called Blended Learning, which is based around using a mix of different learning environments.

Design based learning also came up, which sounds intriguing. It appears to be based around setting students problems to solve, which “empowers kids to think of themselves as creative problem solvers”. That from Scott Stropkay, if I remember rightly. This article seems like it may explain more. Somewhat inevitably, the incredibly successful Khan Academy was also brought up.

But currently, this innovation isn’t making it into the mainstream in the US, as Stropkay pointed out. Heather Staker agreed that it’s very hard to break into the traditional learning system, as it’s so entrenched. She also noted that we shouldn’t forget that actually not all students want to learn in this way.

Lots of food for thought, then, in this session, which opened my eyes to the possibilities for taking education in new directions. Listen to the whole thing here.

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