Benefits for Classrooms
Designed to be more than just another CD-ROM or video game, Quest Atlantis uses a creative mix of online and away-from-computer activities that students, or Questers, complete alone or in groups to promote learning and growth. Below are a few of the benefits QA provides teachers and students.
Benefits for Teachers:
- Quests are associated with educational standards as well as social commitments
- Multiple-week lesson plans on various themes are provided
- QA promotes computer literacy and the sophisticated use of online media
- Students create online portfolios that easily organize student work and teacher feedback
- A computer-based Teacher Toolkit allows teachers to browse, assign and review Quests
- Students are self-motivated to learn academic content
- Teachers can collaborate with classrooms from other schools and countries
Benefits for students:
- QA provides students with opportunities for collaboration through Co-Questing, bulletin boards, blogs, and other group activities
- Children have the opportunity to interact with users from around the world in a protected virtual environment
- Students are motivated to progress in social skills, social commitments, and academics through completion of specific Quest clusters
- Children can access their work from any computer with Internet access
- Students develop online personae by way of avatar customization and personal homepages
The structure of many K-12 classrooms limits opportunities for students to engage meaningfully with information, thus positioning students as mere recorders of content rather than critical consumers and producers. Students are too often asked to reproduce procedures rather than leverage procedures to solve new problems because traditional structures of schooling and ideas about learning position textbooks as authorities, and students as recipients of knowledge created by others. Students have opportunities to remember, but not understand; to apply, but not create. This is a troubling reality, especially for students disenfranchised from classroom structures focused on compliance without rationale (D’Amato, 1992; Ladson-Billings, 1997; Lareau, 2003). Through developing mathematics and science curricula that create critical academic play spaces (Barab, Sadler, Heiselt, Hickey, & Zuiker, in press), we seek to foster dispositions towards learning that capitalize on disciplinary knowledge as tools for solving meaningful problems.
The goal of this project is to foster dispositions that will inspire productive participation in the 21st century. By disposition, we refer to ways of being in the world that involve ideas about, perspectives on, and engagement with information (Gresalfi & Cobb, 2006). As Thomas and Brown (2006) note, dispositions involve “attitudes or comportment toward the world, generated through a set of practices which can be seen to be interconnected in a general way…. Dispositions are not descriptions of events of practices, they are the underlying mechanisms that engender those events or practices.” In short, we refer not only to what one knows but how they know it; not the skills one has acquired, but how they leverage those skills.
Objectivist models of learning posit that knowledge precedes application, which precedes dispositions. In contrast, we believe that knowing emerges through application and that dispositions derive from meaningful participation in situations where content has value (Barab & Roth, 2006). We suggest that the development and refinement of dispositions involves: (1) adopting disposition-relevant goals, (2) becoming knowledgeably skillful to achieve those goals, (3) attuning to the affordances of situations in which that knowledge is useful, and (4) adapting understanding through participation across myriad contexts. Although disposition can describe many orientations towards learning and content, we seek to foster dispositions that involve seeing oneself as an active problem solver who draws on disciplinary conent to represent situations and make informed decisions.
We view games as particularly well suited to establish “worlds” in which students can engage and adopt dispositions in response to the game dynamics. If, for example, students work collectively to analyze a water quality problem through using data collected in a virtual park, they also learn to address particular environmental problems by using to data to support claims. We also support teachers to develop dispositions to foster student agency and situational accountability. Such a disposition involves focusing on student thinking as a resource for instructional decisions; monitoring student ideas rather than answers; and supporting student learning relevant to their current activity (just-in-time teaching). Engaging this disposition requires that teachers connect deeply with content and develop pedagogical practices to empower students as independent problem solvers.