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  • >>My name is Katie Salen, and I have a couple of hats: one,

  • is I'm an associate professor at Parsons School of Design;

  • and I used to run the graduate program there

  • in something called Design and Technology.

  • And so, the students there build software and do digital cinema

  • and animation; something called physical computing,

  • where they're working with all kinds of crazy sensors

  • and robotics; and that kind of thing.

  • And now, I'm a senior research faculty there,

  • doing work in games and learning.

  • And I also am the executive director of a non-profit called the Institute

  • of Play, and we're doing research in that space.

  • It's a game-development studio, but it's focused on kind of games

  • and learning, and new kinds of learning environments

  • that we might design for kids today.

  • >>I'm a big advocate of games, partially because I think

  • that play is a just an amazing important part

  • of people, even developmentally.

  • And we know, historically, that young kids have to play;

  • that's one of the ways that they learn.

  • But I think that games today are very, very important.

  • One is because they get at, again, the kinds of learning experiences

  • and social practices that we see important in the 20th Century:

  • collaboration; team-building; problem-solving in kind

  • of complex spaces; the ability to take on identities, kind of explore

  • and try out different kinds of ways of being, different ways of doing.

  • And they're very forgiving environments for kids to fail in,

  • and we just don't have enough of those environments, I think,

  • for kids to take risks and fail, and sort of be okay about that.

  • Because I'm a game designer, I became -- and also an academic,

  • I became very interested in understanding how games work.

  • And when I was doing that work,

  • it was really about understanding just literally what are the parts,

  • how do things work together?

  • And, when I stated to figure that out,

  • I realized that it looked a lot like good teaching.

  • So, I began to think about, "Well, gosh.

  • Games actually work in a way that good teachers work.

  • There is a clear sense of mutual challenge for the player,

  • for the student; you're scaffolding

  • and really differentiating instruction

  • for that student in the space.

  • So, game designers are always thinking about,

  • "What does my player need to know at this moment in order to be successful

  • at this task, and what do they need to do next?"

  • And, again, this is what a teacher is thinking about all the time.

  • So, once I began to think about that kind of close parallel between kind

  • of good game design and good teaching,

  • it seemed like a natural fit to sort of say, "Well,

  • could we design learning to look more game-like, if we already say that,

  • 'Well, good learning is happening in games, and good learning can happen

  • in the classroom with good teaching'?"

  • Is there a way to bring those two things together?

  • >>Expert Katie Salen: Well, I think one of the challenges

  • around doing work in this space, and beginning to make a link

  • to education is that it's hard to see the learning going on,

  • because we're not trained to look for the kind of learning

  • that we're now arguing is happening.

  • And I think that there has been a long history of understanding games

  • as sort of leisure activities, as a sort of waste of time;

  • and that when we see kids playing games, maybe our first reaction is

  • to say, "Oh, they're just playing, they're just kind of wasting time."

  • And there isn't a sense of even sitting down with the child,

  • and asking them, "Well, kind of,

  • what's going on in your head right now?"

  • Because if you sit down and talk to a game-player about what they're doing,

  • an incredible narrative will come out of their mouth

  • about the complex problem that they're working on.

  • A set of specialist vocabulary will spew out of their mouth

  • that you would imagine any English teacher would be very prideful

  • to kind of hear.

  • So, a lot of it has to do with just kind

  • of not knowing what the learning looks like.

  • Part of it has to do with the sort of history.

  • And part of is that, you know, my argument is that we need

  • to stop having this dichotomy between sort of digital stuff

  • and non-digital stuff; that the learning

  • that happens is actually happening across, like, in digital media

  • and outside of digital media; that the learning is not specific

  • to an artifact, but it's specific to the ecology of experiences

  • that that artifact may be activating or may be part of.

  • So, one way for teachers to think about maybe bringing digital media

  • into the classroom is to not think that a game, itself,

  • has to be the holder of all content.

  • Like, it has to solve the problem that a kid needs to be working on.

  • But, rather that that game, or that online experience,

  • or that book is one part of a larger curriculum experience

  • that they're designing.

  • And what they really want to think about is: what is it about a game

  • that may give kids practice on a particular skill,

  • or a particular idea that they then connect to work in reading a book,

  • or work in doing some kind of directed instruction

  • and a lecture and group work.

  • And so that the thinking has to become much more systemic

  • and much more ecological.

  • >>So, I think that one of the most powerful potentials that I have found

  • in kids designing games, playing games, working with different kinds

  • of digital media is the fact that they do take on the role

  • of a designer in many cases.

  • And what that means, particularly in the case of games,

  • is that they are always thinking about who's on the other end.

  • Who's their audience?

  • Who are they designing for?

  • And, for me, that's a very, very powerful idea in the 21st Century is

  • that your first question is: who is on the other end

  • of this thing that I am making?

  • And I find that an incredible thing to see young kids,

  • in particular, sort of considering.

  • And, in terms of problem-solving, one thing games

  • in particular we find do really, really well is

  • that they throw a player into a kind

  • of complex problem space that's scaffolded in really particular ways.

  • There's a tension between challenge -- like, how hard is this?

  • -- with the tools that are always there for you to use, that are going

  • to allow you to figure the thing out.

  • So, one reason that games are so motivating

  • for kids is they actually know it's been designed for them

  • to be successful within it.

  • And I think they don't often think about that

  • in the classroom sometimes.

  • I don't know that they think about the classroom as an environment

  • that has been designed for their success.

  • It often feels just like a nemesis, or a kind of challenge

  • that they have to go through.

  • But they're not quite sure

  • that they're actually gonna be able to do it.

  • So, one thing that I think kids are in better working with media,

  • producing media, playing games is there is a sense of empowerment

  • in that play because there's always a sense that they can, in fact,

  • figure it out, they can, in fact, beat it,

  • because they've seen other kids do it.

  • And they see themselves in other kids.

  • >>One of the biggest findings about the ways

  • in which kids are interacting with media, and, in particular,

  • games is that it's incredibly social, and that the learning has as much

  • to do with the set of kids or set of peers or set of mentors

  • that that child is interacting with while they're playing,

  • or while they're working with media as it does

  • with any particular thing about the media, itself.

  • And a lot of the research is showing that when kids don't have that kind

  • of social scaffolding, that social structure, they don't have support

  • of a community, the learning is actually less rich.

  • So, here's the thinking around role of peers might come

  • into the classroom, where thinking about community-based kinds

  • of experiences for kids can be incredibly powerful, where you think

  • about the role of siblings.

  • So, a lot of the work that we see are young people aspiring to something

  • that their older brother or sister is doing.

  • A lot of the game consoles younger kids get because they were purchased

  • by an older sibling, but the play is happening together.

  • And, at the same time, thinking about how parents can become involved,

  • and even just interested in stuff that their kids are doing

  • with media and with games.

  • And games are a particular challenge for many parents

  • because of what we said before: that there is often a sense

  • that games are not valuable.

  • But, for kids today, they're incredibly valuable.

  • And, so a parent even beginning to validate for a young person

  • that the play of a game or a set of games could be an interesting part

  • of a learning space for them can be a very important message

  • for that young person to have.

  • And, just sort of supporting your kid and practicing with your kid kind

  • of around the media is important.

  • We have a program at the Institute of Play called the Play Forest

  • where we work with kids from about second grade up until college,

  • and they come in and they play test games for us.

  • And they're helping do some analysis for teachers

  • around what games might be interesting for teachers to use

  • in the classroom around different subjects.

  • And one thing that started happening with our younger kids is

  • that the moms started to come in and sit and play with the kids.

  • And we began to see this amazing change in the parents' attitude

  • about what was going on as their child was explaining

  • to them what was happening in the game,

  • as that person was designing games

  • and exploring game design with their mom.

  • And so that was something we hadn't expected to happen,

  • and we realized it was a super-powerful opportunity to kind

  • of draw a parent into what has been previously probably a pretty closed

  • world for them.

  • And we see the same thing happening with teachers.

  • That they may, in the beginning,

  • feel like this is a space I don't know very much about,

  • but the kids are great guides.

  • And if you open up the conversation about, "Well, what is this game?

  • How is this meaningful to you?

  • What are you doing?"

  • the kids have a lot to say.

  • And it becomes a kind of entryway for the teacher into the kind

  • of digital culture of kids.

  • And that's really one of our big ideas: is how do we create these kind

  • of transition spaces for adults into this kind

  • of the digital life of kids?

  • And games are one way of doing that.

  • >>Even today, when we had a conversation around the design

  • of 21st-Century learning environments,

  • the topic always comes back to assessment.

  • So, if we say that kids are learning in new ways

  • within these environments, we have to be able to show what

  • that learning looks like, and we have to be able to validate that learning

  • in ways that, in some sense,

  • [inaudible] against our traditional ways of understanding assessment.

  • And, in the work that we've been doing, we've tried to look

  • at the collapse of formative assessment and summative assessment.

  • And this is, again, where the sort of game form comes in.

  • so, when you're playing a game, you are constantly being assessed

  • about your performance in that space.

  • And, in fact, you're being given feedback all of the time about that,

  • whether it's through data on the screen,

  • whether it's through a health meter, whether it's through other players

  • in the room sort of telling you, "Hey, you're terrible," or, "Oh,

  • my gosh, you're doing awesome."

  • And that when that constant feedback is helping you improve

  • and change the choices that you're making in that space.

  • And that when you complete the game, you've actually proven

  • that you've learned everything that you need to know to play that game.

  • And so we've been trying to look at how do you take that model,

  • and apply it to the design of curricular experiences

  • that collapse summative and formative assessment.

  • So that as you complete, let's say, a unit, it's very clear

  • that in completing it that you've had to learn enough to know to kind

  • of get to that end point.

  • So, we've been exploring that, we've been exploring options

  • of when kids become teachers for other kids, that that becomes a way

  • of thinking about assessment, as well.

  • That if I have to teach you what I know,

  • I can get a very clear measure of that.

  • One of the big challenges is around collaborative assessment,

  • or assessing collaborative work, because one of the arguments today is

  • that we really believe kids, again, learn in social ways.

  • They're often working in collaborative groups.

  • And we haven't yet figure out how do we understand the individual

  • contribution, as well as the group contribution.

  • So that's something we're working on, but we don't know the answer to yet.

  • The challenges that the kind of culture

  • of testing is pretty ingrained.

  • And it's not that we think tests are bad; it's that the idea

  • of using tests as the only measure of a child's success

  • in the classroom I think can be quite damaging.

  • And so what we're trying to look at is how do you diversify, potentially,

  • the kinds of assessment tools that are used in the classroom.

  • How do you put assessment in the hands of kids,

  • which is another big thing.

  • So, assessment for a long time has been in the hands of teachers,

  • and it's not used often to help