Monday 18 July 2011

22C Ed: Gaming School

Kyle looked at the stairs going up to the next floor, he couldn't unlock the door to them, but he could peer through the small windows to the painted walls and carpeted floors beyond.

He looked down at his student badge, under his name and next to his picture it still said, "n00b learner". Kyle wasn't stupid, not by a long stretch, but he was incredibly lazy and was easily influenced by his peers negatively, though that had been changing recently. He used to spend most of his time trying to needle other students or his teachers. He found this amusing, only a small group of others did, but Kyle had been stuck on the first floor with them for two years now, almost all the rest of his elementary class had gone upstairs. The big 2nd year wasn't enjoying hanging out with the kids any more.

The bell rang on the first floor, the only floor where bells rang, and Kyle trudged off to his next class. The room was painfully white; tables, chairs, walls... the teacher walked in and put her briefcase on the teacher desk. She quickly looked at the scan log on her monitor, noticed who wasn't in class on time and said, "alright, let's begin."

The door closed automatically as she spoke, and anyone still out in the hall was being herded into remedial classes that would also take up their lunches. Very few people skipped or were late; better to just be there.

The lesson today was on writing basic sentences. Kyle knew how to do this, so zoned out during the instruction. Back in grade nine he would have talked over the teacher, thrown things at classmates or otherwise assed about, but standing for the whole class kinda sucked, so he didn't do these things any more. Damien, two seats up, was a bit of a tool, and he wasn't thinking about consequences very well this morning. He whipped a pen at the back of the kid in the front row. His chair seat dropped away immediately, depositing in him on the floor. Bright red in the face he stood up to the class laughing.

Ms Creighton looked at him for a moment and shook her head, "forty minutes is a long time to be standing Damien."
"He started it," Damien mumbled, looking at his feet.
"He still has a seat," Ms Creighton replied with a smirk, and turned back to the use of commas.

It was your typical n00b class, students kept forgetting about consequences and by halfway through half a dozen of them were shifting from one foot to another, while trying to take notes. Three others, including Damien, had decided to trade in lunch for a seat and were off in remedial, learning an awful lot more about sentence structure than they had perhaps intended.

The data being collected was more detailed than Kyle realized. His previous attempts (and improvements) in sentence building where being held up against how he performed today. His galvanic skin response (read through his desk) even gave indicators on how much attention he was paying, and even if he was likely to act up, though the system had a very low probability of that happening.

What Kyle didn't realize is that in the last six months his tardies had fallen to zero (mainly because he didn't want to miss lunch any more), he had no absences and his teacher had noted improvements in engagement across logic, numeracy, literacy, techniracy, kinesthetics and creativity. His scores had been slowly, but steadily improving, indicating a measurable improvement in learning facilities. Ms Creighton knew this, and she was hoping that young man who started the year so badly would ace this activity, as she knew he could; it might be the bump he needed.

With fifteen minutes left in the class Kyle's badge suddenly chimed. It usually only did this when he was late to class or otherwise in trouble. He irritably grabbed it and stared.

"Level 1: Novice Learner"

Creighton stood up immediately with a big smile. "Well done Kyle! The system had you on the cusp, but you've gone over!"
Kyle stood up nervously, his face flushing red. "What do I do?" he stammered.
"They're waiting for you upstairs! Enjoy yourself, and keep improving your learning!"
Kyle walked down the aisle as dozens of eyes followed him, some enviously, which the system made note of. The door opened as he approached and he was out alone in the hallway. Alone in the hallway never happened to n00bs and he almost felt vertigo. He walked stiffly to the doors to the second floor and they slid open as he approached.
"Welcome to the next level," a cool, female voice chimed as he passed through.

By the end of the day, Kyle was beginning to see why almost no one ever came back downstairs. His biggest class had a dozen students in it, as opposed to the forty he'd had in English this morning. Whereas downstairs was antiseptically clean and monotone, the second floor contained rooms in varying shades. Instead of shared desk screens, everyone carried their own computer, could share their content to the white boards, and were encouraged to develop what they had studied in class independently. Instead of six hours of proscribed class, the second floor had four hours of teacher time and two hour of independent study.

From having very limited, measured choice, Kyle suddenly found he could choose to focus his learning in specific areas. The system watched his initial ascension closely, some students needed a firmer hand while they became acclimatized to their new freedoms, though the data suggested that Kyle would not, and he didn't. As the novelty wore off, Kyle found himself wondering why it took him so long to get out of his own way, then he realized it, the system wasn't grading him on what he knew, it was grading him on how well he learned. Until he'd been able to demonstrate some self control, self direction and curiosity, he couldn't focus on all there was to learn; now he could. Instead of worrying about what the idiots in his class were thinking, he had, over the past half year, allowed his own natural curiosity to emerge.

Kyle quickly found Phin, a friend from the neighborhood who had ascended a few weeks earlier.
"Know what the best part is?" Phin said one day as they ate lunch in the smaller, less industrially designed cafeteria on the second floor.
"We're not n00bs any more? The technology access? The fact they the teachers can leave you alone because you've shown you can learn without training wheels?"
Phin laughed and nodded, "true, but not it! The real best part is that after we ascend through intermediate to senior, we get to go to the final floor... and it's supposed to be even better than this!"

Kyle looked across the caf at the doors to the third floor. His imagination took off.
"What could they have up there? Holographics? Hypnotics? Virtual studios?"
"You're such a tech-head," Phin laughed. "Bet they've got all that and more, but they also have the heli-pad, and I've seen Seniors come and go from it."

Phin left the thought of being able to travel on the supersonic 'copters hanging in the air. Both of them looked at each other and a new determination germinated between them. Deep in the core the system made the necessary adjustments. Kyle was improving Phin's approach to learning and Phin was improving Kyle's. Subtle changes were made in the scheduling to match them together and with other students at this stage of development. Teachers looking over the data called it the booster stage. Students at that stage could develop their own learning skills at a much more efficient rate, often over a surprisingly short period of time.

It wouldn't be taking Kyle two years to get up to that next floor this time.