‘Do not let spacious plans for a new world divert your energies from saving what is left of the old.’
One of the most daunting aspects of the Churchill Fellowship interview process was having only two minutes to pitch my proposal. How was I to argue for the necessity of my research, its potential impact on Australian youth AND explain both Nonviolent communication and Quest Atlantis?
Realising that learning in virtual worlds is a relatively new concept to Australia, I decided to focus my attention on explaining that to the panel. Thanks to some online colleagues, I downloaded Camtasia studio and constructed my first screen-captured film. You can see that by following the link below.
So why QA? In 2007 I was introduced to learning in virtual worlds through Second Life. Hmmm, I thought, this looks like a whole new world, no, worlds of fun but what exactly would they be learning in those wide open spaces?
Working with younger children (aged 10-11) meant that our school’s Teen Second Life (TSL) initiative ‘Skoolaborate’ was not open to my students. It was then that Lucy Gray (through Westley Field – Director of Online Learning at MLC School) recommended something called Quest Atlantis that was apparently perfect for the age group.
From the outset it was clear that QA was not TSL. Whilst there was freedom to explore and play there were more supports, though it was the robust curriculum that attracted me initially. Units examine sophisticated concepts such as Bioethics, Ecological Sustainability, Statistical manipulation and Human Rights: so clearly it was not just about looking good and having the most things.
Upon completing my first missions it became clear that QA was more than a game. The scenarios were representations of significant global issues in which the students became active participants. These playable fictions were an exciting way of engaging kids with some potentially dry material. Radically, the students (or questers as they are termed) were framed as social activists whose efforts were sought to promote positive change.
What’s more, the units of work attached to Missions were richly detailed with in-class, real-world resources which take the experientation in the virtual and bridge it into back into the real. Kids are not just asked to engage in what I call ‘Park & Play’ where teachers invite kids to sit and be quiet at a computer for a hour whilst they do their marking. Debate, discussion, reflection and action research are all part of the mix. QA models social engagement as well as reflection on the consequences of actions.
Quest Atlantis is not Mindless Escapism from the troubles of the world but an opportunity to practice and develop Mindful Engagement in solving them.