One last approach we would like to share in this section is the EDULARP, or Educational LARP (Live Action Role Play), which focuses on experience-based background that places the students in context of the content, by having them actually pretend to be a participant in a simulated education driven scenario.
It's like theater meets the classroom. Role playing has been around since the dawn of humanity, but only recently people are realizing what a powerful learning tool it can be. Popular modern entertainment-based LARP's (live action role play) have storylines, characters, costumes, props, and set dressing, where individuals get to play the hero in an adventure encompassing fantasy, horror, science fiction, western, and many other genres. However, LARP's can also be used to educate: mock trials, governments sessions, historical debates, disaster simulations, trade negotiations, business training, real-estate, creating your own start-up company, etc. LARP's get students up and out of their chairs, moving around and interacting with other people--learning by doing in a social context.
- Enable students to experience subjects contextually instead of just reading about them abstractly.
- Foster collaborative problem solving.
- Make the learning experience enjoyable, thus increasing knowledge retention and transferability.
- Empower students to make their own role-playing choices and experience consequences without personal failure—character actions are not part of grading, player learning is.
main task in the Educational LARP is playing a role. Students can play a
historical or current real-life role for the duration of the class, and
learning by walking in that person’s shoes. Through research and a
hands-on approach, they get a full experience of learning beyond just
reading a book or hearing a lecture.
EDULARP is low tech approach that anyone can use. Many schools do not
have access to the computers and technology. Roleplay games only require
imagination, curriculular game design, and props (that can be even made
by the students in class, fostering further more their creativity).
Teachers are limited only by human creativity, not by file size,
bandwidth, or pre-programmed choices.
With edu-larps, the teacher can move the material to an easier or more difficult level and to differentiate each part to their specific class. Role playing engages students to teach themselves and each other, learn from and even teach the instructor, all while actively interacting socially with others instead of passively absorbing material from books, lecture, or videos.
An inspiring example is the Østesrkov Efterskole, a boarding school in Hobro, Denmark, where LARP is a motivational tool. In what Mads Lunau (founder and headmaster) calls an "ordinary educational system," you do things in the hopes that you're pleasing the teacher. He sees this as a "narrow" motivation, and one that "certainly isn't the motivation you get when you get into your work life."
In the Efterskole ("afterschool" in English) students aged 14- to 18-years-old attend a one-year program. These schools are a Danish tradition that would seem just generally weird to the test-score fanatics in places like the rest of the world.
"We made a whole school using narrative to motivate young people or students to get into the subjects—a normal way to study," Lunau said. But on the whole, the game narratives at Østerskov are educational: They come from "narratives in history, or from society or from literature." In short, they're LARPing their way through the dusty old material from their textbooks.
Moreover, such change in the idea of engaging students (and its positive results) is particularly helpful for special needs kids. In fact, about 10 of Østerskov's 90 students have what Lunau calls "serious challenges," among them autism and major ADHD. These students are aided by three on-staff special needs teachers. About 30 other students cope with lighter disabilities, such as dyslexia, and dyscalculia.
A bonus outcome for kids with autism and Aspergers is an improved ability to interact with other people in a healthy way. Kids and adults with social difficulties get to interact in a setting where they're working together for a common goal. They're getting core social skills that really don't get developed in a classroom setting or video game setting.
"We had a girl that was a special needs student and she was not doing well in her former school," he said. "And we had her for exams in history." Her teacher was a bit nervous when she had to explain the inner workings of the Roman Republic's government. But sure enough she demonstrated fluency with the ways the Senate decided things, along with "what the different roles of the senate were, and how it worked with the rest of the Italian people." According to Lunau, "She received what I think would be a B or A- in American grading system," but he said there was one last question thrown at her before the test administrator was satisfied: "How did you do this?"
Her answer, according to Lunau: "It was not difficult because I was there."
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