This is a guest post I did for The 21st Century Scholar at USC’s Center for Higher Education Policy Analysis (CHEPA). Thanks for the invite, Zoe!
A globalizing world is upon us, but few schools can afford to approach it with experiential learning. Of course, we already rely on experiential learning to teach music, physics, and foreign languages — but what about globalization? Only a fraction of our students study abroad, and even those programs could benefit from more experiential learning tools.
Can games help? Consider a game just launched by the World Bank Institute, called Urgent Evoke. In less than a month, this alternate reality game has engaged 12,000 players from more than 120 countries in a “ten-week crash course in changing the world.” Sound ambitious? With games, ambition can motivate participation. Every Wednesday, a new mission is posted with three parts: (1) learn, (2) act, and (3) imagine.
Some missions are straightforward, while others are wildly creative. Players might use their own camera phones to document how they “increased the food security of one person.” Or they might be challenged to write a blog post identifying their favorite “social innovation strategy” (based on expert reports). Assessment is embedded: players must provide evidence of their learning in multimedia form, effectively a digital portfolio. Learning is structured around knowledge and skills according to 10 objectives, including “entrepreneurship”, “resourcefulness”, and “collaboration.” Leading scores are posted publicly: http://www.urgentevoke.com/page/top-agents.
This game (and I use the term broadly) explicitly overlaps with the real world online, building skills needed for today’s knowledge economy. In the process, players are pushed into conversation with youth around the world, especially in Africa. Might it connect to schools? The designers could easily incorporate textbook examples, or well-studied artifacts. More broadly, such games introduce a new way to structure and motivate learning. We don’t know the impact of Urgent Evoke yet, but given the pressing challenges of globalization, this is one game worth watching.
P.S. — Is the game also whitewashing the World Bank? Some critics have launched a nice parody, calling Urgent Evoke a “crash course in saving capitalism,” and arguing that institutions like the Bank are responsible for some of global poverty’s persistence. Important points. Yet most games lack Evoke’s discursive space, which encourages multimedia commentary across countries. So I see two challenges: one is whether the critics will be heard within the game’s own discourse channels. Second, if the Bank’s game is only one perspective, who will fund alternatives? (See Alan’s post earlier this week calling for a National Public Gaming Initiative). If the learning of Evoke is powerful, do we need comparative gaming to ensure open minds?