Welcome and thank you for choosing to become an agent of ChicagoQuest. You are now participating in ChicagoQuest’s Agent Screening process (CAS). Through this briefing you will gain a better understanding of your mission and the missions of your fellow agents.
ChicagoQuest agents include students, parents, teachers, staff, community partners, and indeed the entire community.
Learning is not an accomplishment…it is a way of approaching the world. A learner is flexible, a problem-solver, persistent in the face of difficulties and challenges, and is aware of their own capabilities and current state. An agent of change must also be able to communicate and convince in a variety of media, and collaborate with others to accomplish tasks. He or she must know how to prepare for life’s missions and how to assess what has been accomplished. To be agents of change, our students must develop these skills and habits for approaching their lives and the world.
As an agent, you are part of something bigger than yourself, an epic adventure. While you will certainly enjoy yourself, you are also doing serious business, the business of learning.
An agent of change is able to predict the future and develop strategies for dealing with it. At ChicagoQuest, students will engage in project-based learning on the model of quests and missions. They will also operate at the higher level of design and analysis, to understand how missions and quests are developed. These activities teach agents the skill of problem solving.
An agent of change is adaptable and able to build models for possible strategies. At ChicagoQuest, specific activities will help to develop students’ ability to adapt and predict. Secret missions and surprise activities will allow students to experience the unexpected and to learn to look for challenges. By handling shifting scenarios, students will learn that problems do not always remain static, and they must learn to adapt to new realities. By integrating subjects, we help students to understand that problems do not always present themselves in a particular form, and we have to be prepared to use all the tools at our disposal for solving them. Over time, students develop the ability to predict what tools are needed for a particular problem and prepare themselves appropriately.
The persistence of game players is notorious, but this skill is less developed in the academic realm. By taking a cue from games, we can develop the persistence of students to overcome obstacles. Long term, multi-stage projects teach students that not every scenario is simply a case of problem – solution: sometimes solutions create new problems that must be dealt with. Overall, our goal is to create challenges that stretch a student’s abilities and indeed, allow for failure. A student that is operating safely within their comfort zone is not being pushed to their full potential, nor are they developing the patience needed for complex problems. The open work model is one that encourages students to work together on difficult challenges, and to struggle collaboratively with their personal weaknesses. A supportive community is essential for students being able to trust each other during challenges.
Communication is central to creating change in the world. It is the interaction between agents and ideas that creates emergent strategies, and communication is the oil of that interaction. Students will give presentations in a variety of formats to gain experience in communicating their ideas and in facing challenges to their arguments. The Agent Profile is a record of the students strengths, weaknesses, epic wins and failures, as well as expressing their personal style and passions. This Profile is one way that the student communicates with our community. By learning to interact in a professional manner with adults, students grow in maturity and learn to see adults as a resource for problem solving. The Being Me social network provides a format for constant feedback and interaction. Design notes are a method for students to record their thoughts, strategies, and processes in order to learn from their successes and failures and to gain greater predictive and adaptive skill.
ChicagoQuest will allow students the opportunity to collaborate extensively with each other and with other community members. Group missions and boss levels will demand teamwork and collaborative problem solving from students. Competition will be encouraged with the goal being a ‘personal-best’ approach, where students struggle to improve themselves, encourage others to improve themselves, and the success of one of us is the success of us all. Students will operate in various types of teams, some with shifting membership and some with stable membership. Shifting teams allow students to develop adaptability, and to practice analyzing new problems and situations. Stable teams allow students to deepen personal relationships, grow networking skills, to grow in trust, and to tackle greater challenges. The open work model is one of trust and open communication. In game design, playtesting and peer review are essential, and the ability to face constructive criticism and use it successfully is an important educational skill. Interacting with community partners and game designers will give students access to role models for professional interaction, and teach them how to use adult resources appropriately.
Before you can be an agent of change, you must know your starting point. In game design this is called “Game State”. Agents will gain an initial understanding of missions and scenarios through mission briefings, which provide for them the framework of the challenge they are facing, and what resources are at their disposal. Through collaboration, students will learn to assign roles and responsibilities, and to assess what roles and responsibilities are appropriate for different individuals. This requires them to be able to both asses their own strengths and weaknesses and to asses those of others. The agent profile is another format for students to assess their own abilities, as well as their current progress and status towards becoming a powerful agent of change.
A school is a complex system that is created from the simultaneous interactions of many individuals, as well as the environmental space of the school. Complex systems cannot be created by an individual or mandated from above. Every individual has their role to play in the creation of the culture. By providing ways for community members to interact, and establishing systems for exchanging ideas, we allow the school culture the maximum opportunity for development and emergent qualities.
The ChicagoQuest culture we seek to create has a number of qualities. Gamefulness speaks to our central philosophy of games and game design as an approach to learning. We want students to see the world as a challenge to be tackled, and to use the strategies they are learning at school in their school and in their lives. Student-teacher collaboration is essential for promoting a school culture that is open, friendly, and collegial. Instantaneous feedback is one of our core goals in developing a powerful learning community. Game design shows us that the clearer and more instantaneously feedback is given, the more successfully the recipient can act upon it. Through game design structures and communication systems, we hope to push feedback to its fastest possible level. Finally, students and teachers must be engaged in satisfying work. One of the main problems with traditional school models is that the work students are doing has no value beyond its assessment. Our students will undertake tasks that are satisfying and real-world, that have value to the community and to the student.
A student sits down to do their math homework – a sheet of problems calculating proportions. Imagine if instead the student was working out proportions in order to create a scale model of a community center that will eventually be proposed to the city. The work that the student is undertaking now has real world meaning, gives service to the community, and is on an epic scale. The student knows that the worksheet is only an exercise, and will probably end up in the trash. Authentic work is satisfying work. Instantaneous feedback makes work more satisfying as well, because the students knows where they stand, what needs to be done, and what they can do to improve. When students are up in the air, they withdraw or give up hope, because they do not know what is expected of them. The lesson from games is – lots of feedback, and small rewards to encourage forward movement.
Student teacher collaboration is the lifeblood of a school, the critical point where relationships are built, expectations are set, pride is developed, and feedback is given. ChicagoQuest will provide a number of means for enriching this critical point and adding energy to this interaction. Faculty professional development will be created on a model very much like the one students are undertaking. Teachers will not only understand the student experience, but they will be able to share their own successes, failures, and strategies. Quests and missions provide an essential framework for student-teacher collaboration that develops an “Us-against the problem” way of thinking. Instead of teachers being the task masters that they must struggle against, teachers will be partners and allies in the mission, an experience guide to help them face the obstacles and challenges that come from the mission itself. Instantaneous feedback, as mentioned before, is essential to creating a spirit of trust and reliance between students and teachers. The agent profile is an ongoing dialogue between teacher and student about the students progress. Finally, the creation of a ChicagoQuest Wiki will allow all community members to share in an ongoing discussion of what our school culture is and what it should be.
Gaming aspects are central to the ChicagoQuest model. Our vocabulary and thinking are built around the model of games and game design. Secret missions promote a true learning community, where challenges are sought out and taken on for their own sake, not just to earn a grade. The language of missions, quests, and boss levels communicates that students will be challenging themselves, that ‘do-overs’ are possible, and that a clear goal is in sight. I would propose a school economy where students earn points by completing missions successfully, and where they can use these points to purchase items. For example, a school store could be set up with donated items, school supplies, and school spirit shirts. Students could purchase these items with their points. One interesting possibility with this is the creation of unique and rare items – say a magenta school spirit shirt of which there are only a limited number available. Students would compete to obtain these unique items that will then further develop the gamefulness of the school culture. Through collaborations with game designers, students will learn design strategies and systems thinking that will allow them to approach the world as a game to be won. By this we don’t mean that they don’t take the world seriously – only that it is something they can understand and master. The agent profile is another game element that adds to the game-based culture of ChicagoQuest.
As has been mentioned, instantaneous feedback is a goal we strive for, knowing we cannot ever reach it. There will be a number of tools provided to teachers (and students), to allow them to give feedback. Agent profiles, mission briefings, mission logs, email, and the school social network are all ways that feedback can be provided in a rapid fashion. By creating tools for quick, succinct feedback, we are constantly enriching the school community. Gameful assessment refers to the goal of creating formative assessments for students that are quick, responsive and rewarding. Breaking down tasks into very small pieces allows students to receive constant feedback as they move through the process, ultimately developing the skill of breaking down tasks themselves.
When we looked at the skills and habits required to be an agent of change for students, we spoke of them as a goal our students are striving towards. We want them to strengthen these skills and learn strategies for improving in these areas. A teacher atChicagoQuest should be an individual who has successfully mastered the skills to be an agent of change, and is prepared to put these skills into action for the benefit of students, the school, the community, and the world. In hiring, we will look for these qualities in our teachers, and explain to them how these skills will be used in our community.
To continue their growth as an agent of change, teachers will participate in a number of development activities designed to deepen their understanding of the ChicagoQuest model, and to deepen their mastery of the skills of an agent. Four structures that will be put in place for teachers are the “Professional League of Champions or PLC”, the Danger Room, the Communications Command Center, and the “Be a Hero” initiative.
The Professional League of Champions is ChicagoQuests’ professional learning community. This organization is where teachers develop the skills to be powerful ChicagoQuest teachers. The model for the Professional League of Champions is deliberately self-similar to the model of education we provide to our students. Teachers will also undertake quests and missions, but theirs will focus on classroom management, curriculum development, technology, managing collaboration, and differentiation. Some of these challenges will be individual and some will be group. A game economy will be created for this professional development, with levels, rare and unique items, and badges. The critical friends group is central to the Professional League of Champions approach. In the CFG model, teachers work together to analyze lessons, student work, and classroom strategies. It is identical to the peer review and open work model that we expect of our students.
We want ChicagoQuest teachers to be heroes, for students to look to them as role models and sources of inspiration. Individually and as a group, we will undertake community service and use our talents for the benefit of the community. Providing guidance and mentoring to students through office hours and fun activities strengthens the connections between teacher and students. The Extraordinaries is an online tool for giving and receiving service from others, a model that I want to replicate at ChicagoQuest. Teachers can activate networks of students to accomplish tasks, give school service, give community service, or provide assistance to someone in need. This can be as simple as “send a secret message of encouragement to a schoolmate” or “lets gather in the courtyard to do some cleanup”.
One of the most challenging aspects of a teacher’s job is maintaining communications with students, parents, administrators, and the community. This can take up so much of a teacher’s time that it begins to affect the quality of their teaching, or sometimes communications are dropped. At ChicagoQuest, we will take advantage of the technology that is now available to us to streamline the communications process. Through such tools as Twitter, school management software, social networks, posterous, and others, we will create a command center that minimizes teacher updates and promotes instantaneous feedback. Teachers will be expected to be in constant communication with students and parents using these tools. Groundcrew is a software tool for organizing people that could be used to organize the school community in a number of ways – for instance, an ‘instant assembly’ could be called by putting a call out over groundcrew for everyone to gather.
Every super hero needs practice. The Danger Room is a meeting space where teachers present what they have learned, tackle scenarios, share ideas, and problem solve. As an aspect of the Professional League of Champions, the Danger Room promotes faculty communication.
Chicago Quest Vision
A learner is…capable of adapting itself to the sorts of new and diverse circumstances that an active agent is likely to encounter in a dynamic world. -Brent Davis, Dennis Sumara Complexity and Education
Creating agents of change for an emergent world
Problem Solving Foresight and Communication Afterthought Agent ofCollaboration Change Self-awareness Persistence Adaptability
An adaptive agent is constantly playing a game with its environment. -M. Mitchell Waldrop Complexity
Boss Levels and High Challenge Projects Missions Gameand Project design and Based systems Learning thinking Problem Solving
…kids…have developed another skill, one that almost looks like patience: they are more tolerant of being out of control, more tolerant of that exploratory phase where the rules don’t all make sense, and where few goals have been clearly defined. Steven Johnson Emergence
Shifting Scenarios SecretMissions and Subject Surprise integration Activities Adapting and Predicting
Challenges that Stretch Long term Peer reviewprojects, multi- and open work stage projects model Persistence
Being me social Agent Profile network Professional interactions Webinars with community partners Email, logs, andPresentations Communication design notes
Competition and cooperation may seem antithetical, but at some very deeplevel, they are two sides of the same coin. -John Holland
Teams – shifting and stable Professional Personal best interactions with competitive community model – High partners & game score designers Peer review andGroup missions Collaboration open workand boss levels model
Roles and responsibilities Mission Agent profilebriefings Self- awareness
The culture of a school is anemergent system built on the nature of interactions between agents
Student- Instantaneous teacher feedback collaboration SatisfyingGamefulness Work Dynamic School Culture
Do more satisfying work. -Jane McGonigal, Reality is Broken
Service and CommunityReal world Instantaneous Problems Feedback Satisfying Work
a game is “the voluntary effort to overcome unnecessary obstacles” Bernard Suits Grasshopper: Games, Life and Utopia
Instantaneous Feedback Quests and Agent Profile MissionsProfessional Student- ChicagoQuest teacherDevelopment Collaboration Wiki
...a designer introduces new…strategies into the world. -Robert Axelrod, Michael Cohen Harnessing Complexity
Rare and Unique Items Quests, Missions, and Game designer Boss Levels collaborationsSecret Missions Gamefulness Agent Profile
“Three things, then, are involved in active learning: experiencing the world in new ways, forming new affiliations, and preparation for future learning.” James Gee “Semiotic Domains: Is Playing Video Games a Waste of Time?”
ChicagoQuest Mission Logs Wiki Mission Email, Being Briefings MeAgent Profile Instantaneous Gameful Feedback Assessment
Teachers are agents of change in the school culture
Problem SolvingCollaboration Communication Agent of Change Persistence Self-awareness Adaptability
Professional League of Champions (PLC) AgentBe a Hero of Danger Room Change Communications Command Center
Group Quests and Missions Professional Individual Game ChallengesEconomy League of and Champions Missions Critical Friends Groups
Community Service The Be a Mentoring HeroExtraordinaries Role Models
Instantaneous Feedback Communications Command Center StreamlinedGroundcrew Communications