Infinity Learning is a game-based learning program, developed by play and learning design company Project Synthesis. It is a 6-8 week course that uses game consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox, along with the Disney Infinity game platform, to build students skills and knowledge in key areas such as literacy and numeracy, but also across 21st century skills like collaboration, creativity and logic.
Infinity Learning has been delivered as a pilot project across a number of Victorian schools. It is focused on the ‘middle’ years and students spend a good week or two discussing story, character, motivation and looking at the history of game design, before they form small groups to begin developing their own game.
The project uses Sugata Mitra’s approach with groups of three to four students working together at any one time. They naturally take on different roles from visual design and aesthetic, to story development and the actual building and programming of the game. As it isn’t possible to have one console per group, some students use the Disney Infinity Toy Box iPad app (where relevant) to build part of their game in, but often they take in turns using the console. There is also enough paper-based and other computer work in development to give students a technology rich experience across multiple platforms and devices.
The program is aligned to previous game-based learning and game creation programs, that Project Synthesis has developed using tools like Spolder, Scratch or Minecraft. The Disney Infinity platform offers two specifically different pieces of functionality that allow it to be a richer and more engaging tool for this type of program with students. They are:
First, students often want to build their own 3D first-person adventure game, but tools like Scratch are limited in only offering a 2D environment and as fantastic as Minecraft is, students often don’t have the focus to deal with the programming environment driven by red stone and deeper thinking around logic programming. Disney Infinity offers a playful “point and click” approach to logic programming, This allows student to experiment and fail fast, to learn quickly and in a short time build detailed and intricate game environments with multiple trigger points and various actions that impact on the game play environment. This gives students a great sense of accomplishment and allows them to build and design the 3D worlds and games they have in their head.
Secondly, the use of pop culture characters from Disney movies has, anecdotally (through teacher feedback), increased engagement in significantly disengaged students. The ability to say to a group of three students not to make a pirate game, but to make a game with Captain Jack Sparrow has seen students follow deeper narratives and better understanding of character than if offered the generic pirate option. This is because they know these characters; they have a language and story from which to build. The blank canvass doesn’t suit all students, many need prompts and inspiration.
Disney Infinity offers that in spades. There are also strong female characters and a host of opportunities for students to tell new stories.
The environment they tell stories in is the ‘Toy Box’. The Toy Box is a digital play space, like combining LEGO with electronics kits that allows students to build and program. It is like Minecraft, but easier to use for the less tech-savvy students. Disney has seen the power of the Toy Box and in the latest version of Disney Infinity 2.0 (available in Australia now) they have given it even more functionality.
This includes the ability to use and manipulate cameras, to have greater control over the overall environment and what characters can and can’t do and where they can and can’t go, along with the ability to add text, so students can deliver instructions, or tell a story to accompany the animation and game design. These additions only add to what this platform could be as a learning tool.
Schools invest considerably in technology. We increasingly understand that it helps increase student engagement with some students when used in innovative and thoughtful ways. Yet, despite the adoption of tablets and other devices, consoles and games like Disney Infinity are seen as not having a deep level of educational value. And yet, like all the other technology out there it is a just a tool. A tool that when put to the right use can provide rich learning environments that extend into key areas like literacy, numeracy and digital media literacy.
Infinity Learning is a program that any teacher can deliver. You can check out the website at infinitylearning.net where there are details of a basic program and ideas and thoughts about how to best use consoles and Disney Infinity for learning.
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