TeacherQuest is a program administered by the Institute of Play based in New York. The objective is to support teachers in designing game-like lesson plans that engage students to be involved in learning, and increase retention rates. Designing lesson plans that encourage problem solving such as what happens in some games is part of a strategy to increase student interest.
In the Pittsburgh area, the program is being piloted by the Institute, funded by a grant secured by the Allegheny Intermediate Unit through the Grable Foundation. There were approximately 50 applicants to the program, and 20 teachers from eight districts were selected to participate, according to Megan Cicconi, AIU curriculum and reading coordinator.
The intermediate unit reached out to the Institute of Play, she said, to expose educators in the county to “cutting edge” methods of crafting curriculum.
“Anytime you can bring a program to the county that will help teachers engage students, it’s a worthwhile and positive thing,” Cicconi said. “It’s about experiential hands-on learning. The teachers who participate here can go back to their respective schools, as well, and serve as ambassadors to the program.”
The Institute of Play first came to Allegheny County last summer with its MobileQuest program, which was meant to teach educators the basics of digital game design. For TeacherQuest this year, the institute is shifting its focus to the design of analogue, or physically hands-on, games for middle school curricula.
“We want teachers to gain a deeper understanding of the process of designing games, which I think is more easily done through a physical platform,” said Daniel O’Keefe, lead learning designer at the Institute of Play. “We start from the beginning — establishing a goal — and go from there, exploring game modifications and the unintended consequences they can sometimes create.