Just a couple thoughts from day 1 of the Iowa Association of Alternative Education conference
• Attendance at the conference is definitely down from previous years, no doubt due to budget crunches and moratoriums on travel. I would say offering a virtual conference through the state's new 500-seat virtual Adobe Connect Pro meeting room is something to be looked into.
• While the numbers aren't big (I only had 19 in my breakout session), there was quite a bit of passion about the possibility of online. We hope to build on that during today's 11:00 conversation about sharing resources.
• Scuttlebut seems to be that the legislative study bill for statewide online education for students at-risk isn't going anywhere. Representative Roger Wendt, chair of the education committee, made no mention of the bill during his update, and there appears the possibility that the lobbyists for the outside vendors stopped pushing once they saw ILO already exists.
• Most interesting to me was seeing a preview of Florida Virtual School's new game-based online course. They are partnering with a group called 360Ed, who features some past software engineers and designers from EA Sports.
The preview was of a course called "Conspiracy Code", which is a game built on the following premise: Some would-be felons are trying to re-write America's history and have managed to infiltrate the country's institutions in many different ways. As the chief detectives (and of course, you have special powers to maneuver past the bad guys, so there is some gaming in the game), it is your job to find the inaccuracies, research the truth, and then restore the truth in the game. The makers advertise that it is project-based work that takes the American History course and uses student curiosity to drive the curriculum.
My first impression of the game was that it looked a little young for high school students and that its story line might be a bit contrived. It is tough to tell from what is basically a movie trailer. But, that might be expected for the first foray into game-based education.
This leads me to two conclusions. There will be more, not less of this in the not-so-distant-future (and given that Iowa is still in the past when it comes to online education, this means we have further to go). And second, the chief conversation will be around how the theme for the game can be comprehensive enough to be the full curriculum for a course (not just a supplement or enrichment). I loved playing Carmen Sandiego when I was a kid, and playing it definitely didn't hurt my understanding of American geography, pop culture, and history. However, it definitely isn't comprehensive... it doesn't cover everything you need to know. I see this as a tough challenge. We'll see with more courses how tough this really is.