Your Summer Break Should Include Questing!

As a full-time education consultant, Allison Zmuda works with educators to grow ideas on how to make learning for students challenging, possible and worthy of the attempt. Over the past fifteen years, Zmuda has shared curricular, assessment, and instructional ideas, shown illustrative examples, and offered practical strategies of how to get started.

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I have become immersed in researching, reading, and playing about questing over the past few months.

questing
Movies like The Wizard of Oz are more about the quest than the destination.

Questing, the verb, is going on a hunt or search to find or obtain something. Success is not just defined about the end goal, but also what you discover about yourself, how you became more skillful, adaptive, creative along the way, how you networked to seek and share outside expertise. Think Wizard of Oz, Lord of the Rings, The Alchemist.

But reading about questing and engaging in a quest are two parallel worlds. I am very comfortable in the first world (see my movie and reading references above). The second world makes me a bit nervous. Seeking out expertise — “can you help me …,” can you teach me …” — are mainly directed at my own children. My 15-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter both have the fluency, fearlessness, and light-heartedness to navigate in new worlds without shutting down or breaking down.

Marie Alcock is a great mentor and friend who also happens to be one of my co-authors on a new writing project. She has assigned me to “go have fun and play” without “taking myself too seriously” so that I can learn from the experience. She also advised I use my kids as resident experts in the process, because — even when they are new to a physical or virtual space — they don’t suffer from the anxiety that comes from navigating new territory.

With this goal in mind, I came up with four ways to approach this new quest:

1. Start with a topic, problem, or a challenge that you care about.

What is meaningful to you? Whether it is solving world peace, saving an endangered species, developing a new idea to soothe or prevent sunburns, re-image history to “right” some of the “wrongs.” Find something that you are passionate about or fascinated by so that you can lean on that when things get tough, messy, or complicated.

2. See what’s already out there.

games for changeHow do you want to engage with the topic, problem, or challenge? Physical world or virtual world? What do we already know about it? What do you want to know? How do you want to approach it? If you want to approach it through a gaming lens, check out Games for Change where you can help stop pollution, learn financial planning, experience the hazards of migrants, and over 100 more games. If you want to approach it through an inquiry lens, find a credible source and start asking questions. What’s the problem? Where can you go and/or who might you talk to in order to find out more? What do you want to contribute?

3. Learn by doing.

What is your approach? What happened? Based on the feedback, what should you do next? This reminds me of the interview I did with Don Marinelli on The Power of the Reset Button. This captures the light-heartedness I described in my own children: unwavering faith that you can restart, revise, replay based on the results.

4. Keep going until you “win.”

Marie shared James Paul Gee’s (2007) Extended Cycle of Expertise with me.

This is true for any learning experience. That is how we improve. And frustration is part of the package. Challenge is how to navigate unchartered territory and feel like you are making progress. The good news is that great games provide you that immediate feedback whereas many other challenges you have to be able to perceive incremental feedback or have an expert/coach to point that out.

So what quest are you tackling this summer? Would love to hear about it!

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