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Steve Isaacs is an educator with over 25 years of experience. A teacher at Bernards Township Public Schools in New Jersey, he is an EdTech influencer, community builder, and leader in the area of game-based learning and teaching Game Design and Development. Steve has been part of a wide scale research study on VR in the classroom with foundry10, a research organization in Seattle. He has also been actively involved with the XR4C community as am XR4C ambassador. Steve was honored as the ISTE Outstanding Educator in 2016. In addition to teaching, Steve is the lead content producer for Minefaire, a massive Minecraft fan experience and co-founder of #EdTechBridge, a weekly Twitter chat (Second Wednesday of each month at 7 pm ET) and community working to build collaborative relationships among EdTech stakeholders to create better EdTech for students. More recently, Steve has become passionate about #esports in schools and founded the #esportsedu twitter chat (Thursday nights at 7:30 pm ET) and #esportsedu discord server (https://discord.gg/sJ6GDR9).
A typical day for Steve starts with some time for the family which then includes taking his daughter to school (taking advantage that they both go to the same district!) It used to involve a lot of teaching and related to the projects with kids but has moved more to a quest-based approach with learning paths full of choice and exploration which involves supporting different kids doing quite different projects even with different tools. So talk of personalized learning! He has seen them figure out so many things and just coaching and helping them rather than directly teaching. We can say there is a lot of freeflow in his class and there is a chance to support those who need a little bit more of attention because they might need it. During lunch he even plays World of Warcraft with some of his students.
His favorite failure moments was related to being perhaps being too ambitious. It all started after getting an Xbox for his class so they could learn Visual C# and program for the Xbox! It sounds exciting, however, different from the lesson on GameMaker which went great and they had interesting results, for Visual C# and Xbox after 3 weeks, the most accomplished kids were able to turn the screen into different colors and not really much of a game… On the opposite end some experience for VR games for these kids, he ran into this idea that Minecraft could be the place where they would build their VR experience. The full story, which I hope you have listened or planning to do so, is quite inspiring!
His biggest success was when he truly embraced the quest-based learning approach. Initially it was some extra-credits kind of quests. Next year, he went all-in and it was a huge breakthrough for his teaching. He found that the true secret sauce in gamification in education is providing choice to the students!
Steve is just at the brink of starting to teach his subject (game design!) but now also at the high school level, which means he will certainly have to go through some redesign. His process is full of constant iterations and improvements, in this case he might incorporate some of the things that he’s found is too advanced for his current middle-school students. He also said that he does not limit himself to teaching things he fully masters, he just needs to know enough to develop learning experience along with his learners and raising the level together.
His best practice would be to bring in a choice-based learning environment! We talked about “the controller” of video games and how it relates to this. His favorite game, historically is Star Craft and currently he is really enjoying a couple of independent games: GRIS and Moss. He would love to listen to Paul Darvasi on Professor Game! In recommendations for books he would go for Matthew Farber‘s Gamify Your Classroom: A Field Guide to Game-Based Learning. The superpowers of Steve are creating quest-based learning for his students and the other would be his capacity to do iterative design. It is something he teaches and practices himself.
The random question spins around assessments, learning and gamification! It is quite a relevant question, so I recommend you go to the top of the page, hit play and listen up :).
His final advice would be to get started, to involve the students as much as possible, start small and reach out to this very helpful and active community. He has found that his “library” of quests is constantly growing and he can pick up things and choose but it started with just one small piece. We can find him on Twitter at @mr_isaacs, at his email steve [at] minefaire [dot] com, his blog gamesandlearning1.blogspot.com and on Twitch twitch.tv/mr_isaacs!
Looking forward to reading or hearing from you,