Playful Learning and Game Play – Guest Blogger Lauren Burner Shares Reflections on Professional Development with BrainPOP

Student Made Games
A playful, thoughtful professional development day at the BrainPOP office in Manhattan brought designers, educators and gamers together to discuss the future of educational gaming in classrooms across the country. Beginning with a presentation by Nick Fortugno of Playmatics, the New York-based group responsible for The Walking Dead: Dead Reckoning, two Breaking Bad titles, Lego City: On Patrol, Find the Future and Kingdom Keepers, we pondered how to tap into the high engagement potential and adaptable learning opportunities available within games. Noting the natural curiosity youngsters and adults alike tap into whilst exploring fictional game worlds (much like the PS3‘s adventure/art masterpiece and award magnet, Journey), Nick spoke to attendees about team loyalty and motivation through competition. Mastering in-game achievements requires skill, practice, patience and perseverance, just as learning standards in the classroom do, now defined by the Common Core State Standards Initiative. Unlike the sluggish turnaround time for multiple choice or open-ended test questions in school, games provide instant feedback to users so they may refine game-play strategy and persist. The lecture concluded with the group wondering how best to collaborate, given the rarity of serious gamer-turned-educators.
Next up, BrainPOP’s Allisyn Levy introduced mathematics puzzler Lure of the Labyrinth: Employee Lounge, an interactive problem solving platform purposefully devoid of instructions. Challenging players to identify and recall point values by using turn-based trial and error, Blobbo the slimy, semitransparent creature demands vending machine snacks requiring varying coin combinations. Following some scolding by Blobbo, everyone paired up to playtest a matching game with a similarly intuitive setup targeting multiple subjects and skill levels. Using screen-capture software and a post-game survey, the GameUp team recorded our reactions to inform future development. Lastly, Learning Games Network, hailing from Boston and preparing to launch the Playful Learning Platform, walked us through the explore, discover, create and share phases of game development with their superb free resource, the Game Design Tool Kit. Participants gathered to identify a key teaching point or subject, brainstorming fun and playful learning scenarios then presenting their ideas for deeper reflection. Overall, BrainPOP hosted a stellar, stimulating networking opportunity to not only connect designers with educators, but inspire game-based learning initiatives in K-12 classrooms across the tri-state area.
Lauren has directed musicals for young adults in New Jersey and taught in both public and private gifted programs in New York City. She holds a BS in Educational Theatre from NYU and is currently a master’s candidate at Brooklyn College. Follow Lauren on twitter – @gamez4learning