Game-based Learning

In the spring of 2013 Zulama, a Pittsbugh-based company, asked me to work with them to develop professional development materials for their Entertainment Technology Program. I worked with Bev Vaillencourt, the instructional designer, and Nikki Navta, the owner of Zulama, for several months to think through a series of modules that could be personalized for the needs of professional learners. In June, Mary Wilson, a teacher from Elizabeth Forward, joined the team. Mary has been using the foundation course, Games through the Ages, as well as several other of the programming related courses, for the past two school years. Mary brought to the team a classroom connection. Bev has also taught the course as an online offering with students participating around the world. Bev, Mary, Nikki and I delivered training in July at the Allegheny Intermediate Unit and Zulama headquarters. Later in July, Mary and I offered a training session as part of the South Fayette Summer STEAM Institute.


The Zulama courses demonstrate the power of both blended and project-based learning. Students work online to read materials written by experts from the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University. In the blended model teachers then work with students to apply their understanding. This includes a series of webquests that give students choices and provide opportunities for them to create, make, or mod(ify) a game or app.

In September 2013 I had a chance to share in seven minutes with Dr. Bart Rocco, the superintendent of Elizabeth Forward, the highlights to the program addressing the issue of why EF doesn’t consider this a STEM program.

The Zulama curriculum brings together content from history, skills from language arts together with 21st Century Skills that include creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and computational thinking. It’s much more than just a STEM offering. It’s an integrated approach that really engages students.

Zulama has talked with students using the program. They are the best salespeople. Here’s an Elizabeth Forward student talking about why this game-based approach engaged him:

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