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BY ELAINE STRIBLING
While many debate what it means for a student to be literate in the 21st century, a new term in education is emerging—“transliteracy.”
The term is not specifically defined but the essence of the term deals with the ability to communicate through a variety of medias, including more traditional medias such as reading, writing, print, TV and radio, to more emerging technologies such as virtual medias, digital medias and social networking. Now, with so many expectations on a teacher’s plate, how are schools supposed to rise to this new challenge to prepare our country’s students?
At East Austin College Prep, a relatively new charter school in East Austin, students are on the road to becoming “transliterate” through an incredible program called Globaloria. All students in grades six, seventh, and eighth spend fifty minutes daily in the Globaloria classroom. The program starts with students researching a social issue that is of importance to them, followed by creating a wiki site, blogging with other students, and then designing and programming a game around this issue.
In its truest sense, it’s a “learn-by-doing” program that includes everything “transliterate.” It doesn’t stop there. Students are learning to solve problems while gaining content knowledge which will ultimately prepare East Austin Prep students for college level studies and jobs in our technological world.
All of this may sound great on the surface, but having spent some time in several Globaloria classes, I realized how impactful the program truly is. Imagine walking into a middle school classroom where students are 100% engaged in learning day in and day out. In order for students to choose a social issue in which to devote most of their year’s focus, teachers must expose them to current events and issues affecting them, not only in their community, but issues that have a worldwide scope.
As students blog and create their wiki sites, teachers are able to help them with grammar and writing skills. Step by step, teachers begin the process of teaching game design. Students play different types of games to get the feel of what makes a game fun, challenging, and inviting to the player. They learn how to design vector spaces and draw in FLASH (words relatively unknown to this digital illiterate). The program has many layers and the lessons never end.
I thought that after their first year in the program, students would disengage and become bored with the structure, but after visiting with several in their third year of the program, that was not the case. Each year, student’s take their “games” to a whole, new level and some even enter national game design competitions.
East Austin College Prep Academy is trying to do all it can to prepare their students for a changing economy. So, as East Austin Prep students might say to others in the community, “Game On!”