Quest to Learn is the name of a public school in New York partly funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. In its second year with 145 students spread over two levels equivalent to grades 6eme and 5eme in France, students aged 11 and 12 who learn, according to the website of the school, in "a privileged space for new media literacy practices that are multifaceted and multicultural. "
Karine Salen, creator of video games, had the idea of creating a digital space combining computers, video cameras, 3-D environments, social networks, etc. and use it for educational purposes. This idea was based on the assumption that as these tools are an "integral part of the daily life of children, we must use them in today’s learning tools." She also directs the Institute of Play, a research organisation that works on the link between games and learning. Robert Torres, a learning specialist, and Karine Salen explore the combination of the field of digital technology and play in pedagogy.
Students use the Quest to Learn Small Lab (a hands on multimedia lab) developed by a team from the State University of Arizona. They work in a 3D environment, a "hybrid space between real and virtual," use videos they've made themselves, record podcasts, write blogs, participate in social networks, play and create educational games.
Certainly it is a very elitist and limited experience, but we can already see the positive effects on learning: with these new tools, students can develop their concentration and patience. They challenge each other, seeking to solve problems during play with their classmates. They face new challenges and discover the virtues of making mistakes that lead them to seek new solutions. Students improve their ability to reason logically, practice and then fall back on intuitive reasoning. Ntiedo Etuk, a computer game designer, has analysed the behaviour of children who "play" with perseverance. He claims that "children play five minutes and lose, then they play ten more minutes and lose again. They can go back and try a hundred times. They continue until they win." Failure in a school environment is depressing. Failure in a fun environment is challenging.
The social network Being Me, specially created for this purpose by Karine Salen, allows them to share information, find solutions and share their data.
According to Birchfield, children with difficulties in understanding natural sciences who used the Small Lab saw their grades rise significantly. These teaching tools enhance the perception of objects in space and improve visual-spatial intelligence, essential, for example, to become an engineer.
Through these examples, we can easily see the pedagogical benefits of using these new learning tools, as early as middle school (11 years old). Students develop self-confidence, perseverance, concentration, spatial-temporal vision, intuition, logic, and collaborative work online. Risks can also be measured, for example, that of not knowing the difference between the virtual and the real world, or having a completely media centered contact with the world.
These tools are unique to the type of thinking human being we are becoming, yet must remain associated with human relationships, which are living and bear humanity and responsibility.
It is the responsibility of the teacher or the trainer, in his or her role as enabler and facilitator of this multilateral learning, to remember that life is not only a game, but as Churchill once said, is also made up of suffering and tears.