Two MTA members among 10 winners of game-based learning contest

When given a chance to voice their thoughts on how gaming can be used in student learning, educators have an unlimited number of ideas. To highlight some of the best, the NEA Foundation, in partnership with Microsoft Partners in Learning and the U.S. Department of Education, is recognizing Gerol C. Petruzella, a philosophy professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, and Adeline M. Bee, a journalism teacher at Attleboro High School, selected by their peers and a panel of experts to receive the NEA Foundation’s Challenge to Innovate (C2i) Gaming Award, and $1,000.

Petruzella’s idea, “Dungeons & Discourse,” offers a collegiate take on the popular “Dungeons & Dragons” board game, by introducing the major branches of philosophy through an immersive role-playing game. Students explore a fictional world through a variety of quests and guild memberships. He sees the game as a way to help them prepare the thinking skills necessary to achieve the most “epic wins” against the global challenges they will face in the future.

“This course engages students in the critical investigation and reflective analysis of such fundamental philosophical questions as freedom and moral responsibility, the nature of being and knowledge and individual rights and social justice,” Petruzella said. “The mental and social habits gaming encourages and the sense of motivated optimism it cultivates are exactly what we as educators hope to encourage in a fully-engaged student.”

Bee’s “Crime Scene Reporters” would use journalism best practices and game-based learning to visit historical or imaginary crime scenes and act as reporters or investigators. She envisions students interviewing witnesses, victims, and police officers, in a video game. If they fail to ask enough in-depth questions, they cannot proceed to the next level. Ultimately, students write up their findings in an article. Whether historical or fiction, each scenario provides students with the inside scoop on events such as the John F. Kennedy assassination or literary giants such as Edgar Allen Poe.

“By using an interactive video game approach, students learn by playing and enjoy the classroom lesson(s) more,” said Bee, who serves as president of the Attleboro Education Association. “Students want more hands-on materials, teachers want more creative teaching techniques and businesses want more highly skilled graduates; all of this can be achieved if the gaming industry teams up with innovative educators.”

“Game-based learning and interactive technology like this can help build technological and communication competencies valued in the workplace and the 21st century economy.  So we asked educators to share, discuss, and evaluate ideas about how to use these tools to support classroom instruction,” said Harriet Sanford, President and CEO of the NEA Foundation. “We discovered educators who are using technology in fun, creative ways. By initiating this discussion and knowledge sharing, we hope to help educators better equip their students with the skills they’ll need to be successful in college, work, and life.”

The NEA Foundation uses crowd sourcing on the Department of Education’s innovation portal as a way to ensure that educators have a voice in determining new instructional strategies. Continuing a multi-year partnership, the Foundation partnered with Microsoft to solicit and share ideas on how gaming could be integrated into the curriculum to meet students where they are highly engaged while improving their learning.

Petruzella and Bee are also members of the C2i community, over 1,000 educators and others, that is hosted on the Department of Education’s Open Innovation Portal, and who are helping the NEA Foundation and its partners identify and solve education's most pressing classroom problems. Their winning entries were selected by their peers and a panel of educational experts from a pool of 157 ideas from 38 states and five countries.

Read the profiles of the top 10 award-winning ideas.

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