Student web series nominated for $200,000 grant

December 15, 2011

GameZombie logoGameZombie TV, the student-produced Web series at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, could help change the way students learn in classrooms around the world.

The series is one of 60 finalists in the worldwide Badges for Lifelong Learning Competition, with a top prize of $200,000.

The competition, sponsored by the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation, is designed to encourage new ways of learning and grading, specifically by bringing the principles of gaming to the classroom.

"We're looking for new ways to assess student performance," said Spencer Striker, GameZombie TV founder and lecturer of communication at UW-Whitewater. "We're talking about a different dynamic in the classroom, where professors guide a conversation, rather than lecture."

Lectures and notes can be posted online or given to students beforehand, Striker said, leaving more classroom time for discussion, research and real-world projects. Under the gaming model, instead of letter grades like A, B, C, D, and F, students would get incentives called "badges" when they perform new skills or achieve learning milestones.

"Video games are addictive because they have the exact, right amount of challenge," Striker said. "When you lose, you have to adapt the way you play the game. When you reach a higher level, there's prestige. There's an incentive to get better and we think these same principles can apply to student learning."

The GameZombie TV curriculum is project-based and provides students a hands-on opportunity to produce a mass-distributed game video Web series. Students gain multimedia production skills, new media marketing savvy, and online media business expertise.

GameZombie's classroom model is helping students become adaptable, lifelong learners capable of thriving in the 21st century, Striker said, and winning grant money would provide more resources for the program to be a laboratory for this new kind of educational delivery system.

Nominated teams will attend two days of face-to-face meetings from February 28-29, 2012 to refine their proposals, and then "pitch" their proposed badge systems to an expert panel of judges.

Winners will be announced on March 2, 2012, at the Digital Media and Learning Conference in San Francisco.

Click here to view the GameZombie TV proposal.


Sara Kuhl