Weeks of phone tag went into making it happen, but this morning I finally had a conference call with Mike Brusa, superintendent of Taft City School District, and his colleague Greg Mudge, who attended my Learning to Game and Gaming to Learn workshop at the CUE conference last year.
Mr. Brusa is a 51 year old gamer. He has a level 70 warrior in World of Warcraft, and two “alts,” a level 25 Dwarf blacksmith, and a level 10 Elf druid. With my limited experience with World of Warcraft, I can confidently say he’s put a lot of time into the game. Happily, and not surprisingly, he plays with his son. He is also a superintendent – one of the ones who is brought in to change the culture of a district. In our conversation his driving question was “what can we do to the system to make it more positive for the kids?”
Ultimately, he’s sees the dynamic, social, and global nature of his gaming community as a positive alternative to the often “flat” culture of classrooms. (In this sense he doesn’t mean “flat” as in Freidman’s “the world is flat” or Davis and Lindsey’s “flat classroom.” He means it is static and boring as opposed to dynamic and exciting.)
He wants to create “a classroom environment with the face of a video game” – or in other words, he’s interested in creating what would essentially be a “3D virtual school.” Many states are launching virtual high school programs, but in a “flat” text based format (think Blackboard). He would like to see something where students have avatars and can interact socially. In essence, he believes that Blackboard cannot have the same sense of community. While this is certainly arguable, I suppose something like what he’s looking for could include the sort of features I am looking for in an educational MMO as well, including educational quests where students learn by doing instead of memorizing. Brusa was particularly interested in students playing “scenarios” (he preferred the word to “game”).
Needless to say it was exciting to speak with someone in a position of formal authority who is pursuing ideas like this. Greg Mudge contacted me on his behalf so that I could share resources with them. I shared a few contacts and ideas during the phone call, but to follow up I sent them an email pointing them toward some of my blog posts on the subject.
I am writing this post for two reasons:
1.) To share the email I sent to them with all of you.
2.) To help connect Superintendent Brusa with others who might be interested in his cause, particularly any game developers who might be interested in what he has to say. He makes a good rough argument for the financial benefits of investing in something like this.
So, first here is the email with links pointing to some of my posts on the subject:
Mike (and Greg),
It was great to get to chat with you this morning. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and ideas on this subject. I look forward to seeing the white paper you’ve pulled together.
In addition to the information I shared over the phone, I think the best way to give you access to the things I’ve come across over the past three and a half years is to point you toward my blog. I’ve identified some of the best posts, series of posts, and categories to start with…
Know any good books on educational gaming? (This includes my recommended reading list):
Videogames in Education: New Reading (This is a recent update to the list above):
My “In A Nutshell” Series (This summarizes the issues in my lit. review. Note that these are in reverse chronological order, so you might start with the first one on March 27, 2007 and work your way forward in time.):
My Dissertation Category (54 posts, including some of my recent frustrations with my school, which you can ignore):
Games in Education Category (445 posts in all):
You’ll find a lot in here to get you started, including the names of many more people you can contact. You’ve definitely caught the vision and it’s exciting to see someone with your formal authority (as a superintendent) interested in changing the system to this degree – or rather, interested in creating a new system. I look forward to keeping in touch and corresponding about these issues and your efforts as we move forward.
Second, please leave a comment if you are interested in being involved in something like this. Are you an educator or game designer interested in seeing a 3D virtual school with the face of a video game? We want to hear from you.