Katie Salen, a professor and game designer, and Robert Torres, a learning scientist and former school principal, founded the Quest to Learn school in New York City, and holy crap this school sounds awesome:
Salen and Torres are at the forefront of a small but increasingly influential group of education specialists who believe that going to school can and should be more like playing a game, which is to say it could be made more participatory, more immersive and also, well, fun. Nearly every aspect of life at Quest to Learn is thus designed to be gamelike, even when it doesn’t involve using a computer. Students don’t receive grades but rather achieve levels of expertise, denoted on their report cards as “pre-novice,” “novice,” “apprentice,” “senior” and “master.” They are enlisted to do things like defeat villains and lend a hand to struggling aliens, mostly by working in groups to overcome multifaceted challenges, all created by a collection of behind-the-scenes game designers. [NYTimes (registration required) via BoingBoing]
Where was this school when I was a kid? The closest thing I ever got was that intramural class where they sat us in front of a bank of Apple IIe’s and had us play Oregon Trail. It was supposed to teach us about history. And it totally did. For example, did you know all buffalo weighed around 962 pounds, but a party of four or five people named after bodily functions could only carry twenty or twenty five pounds of buffalo meat in a day? It’s true! Also, everybody was getting diarrhea all the time. Like seriously. All the time.