Altered Learning does just what is says on the tin. It provides effective alternative learning and teaching tools with the characteristics of a game, yet with the content of the traditional curriculum.
It’s a difficult balance to achieve but by modifying a commercial adventure game it has been done with great success.
It all began as an attempt to engage some rather reluctant learners. When teaching key skills in communication and application of number, learners much prefer to be sitting in front of a computer than a workbook, so a game was ingeniously devised that required the learners to learn by having to get through traps and pitfalls. The engine in the award winning Neverwinter Nights computer game had intricate coding incorporated in its programming so that the game produced a lot of the evidence for recognised KEY SKILL qualifications.
As students play the game, answers to questions, methods for solving puzzles and calculations are automatically logged. On completion of a task, a click of a button adds it to their KEY SKILL portfolio. This isn’t a process that does away with the teacher. Far from it – in order to solve the problems learners have to know about such things as ratios, averages and even punctuation. The only way to find out about these is to ask to be taught them.
Instead of being reluctant to attend lessons, learners now queue up outside asking to start early. Staff monitor the movement between levels with passwords, so unless they are satisfied the work is completed learners can’t progress. There are also off-screen activities built in, such as writing an account of playing a level, or detailing the decisions made when creating a character.
The outcome is something that works well as a game, but which needs real understanding of numerical or language concepts to get through. As well as battling against evil subterranean foes, players must punctuate sentences or map a room to progress, and when releasing prisoners they have to calculate the mean number held in each cell.
In the two years since the inception of the project, about 700 learners have played the game at West Nottinghamshire College in Mansfield, England, and achievement of key skills has trebled to 94 per cent,
The Altered Learning team are already working on level two and have begun to develop a citizenship scenario too. Currently the output is aimed at the 14-plus market, but demand is such that primary pupils may soon be getting their own versions.