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This course, site, and game are an experiment in a new type of education.  I am a firm believer in constructionism, and connectivism. The role of the educator, I believe, is a coach: guiding, cheering, and prompting a learner, who must build their own understanding.

Gamification

Nolat Labs is built on these ideas, using the relatively new tools and styles of gamification.  I use the framework of a game to present the content of the course.  I use the gamification engine and other online systems to help track student progress and provide feedback in a much more immediate way that I could ever provide as one teacher working with many students.  The company store provides elements that make classroom management much easier, more transparent, and put responsibility for self-management in student’s hands.

The game provides a nice structure, but the content covered in the class reflects the full IB Design Technology sequence.  This course prepares students for further education in a design field.  It also prepares them for a real life in which they’ll be expected to know how to teach themselves.  That’s my ultimate goal.

ZIM: the zone of intrinsic motivation

ZIM ©2010 Mike Skocko
Used with permission

Pedagogy

The way this course is structured is based on pedagogical research that also produced the ideas of problem-based-learning, project based learning, quest-based-learning, experiential learning, making, and discovery learning.  It’s founded on principles Dan Pink re-discovered and reported on in his book Drive:

  • Relationship – I think the single most important key to helping students learn is the relationship I establish with them.  Without this, I don’t think any of the rest–gamification, autonomy, mastery, etc–would have a significant effect.
  • Autonomy – students are provided as much self-direction as they can handle.  I step in and guide as necessary.  I encourage them to take control back as soon as they’re capable.  Class structures are designed to guide them this direction as well.
  • Mastery – I don’t believe you can learn Design Technology without doing.  Planning and making actual real-world creations.  Players can see right away whether it works or not…and make corrections as many times as needed until it does.
  • Purpose – students know the why behind what they’re doing.  We discuss it regularly.  They also know we’re experimenting with education itself, leading the way for future educators.

Collaboration

I’m actively looking for other Design & Technology (or STEAM/Maker, for US folks) teachers who are interested in using this site and this approach in their class.  If you’ve gotten intrigued and would like to discuss the possibility, please contact me (info below).  I would love to share what I’ve built and collaborate to build even more into this framework.

If you’ve seen a resource here that you’re interested in using, please check out the Resource Room for downloadables.  Everything I’ve created myself for Nolat Labs is released under a Creative Commons BY-SA license, including all the assignments and text on this website.  Feel free to use it for your purposes, subject to the restrictions of that license.  I would love an email letting me know where you’re using it, but it’s not required.

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions about the course, your student, or using this site or material for your own class.  My number in Cairo is +20 (0)120 836 9543.  My email address is mmiller@cacegypt.org.  If you want to know more about my philosophy and experience, you can check out my online portfolio.

I must acknowledge a substantial debt to the many other great sites upon which some of the lessons and quests at Nolat Labs depend.  In particular, the entire site would be poorer without the work of Mike Skocko and his amazing students at The Mac Lab in Valhalla High, California.

Content relevant to the IB DT program was collected or adapted from the work of Stratford Blyth and the Diploma Design Technology site by John Zobrist, Michael Frasier, Paul Clark and Carl Waugh.  Questions in the Government Inspections (quizzes) have been contributed by IB DT teachers around the world as well as taken from the official IB question bank and previous exams.

The quest giver silhouettes came from work generously shared at Vector4free.com, Vecteezy.com, and Deviantart.com.

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