DML: Findings and Feedback Loops: Learning Contexts at the Institute of Play’s Quest to Learn


The Institute of Play (IoP) is a non-profit design lab and learning center leveraging the power of games to activate engaged 21st-century citizens. The Institute brings together game design, rigorous research practices and strong interdisciplinary partnerships in order to create, study and promote game-based materials, strategies and systems.

To date, the Institute’s largest project has been Quest To Learn (Q2L), a New York City public school which opened its doors to its first sixth-grade class in 2009. Quest to Learn was designed to provide students with a situated, game-like learning experience, based on standards and integrated across subject areas, as well as with the out-of-school learning habits and interests of today’s “digital kids.” The curriculum for each integrated learning domain is structured around a series of “missions” and “quests,” scenarios which spur students’ imagination, create an authentic “need to know,” and activate dispositions critical to success in the twenty-first century, like collaboration, systems thinking and identity generation.

Quest to Learn was designed to offer an eco-system of interlinked learning opportunities, both in and out of school. This panel brings together four key points in this eco-system to share findings and explore the ways in which the various projects reinforce and support the integration of student learning and life. The following projects will be represented:

Mission Lab: Q2L’s in-house game and curriculum design studio. Here, designers, curriculum developers, technology integrators, teachers and content specialists collaborate to create inquiry-driven curricular units in the form of “mission” and “quest” structures, offer professional development and design games and learning tools.

SMALLab: a mixed-reality learning environment that empowers the physical body to function as an expressive interface experiencing custom-built learning scenarios and media-rich content through full-body movements and gestures.

Short Circuit: a studio-like after-school enrichment space which extends Q2L’s focus on tinkering, problem-solving, creating, and inventing. In a project-based environment, kids work at the intersection of physical and digital materials, taking systems apart and recombining their components in surprising ways.

Being Me: a closed social network with an integrated wellness curriculum. A mentored space with custom-built applications, designed to help kids document their lives, explore their feelings and interests, and cultivate digital citizenship.