Friday, June 27, 2014

Transformational Assessment: The Mt. Everest Scenario- Set Up in a Virtual Environment

As was indicated in the last post, certain parameters need to be set up to fit the brick and mortar environment. What  I suggested to you is that it could be done effectively with some co-ordination. However, it still does not provide the full opportunities that are available to students who work completely online.

In an earlier post, I described  how a historical event such as the Manhattan Project could be used by constructing a real world scenario in which students would collaborate to solve the proposed problem. What is different from the brick and mortar scenario is that students are able to use elements of gamefication to deal collaboratively in solving the proposed problem and coming up with viable solutions. The students would take on the personas of historical figures and through the use of avatars collaborate together in a virtual scene which in that scenario was the Los Alamos laboratory of J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Credit: Cooldesign

In this new scenario dealing with Mt. Everest, the same elements can be used. The procedure described in the brick and mortar scenario would still be used in the online scenario with the difference that the experience would be more immersive. The computer simulation to test the usefulness of the solution the students propose can now involve more elaborate graphics and the educator who is observing can introduce variables into the assessment to test how well students adapt to changing conditions. The areas of assessment of learning and ultimately assessment for learning have a wider range of opportunities due to the totally online conditions of the assessment.

Variables that can be introduced are such ideas as:
  • A local environmental group opposes any further exploitation of the sensitive Mt. Everest environment and are giving your group just one hour (simulation time) to present arguments to them that all reasonable precautions have been put in place to protect the environment.
  • An ice-fall on the south route to the summit has made it too treacherous to take that route, come up with a solution for use of the north face route.
  •  live weather telemetry update system has failed. Come up with another solution to determine current weather conditions.
Keep in mind that a digital countdown clock letting students know how much time is left to simulation and test end appears on there screen. The role of one of the team members is to keep a digital journal of their day to day activities.

If a student group reaches the summit alive and breathing, their solution is deemed a success and they then gain entrance to a completely new and novel scenario where they must apply what they have learned to come up with a solution. The example that I suggested in the last post is a scenario in which they are presented with the task of mounting an expedition to climb Olympus Mons on the planet Mars. If their proposed solution does not work, they are directed back as a team to diagnose the problems and come up with a counter solution within the allotted test time. Remember that in this test or assessment that there are only 2 questions.


This scenario has what I call a "loop-back" that leads to real world challenges in which students may continue to make relevant contributions to the challenges in our societies. The assessment for learning opportunities are as described in the previous post. Real world recognition for the creation of new solutions to real world problems now and in the future is the way forward to sustained and deeper learning that will help nurture a culture of innovation.

Next post, a discussion of a major growth area in curriculum innovation---the design and composing of irresistibly engaging real world style scenarios for integration into global curriculums.

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