Thursday, March 1, 2012

We finally got to start using Quest Atlantis last week! If you have never heard of Quest Atlantis before, it is an immersive learning game. Students have avatars and enter a 3D world where they are assigned missions and quests. The missions and quests all are connected to real-world problems and have engaging story lines. Students must navigate the 3D world to find information and clues to solve a problem. Along the way they meet virtual characters who guide the students and provide information. There is also the opportunity to interact with the avatars of students from other schools. The basis of Quest Atlantis is the concept of transformative play. As the Quest Atlantis website explains:
Students who play transformationally become protagonists who use the knowledge, skills, and concepts of the educational content to first make sense of a situation and then make choices that actually transform the play space and the player.
So, I was curious, how would my students react to this 3D space? Would they experience tranformational play? Would they enjoy exploring the virtual world more than they enjoying learning in a traditional classroom?

Honestly, I wasn't sure I would ever find out. The first hurdle to tackle was getting permission slips signed. Because Quest Atlantis is funded by Indiana University and used for research about emerging technologies and learning, students were required to have parental approval before logging into the Quest Atlantis world. Unfortunately, asking parents to sign a permission slip for a class assignment was not a top priority for these students. After a little cajoling from me and some tough talk from their principal, we finally had all the permission slips in. Whew, step one complete.

The first day playing went, well, great. The students were excited. They were laughing and talking and fully engaged for the 30 minutes we let them play. It was fascinating to watch their personalities emerge online. Some went right to finding out their mission and were running off here and there without really absorbing their task or the information given them. Others spent a tremendous amount of time getting their avatar just right. Still others tested the limits of the world and immediately dove off cliffs, swam in the water and tried to get into places they shouldn't. It was all behavior I would completely expect when giving adolescents a new toy. They were experimenting: some with recklessness, some with caution and some just took it as it came.

Day two we began by showing students how to know where in the 3D world they were. Quest Atlantis uses North, South, East, and West indicators for students to know where they currently are and to locate the places they needed to get to. I was pleased that students got the directional concepts but was fascinated to watch them play and realize that they didn't really understand how to apply these concepts. Since we were playing during their social studies class time, I loved that they were absorbing directionality in a whole new way and actually applying it in a way that was meaningful to them.

My other take-away from day two was that my students need help following directions! I guess I always knew that but assumed that they were having trouble following directions because they didn't really care about the assignments or weren't listening to the directions the first time. But watching them play Quest Atlantis, I realized they actually needed help reading carefully and doing tasks in the order assigned to them. Since many of my students have struggled to achieve in traditional schools, this observation wasn't a shocker, but it was still useful to observe it in the virtual world.

The next step with Quest Atlantis will be for the students to tackle content-related missions in the 3D world. Until then I'll be excited about the following things:

  • The school administrator commented that she'd never seen Student X talk so much as she did when playing  Quest Atlantis that first day
  • A student that was going to be absent for Day Two asked if she could play the game at home. (Yes!)

If playing Quest Atlantis means students are excited to learn and want to work on school work outside of school, I'm ready for more!


  1. Sounds like you and the students had a lot of fun! I can't wait to try QA next month. I may be calling on you for assistance. :-)

  2. It was a lot of fun. I'm happy to help you out with your implementation too. I learned a lot this first round.