Today marks the first day of school and the grand opening of PlayMaker, a Los Angeles based school that focuses on game-based learning. PlayMaker will operate as a “school within a school” for 60 sixth-graders at New Roads, an independent middle school. Playmaker touts itself as a “creatively-charged reflection of the real world that provides a guided educational framework for students by virtue of playing and making.” The goal is that PlayMaker students will participate in game-play, role-play, app and game design, and media creation, operating as producers rather than consumers.
PlayMaker is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and is backed by GameDesk, a nonprofit research and outreach organization focused on reshaping traditional learning models through game-play and game development. The organization has been in development and practice for over four years in various schools in the L.A. area, but PlayMaker is their first attempt at opening a new school.
GameDesk CEO Lucien Vattel describes PlayMaker as a “choose-your own adventure school.”
“Instead of going to math, science, English, well, they have rollercoaster adventures, or a day of cooking with thermal energy. It’s all life reflective,” said Vattel in a recent Epoch Times article.
One of the goals of PlayMaker is to have kids learn through discovery, inquiry, and interest-driven design. The school aims to give students options to achieve desired learning outcomes at their own pace by creating “Adventure Maps,” which are given to the students on the first day of school and allow them to map out their own progress. They can take different routes to the “Emerald Forest of Media Arts” or the “Cave of Physics,” and students can choose different play, research, role-playing, or media production activities that allow them to achieve curriculum-based goals.
According to a recent MindShift article, ongoing formative assessments will be tied to Common Core, but PlayMaker’s goals go beyond traditional schooling goals — they aim to focus on practical digital skills, collaboration, critical thinking, and social emotional learning principles. Teachers at PlayMaker serve as facilitators, meant to stoke curiosity in students and provide context to explain the relevance of what students are learning.
GameDesk recently received $3.8 million from AT&T and has also received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.We’ll certainly follow GameDesk and PlayMaker as they continue to grow as leaders and innovators in game-based learning.
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