Quest Atlantis

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Quest Atlantis (QA) was a 3D multiuser, computer graphics learning environment that utilized a narrative programming toolkit to immerse children, ages 9–15, in meaningful inquiry tasks. Quest Atlantis combined strategies used in the commercial gaming environment with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. The project was unique in its goals to combine the best aspects of learning, playing, and helping, as a means to motivate and engage students. QA combined strategies used in the commercial gaming environment with lessons from educational research on learning and motivation. It allowed users to travel to virtual places to perform educational activities (known as Quests), talk with other users and mentors, and build virtual personae. The project was intended to engage children ages 9–16 in a form of transformational play comprising both online and off-line learning activities, with a storyline inspiring a disposition towards social action. More than sugar-coating content to coerce dis-empowered students into caring about disciplinary knowledge, the goal of Quest Atlantis was to establish educational worlds where children become empowered scientists, doctors, reporters, and mathematicians who have to understand disciplinary content to accomplish desired ends.

Over the five year span, more than 65,000 children on five continents have participated in the project. Quest Atlantis has demonstrated learning gains in science, language arts, and social studies, and students have completed thousands of Quests, some of which were assigned by teachers and many of which were chosen by students to complete in their free time. Equally important have been reported personal experiences, with teachers and students reporting increased levels of engagement and interest in pursuing the curricular issues outside of school. Students and teachers conduct rich inquiry-based explorations through which they learn particular standards-based content, and at the same time develop pro-social attitudes regarding significant environmental and social issues (see Critical Design Article). Rather than just placing work and play side-by-side, QA strived to make learning fun and to show children how they can make a difference.

The principal investigator was Sasha Barab, Associate Professor in Learning Sciences, who is now at Arizona State University Center for Games and Impact. Other faculty members that played prominent roles on the project included Dan Hickey at Indiana University-Bloomington and Melissa Gresalfi at Vanderbilt University. Users of QA came together from all over the world.

This educational game was redesigned in 2012 with the help of funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and re-released as Atlantis Remixed.

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