Transactive Play Spaces: A 21st Century Curriculum

Sasha Barab

This will be an interactive workshop, beginning with an overview of some of the theoretical frames that have motivated the development of the Quest Atlantis (QA) project. Quest Atlantis is a learning and teaching project that uses a 3D multi-user environment to immerse children, ages 9–12, in educational tasks. Building on strategies from online role-playing games, QA combines strategies used in the commercial gaming environment with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. It allows users to travel to virtual places to perform educational activities (known as Quests), talk with other users and mentors, and build virtual personae. QA has supported the learning and engagement of over six thousand children worldwide, helping students in the United States, Turkey, China, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, and Denmark to participate in both fantastical and real-world, socially and academically meaningful activities.

In this presentation we will begin with a brief discussion of “Transactive Engagement,” one of the core phenomenological states that our designs are intended to support. From here, participants will then form design groups and take on one of four design challenges, experimenting with interactive rule sets and developing interactive narratives to both engage and advance a particular agenda. Following the theoretical discussion and design segments of the workshop, participants will then log in to the 3D environment and experience the designs. It is our expectation that this will then lead to an embodied experience that will serve as a stimulus for rich and meaningful dialogue. The goal is that having a shared experience will provide common ground for a rich discussion about the challenges and specifics of what it takes to develop a multi-user virtual environment with the goal of supporting particular content learning.

Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop that can run PC software, to download the browser, and to sign up for a guest account (see Participants who have an opportunity to complete a couple of QA Missions will likely benefit more from the workshop, although prior experience is not a requirement.

Relevant papers about the work can also be downloaded at

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