Think about how much kids learn when they play games. The fact that what they’re learning is actually just how to play the game doesn’t mean that that kind of learning is useless when it comes to what we want to teach them in school. What it means is that if we want to unlock games’ incredible learning potential we have to take the kind of learning that happens in games and bring it into schools. It’s not about having kids shooting aliens in the hallways; it’s about involving them in the story of how they become thinking, skilled, capable citizens, and designing courses and curricula that can involve them that way–the same way the most popular games, played by young and old, men and women, all around the world, get their players involved in the story of how they become both a powerful character in the world of the game, and at the same time, simply good at the game. What if we could get students to love telling the story of their learning the same way they love telling the story of becoming a wizard, or a warrior?
If the stories of science and social studies weren’t actually exciting, would we be here at all? It’s just that school manages to make them boring. What if students could play as themselves, recruited by a shadowy multinational corporation as real scientists, investigating phenomena out of science fiction and fantasy? What if Latin students could play as operatives on a mission to find a lost inscription that they need to be able to read Latin to decipher?
Yes! But role-playing in the context of a game that takes the amazing learning affordances of digital role-playing games (RPG’s) and wraps them in what’s sometimes called an Alternate-Reality Game (ARG): we unlock the power of practomime–which is really just the power of playing pretend–to put the students in a story where they collaborate to achieve learning objectives that are at the same time the narrative objectives (and, in a game context, the victory conditions) of the practomime. For example, the objective of the practomimetic course called Operation KTHMA is to save civilization by correctly interpreting the works of Herodotus and Thucydides.
Odd as it may sound at first, in experience points; Roger Travis began doing this at the same time that Lee Sheldon, usually considered the first to develop such a syllabus, did. Simply put, an experience point based system turns the current grading system on its head. Instead of starting at a perfect score and losing points, students start at zero and earn points as they accomplish learning objectives. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of grading, students in a practomimetic course are always gaining attunement towards the stated goals.
Alfie Kohn states in his book The Homework Myth,
“It seems more reasonable to propose that what’s missing from American schools are opportunities to help kids learn to cooperate effectively so they’ll become proficient at dividing up tasks and exchanging information, building on other people’s ideas, gently challenging one another, listening respectfully, and understanding points of view other than their own – in short, to be part of well-functioning teams and to find value in collaboration.”
Because team-based collaboration is at the heart of practomimetic instruction through various Web 2.0 technologies, it is easy to see how students will not only become proficient at those points outlined in the quote, but also in the tools required to make that collaboration happen in the 21st century. Students are not simply learning skills related to the discipline. Instead, they are learning a skill set that will help them become true life-long learners.
Yes. The basic idea of mapping game objectives onto learning objectives is one that teachers are using all over the world, though to our knowledge the structure of a narrative that embraces an ARG wrapper around an RPG story is unique to our courses. You are free to design your own courses and curricula along these lines, and we would love to hear about your efforts.
The Pericles Group itself has a growing set of materials that we sell to schools and to home-schooling parents and organizations. It takes a lot of work to develop a practomimetic course, and TPG is interested in getting teachers and parents started. We offer different ranges of materials depending on how much of the curriculum the teacher or parent wishes to design for him or herself, and we offer consulting services to help in that process.
The Pericles Group also runs several ongoing online practomimetic courses for students (regularly-enrolled, home-schooled, or lifelong learning) who are interested in playing with other students around the world. Project ARKHAIA, our flagship practomimetic curriculum, is a complete learning adventure in classical civilization, including, if a student completes the entire project, reading knowledge of Latin and Greek.
An important part of the fight to bring well-designed game-based learning into the world’s classrooms is informing teachers, administrators, and parents about what game-based learning can be, and do. The Pericles Group, LLC, offers a series of professional development seminars that illustrate the power of practomimetic courses and curricula to assist our colleagues with the creation of their own game-based courses. These seminars are custom-tailored to the needs of each school district to ensure the most relevant information can be provided at an appropriate level for the staff, ranging from novice to advanced game-based learning experience.
We offer a variety of topics to partnering educators and are committed to finding ways to help you bring practomime to your students as well.
Practomimetic Education: The Power of Immersive Learning
This seminar runs in a traditional lecture format that offers a general glimpse into the history, supporting research, and pedagogical properties of practomimetic courses. One or more of our highly qualified speakers will be able to share with you and your staff the nature of Project ARKHAIA and Project SCIENTIA by walking you through a detailed presentation on the educational psychology behind game-based learning as well as a basic outline of the websites and tools we use to run our specific courses.
21st Century Assessment Through Immersive Learning
Here, The Pericles Group, LLC, brings a detailed look at how assessment occurs via our practomimetic courses. Our speakers will work in a smaller, one-on-one setting with your staff to design appropriate formative and summative tools for your game-based courses, including grading frameworks, appropriate rubrics, and narrative-grounded assignments.
Blueprints for a Practomimetic Learning Environment
In this small-group seminar, members of The Pericles Group, LLC, will work with you and your staff to develop the course narratives that students will participate in throughout the year. Much like the bards in ancient Greek tradition, you will learn how story-telling relates to gaming in ways that make it a powerful tool to educators. By the time the session ends, you will have a strong sense of the ins-and-outs of practomimetic narrative and what makes it successful for our students.
The Practomimetic Dungeon Master’s Guide: All You Need to Know to Run a Practomime
This seminar will equip you and your staff with the knowledge and skills necessary to bring your practomimetic narratives to life. While problem-based learning structures have existed for years, practomime often requires that the instructor take an active role in turning the story into a truly immersive experience for the students. Working together in small groups, our speakers will accompany you through a real practomimetic experience and have you roleplay with your peers to see what a similar course might be like for your students.
If you have interest in areas of expertise covered across any of our other seminars and would like to request some combination of the above, we are happy to craft something better suited to your needs. Please feel free to contact us at any time, and we will work with you to develop the perfect seminar for you and your staff.
To learn more about our professional development offerings, including rates, please contact our professional development organizer, Stephen.