Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

EVOKING in schools - even without computers

I was thinking this morning about how EVOKE could look in a school (I'm thinking K-12). Since a lot of what makes EVOKE work is that people want to go read what's new and comment on other blogs, I can see issues in classrooms where there are only one or two computers, or where kids are only able to be in a computer lab for a short time. Many classrooms and schools don't have computers for all the kids. It got me to thinking, what would EVOKE look like without the Ning network? Picture this:


Ms. Kindle's 8th-grade history class has been in session for about 10 minutes when there is a soft knock on the door. An aide from the office pokes her head in.

"I'm sorry to interrupt, but you have a message, Ms. Kindle. It's from..." she glances down at the paper. "Alchemy, it says. He said it was urgent. Do you want it now or should I put it in your box?"

"I'll take it now, thank you." She crosses quickly to the door, holding out her hand.

The aide hands her the paper and leaves, closing the door quietly behind her. Ms. Kindle reads the note rapidly, looking tense. She folds it again and looks up.

"Class," she says, and then stops as though unsure what to say next. Every student's eyes are on her. Finally she says, "Class, I need your help."

"I am an agent of a secret organization called EVOKE. Alchemy, who sent me this message, is its leader. EVOKE has agents all over the world. I don't know who the other agents are; for all I know, some of your parents may be EVOKE agents. Or some of you.

"EVOKE agents solve problems. Big problems. This note tells me" -- she holds up the folded paper -- "that we are needed to help solve a crisis in one of the world's largest cities. In a month, Tokyo will be out of rice, out of food. Millions are in danger.

"I'm to research the problem and suggest solutions for mobile EVOKE agents, but I can't do it alone. I'm going to need help. There's too much to find out, and time is too short. We're going to break into teams to tackle the problem, starting right now." She moves to the blackboard and erases the notes from this morning's interrupted lesson.

"Let's start by listing what we need to know..."


From here, it's a challenge- or problem-based learning scenario: given the big idea (a crucial food shortage in Tokyo), the kids come up with research questions ("we need to find out what kind of food people eat there, and where it comes from;" "we need to know how they store and distribute food;" "what's the climate like?"), divide into teams, and learn about the situation. Once they've done that, they brainstorm possible solutions and pick a few to research and model. Finally, they pick the final solution and present it -- ideally, via videoconference to Alchemy, who of course is present in avatar form.

The lesson can take one class, a week, a month, or a semester. Imagine if they start this in history class, and then when they go to geography, that teacher is also working on the problem, but from a different angle.

Are any teachers doing this? Does anyone want to? Can I help?

More information
Here are a couple resources that explain challenge-based learning:
Apple's CBL website
Challenge-Based Learning: An Approach for Our Time (white paper, free PDF)

Views: 44

Comment by Rob MacDougall on March 5, 2010 at 6:47pm
Rachel, this is a terrific post and asks a terrific question.

I'm interested too in how pervasive games or ARGs can be used in history education and responsible citizenship more broadly - that's what brought me to sign up for EVOKE.

Of all the exciting and inspiring ideas getting thrown around here, so far the game itself is clearly one of the most exciting and inspiring, and so we definitely ought to be asking ourselves how we can sustain, and replicate, and reproduce the game's best features - even without the Ning network, even without computers, even on a much smaller, cheaper scale.

Very curious to see where this conversation goes. Cheers!
Comment by Richard Smyth on March 6, 2010 at 4:17pm
It sounds like you're a teacher--or at least are thinking like one. I teach as a librarian in a high school and have done so for the past 13 years. The best project I've seen to come out of a very technology-rich environment took place very early on, in the "early day" (1998/1999), when we had a single 56K connection to 25 computers (shortly after, most people had 56K modems for their personal connection). The project was a collaboration between a biology class in our school and an English class in Germany, and the cla**** were learning about the Kyoto Protocols with the goal of drafting letters to their respective government representatives. The students communicated through the teachers' email accounts.

The limitations made it a slower process than it would be today, but the project had the right emphasis on real-world problem-solving, collaboration, and publication that are at the heart of the three new sets of emergent standards pressuring our institution to change: the ISTE NETS, the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner, and the Partnership for 21st Century Skills. Technology becomes a tool to meet these new standards, and EVOKE is an excellent model of how the internet can be used to have students practice these skills.

It would be a nice exercise to identify the parts from each of these three sets of standards that are applicable to your scenario above, or to the EVOKE game as a wh***.
Comment by ninmah on March 8, 2010 at 5:12pm
Thanks, Rob and Richard. Richard, I am a former teacher -- I used to teach middle school art. Thanks for the links to those standards. I'll add them to the Calling All Teachers section on the wiki, in case someone needs them for resources.

I was involved in evaluating Apple's pilot project on challenge-based learning. We reviewed hundreds of journal entries and videos made by students, as well as dozens of interviews with teachers and students. I came away with a feeling that although it's difficult at first to teach and learn that way, it really does pay off in terms of engaging the students in the process of learning.
Comment by Wasserperson on March 18, 2010 at 6:00am
Great prompt--I've been working on getting my district's IT to unblock Urgentevoke... No luck so far but there's 7 weeks to go!
Comment by Wasserperson on March 18, 2010 at 6:01am
Posted before I finished--I like your approach, and may be able to put it to work if the online angle doesn't. Thanks!
Comment by ninmah on March 18, 2010 at 3:15pm
Wasserperson, if you haven't seen the Calling All Teachers thread in the forums and on the wiki, take a look. We've been gathering slowly and I think the group is about ready to start taking some action. One of the projects will be to develop a classroom version of EVOKE, and we'd love to have your help if you're interested.
Comment by Wasserperson on March 18, 2010 at 6:49pm
I'd seen it mentioned but I hadn't seen the posts themselves--I'll check them out now, thanks!
Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on March 24, 2010 at 6:43pm
Students how may underperform due to self image factors might under some circ**stance like this game be able to produce more than they normally do (by speaking from an alternate ego).
Comment by Jeremy Laird Hogg on March 24, 2010 at 6:43pm
how = who above,
Comment by Nicholas Nagao on March 24, 2010 at 6:57pm
Ninmah, I would help! I was already working on a similar idea for High School, College, and new IT people! The idea was for the students/users to build and maintain the site as well! Hit me up and I'll help you get started with a server and some free coding time :)


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