I came across this story on the blog of Josh Spiro, “Will Play Games for Change”. Debates, critiques or discussion on education are often seen on internet, but not much is from students. It’s interesting to witness that game-like interactions can bring us different perspectives and mash-ups on a stale topic. It’s an alternate reality game called Ed Zed Omega.
For those of you who don’t know, an alternate reality game is an interactive narrative that can unfold over the course of a day or a period of months. Often alternate reality games use multiple media as part of their storytelling, which can make the experience more immersive, and players’ actions and contributions can shape the course of the story.
Ed Zed Omega follows the stories of six high school students who want to drop out. For various reasons, they feel like school isn’t getting them where they want to go. When their guidance counselor finds out, she challenges them to one last semester of self-directed study to figure out for themselves why school isn’t working for them and what their ideal education might look like. The game was designed by Ken Eklund (of World Without Oil) and Andi McDaniel.
Here is the story so far, from their facebook page:
August 15 2012 – True to their word, the six Zed Omegas do not go back to school – despite considerable pressure on some of them. Zephyr and I set up the site at edzedomega.org and ask for people to answer the teens’ serious question “what’s in a diploma?” The Ed Zed Omega experiment begins.
Early August 2012 – Mary Johnson has set a date for the Zed Omega “fall semester” to begin: August 15. I gather from Clare there will be “weekly assignments” of some kind. Steady as she goes, brave voyagers!
July 2012 (later) – Another group meeting. I think the breezy bravado of summer vacay is fading, the reality (not returning to school) beginning to sink in. The Zed Omegas seem in turns to be terrified, unsure, excited, stunned, determined – various mixes of these, depending on who they are.
July 2012 – Clare and Mary are introducing me to more of the Zed Omegas. I can see why Mary is interested in them – they are frankly not the dropouts you expect. Mary has found someone to help her conduct the “unschool” independent study for the fall semester – a homeschooler named Nora Rose. Most of the ZOs met with Nora early in July.
June 2012 – So there are two things going on. Mary wants the kids to do their own study on education – she’s trying to defend this “independent study” angle. Meanwhile Clare and the other kids are zeroed in on their own epic mission: to not just study education (what works, what doesn’t) but to FIX education. There is some friction, Clare tells me.
May 2012 – The seminal moment! Mary holds a group session and the Ed Zed Omega idea emerges. Watch the video she made right after the session, for her sister I think; it’s in my Videos.
May 2012 – I happen to meet Mary and we get to talking.
April 2012 – A guidance counselor named Mary Johnson starts talking to Clare and some other teens who are “zed omega on” (totally done with) formal education.
Feb 2012 – I talk with Clare a few times about her passion and determination to become an actress. Which is strong.
2009 – I meet Clare, after I met and become friends with her parents. (Clare will turn out to be one of the Zed Omega teens)
When you read this story, you are already a part of the story, you can choose to change the game or just watch it develops. Ed Zed Omega launched a couple of days ago and it will run for three months. The characters have already taken to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr to share their thoughts, their goals. The game aims to get players to bring their own ideas to the table. So Josh called it “Crowdsourcing Thoughts on the Future of Education.”