The correlations between the Ooka Island Adventure and Game-Based Learning (GBL) principles, as described by Andrew Miller here, continue well beyond what we examined on Tuesday. In his post, he discussed the need for players to experience opportunities for practice and even failure, where they can make mistakes, receive feedback and further instruction, and then reach a level of ultimate success made even sweeter by the challenging journey to get there. He also cites this post where neurologist Judy Willis advocates for the video game model as a learning tool and states in summary that “classroom instruction that provides opportunities for incremental progress feedback at students’ achievable challenge levels pays off with increased focus, resilience, and willingness to revise and persevere toward achievement of goals.” The argument put forth by both of these authors is that instructional experiences designed with game-based principals like trial and error, feedback, and quest completion are very powerful. Ooka Island does all that, and then takes it a step further by also actually being an interactive video game itself.
When Ooka Adventurers start their heroic mission, they all start at the very beginning level in the phonetic activities. As they progress through the activities (or individual quests, per the GBL analogy), Ooka’s READirect technology continually redirects them either to more challenging levels if they’ve shown mastery of a certain skill, or to more practice in content areas that still need strengthening. Through READirect, the student receives differentiated instruction, practice, and feedback at all points throughout the game. Classroom teachers and/or parents can also utilize the real-time progress monitoring reports from the Ooka Lighthouse to provide additional targeted instruction in skill areas that are shown to be weak ones along the student’s game path. The game will never send a student to a level beyond what is an “achievable challenge level”, but rather will continue to offer instructional support until the quest is completed and the student experiences the heightened sense of accomplishment described by Miller. (Just imagine the excitement upon completing the entire game mission and “boss-level goal” of reading fluency!)
Of course, as Miller points out, steadfast focus on completing the mission is made easier for all gamers—literacy students and thrill-seeking adults alike—when the game provides incentives along the way. Ooka Island’s reward system is robust and provides innumerable opportunities for Ooka Adventurers to receive accolades and incentives. While engaged in the various quests/instructional activities, players receive infusions of Ooka Mist when accomplishing critical tasks. The Ooka Mist “currency” can then be “spent” in the Mist Mart on new accessories or toys for the Pencil Playground, or cool new duds for one’s Ooka Avatar. Players also “unlock” exciting Pencil Playground components at points throughout the level progression. Then, upon successful completion of a level in each of the instructional activities, the student receives a sticker that can be placed on one of the charts in the Trophy Room. There’s always an exciting reward or incentive around the corner on Ooka Island!
So what are you waiting for? Get your kids a ticket to come ashore on Ooka Island and have the adventure of a lifetime learning to read! Ride the Ooka wave of Game-Based Learning!