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LevelUp: Outpost Edition


Sarah is a 9th grade  student in Colorado. Like many girls her age, she is getting more and more into video games and spends a large amount of time checking in to Facebook. James is a 9th grade math teacher in Colorado. He has been teaching traditionally for most of his career, but has begun to shift his strategy towards involving and validating the work students are doing outside his classroom. He firmly believes that sharing the load between all the influencers of a child’s life is the best way to teach the whole child. The problem for him is that it is a time-intensive process to sync those experiences with classroom-based educational goals.

Sarah is currently in James’ class. As a hands-on learner, she's having a difficult time understanding key 9th grade geometry and algebra concepts. She's also losing motivation, wondering when or why she'd ever use this knowledge outside of class.

James is also frustrated, and decides to search the online LevelUp lesson catalog for help. After just a couple minutes of tweaking his search criteria, he discovers a web-based video game called Outpost, which not only makes learning geometry and algebra an interactive experience, but feeds students' scores directly into LevelUp.

James quickly discovers that a majority of his class would benefit from Outpost, and decides to host a class-wide team-based competition in the game. Hoping to inspire leadership and teamwork skills, James makes Sarah one of the team leaders.

The results went beyond James' expectations. Once Sarah and the other students learn the necessary concepts to master a level, their successes in the game appear in their LevelUp Badge Walls and the competition becomes fierce. Sarah organizes and inspires her team to the extent that they not only dominate the competition, but go beyond and acquire every badge available in the game. James is so impressed, he awards her a Leadership badge as well.

Beyond that, Sarah has gained proficiency in a large number of 9th grade Math competencies, and thanks to the LevelUp system, James can quickly and easily mark her work there complete.

LevelUp Badges

EffectiveSC has partnered with Intific – the makers of Outpost and other games – and Colorado’s Adams County School District 50 to make such a system possible. EffectiveSC will build a badge system that includes the data required for games like Outpost and other extra-curricular programs to tie into education management systems. EffectiveSC is also building a unique education management system called LevelUp. The system validates learner competencies (i.e, leadership, collaboration) and identities (“Outpost Captain”) not recognized by “standards,” while still mapping to the state standards that James is being held accountable to. EffectiveSC will create a digital catalog, using Mozilla’s Open Badge format and system to contain the data while leveraging the Backpack to act as the transfer and authentication between games like Outpost and learning systems like LevelUp.

The Outpost badges will be awarded for students’ success at applying algebra and geometry standards from the 8th and 9th grade math common core. Players will need to apply math principles to determine the distances and angles between moving objects at particular points in time in order to correctly laser meteor chunks that threaten human life. Their success at the mission will involve nothing short of saving the human race (virtually). The Outpost badges are specific to the game Outpost which is being created by the game makers Intific with math curriculum experts at the University of Denver. University of Denver will validate the appropriateness and effectiveness of Outpost as a space that enables kids to genuinely apply rigorous math skills and knowledge to solving problems.

First, in order for the Outpost badges and other badges like it to be available to teachers and students, EffectiveSC will need to create a digital catalog for all teachers and students. This catalog will tie directly into Common Core standards to allow teachers and students to search for content based on those standards, but it will also allow users to search for other badge data like learning modality.

Additionally, EffesctiveSC will provide an extensive API to Intific and any others who would like to post to the catalog, so that their content can track with each student and push relevant milestones and badges back to educational management systems (like LevelUp). When Sarah completes Outpost level 6, James will be notified that Sarah has earned the Shoot-the-Moon badge, which corresponds to Common Core Standard 8.G.7, and James can then give Sarah credit for that standard.

More broadly, any teacher from any school will be able to investigate the competencies, standards, and progress that are contained in each badge. They are able to flip the educational model and align their teaching to the activities the kids might be doing outside of class whether it is video games, extra-curricular clubs and organizations,  or other experiences. This closes the divide between the child’s two worlds and strengthens their learning more than either side can do separately.

Next Steps

EffectiveSC will be applying for Stage 2 of the DML Competition where we will describe the LevelUp interfaces and design that will allow teachers, students, and parents to log on and integrate the learning that happens both inside and outside the classroom.

This will provide the framework and model for groups like the Boy Scouts, museums, faith-based programs, zoos and many others to begin building a similar symbiotic relationship. This is an important step in building a child’s learner-centered digital portfolio, transcending the current distinctions of formal and informal learning.

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