Education Reform: Reinvent how Teachers teach and Students learn
Taking school to the next level
CPS hopes Quest's video game methods will inspire students
March 29, 2011|By Joel Hood, TRIBUNE REPORTER
— Rock music blares in a Manhattan classroom as an 11-year-old builds a website for video game enthusiasts and a classmate solders LED lights and capacitors to a circuit board. In another room, students are immersed in a life-size video game as they kneel beside a virtual river, sifting through the remains of ancient civilizations.
What kid wouldn't love a school developed by video game designers?
Quest to Learn was designed to be different from the ground up. This complete reinvention of the typical urban middle school downplays rote memorization in favor of collaborative learning, critical thinking and imaginative exploration in an effort to change how today's students learn.
And this fall, it's coming to Chicago.
With more than $1.2 million in funding from the MacArthur Foundation and other philanthropic organizations, the publiccharter school to be called Chicago Quest is scheduled to open in September in a renovated school building at Ogden and Clybourn avenues on the edge of the old Cabrini-Green public housing development. Officials are already talking about one day opening Chicago Quests on the city's South and West sides as well.
For city educators, Chicago Quest is an important foray into 21st century thinking. Students will learn from video game designers and computer experts how to design and build their own video games, produce custom websites, podcast, blog, record and edit short films and connect with technology in meaningful and productive ways.
In an era of rigid standardized testing, city leaders say Quest is a novel approach to get today's wired 11-, 12- and 13-year-olds prepared for the technology-driven, global job market that awaits them.
"The only way we're going to catch up with the rest of the world is to reinvent how teaching and learning occurs," said Chicago Public Schools interim chief Terry Mazany. "That's why this is so vital. It's going to be an innovation engine for the district, and I'll strongly encourage the next leadership to keep them close and learn from them."
On a recent trip to Quest's cramped Manhattan headquarters, Elizabeth Purvis, executive director of Chicago International Charter School, seemed dazzled by what students were able to do.
"You can't watch how these kids work, how invested they are in what they're learning, and not come away amazed," Purvis said.