Ask the average middle or high school student if they would rather do algebra or play "Dragon Age II", and the video game option is going to win. But, if an innovative schooling idea called Quest to Learn (Q2L), spreads to the mainstream, future students might not have to choose. Don't worry, Q2L students don't play commercial video games all day. Instead, the school's systems thinking-centered academic curriculum immerses students in a "game-like learning environment," while also teaching kids how to design their own video games.
The first Q2L school opened in New York City in 2009, and far from being drilled with test prep, the gamers "learn by 'taking on' the behaviors and practices of the people in real life knowledge domains." That means they become "biologist and historians and mathematicians instead of learning about biology or history or math." Students also acquire marketable real-world skills like website production, film making, and podcasting. Along the way, they solve real world problems, use and analyze data, and learn to communicate effectively.
Now the program's set to expand to the Windy City with Chicago Quest opening as a charter school in September. Interim Chicago Public Schools chief Terry Mazany told the Chicago Tribune that Q2L's approach is "the only way we're going to catch up with the rest of the world." He expects it to be "an innovation engine for the district." However, the tech-heavy campus doesn't come cheap. A $1.2 million investment from the MacArthur Foundation, the Gates Foundation and other philanthropies, ensures that the school has the resources it needs.
With states slashing education budgets, scaling up Q2L's gaming technology isn't exactly feasible. That said, their systems thinking approach to learning is something regular schools can adopt now. And who knows, 10 years in the future, all schools might morph into hubs of video game-based learning.