From Oregon Trail to CoolStreet

pzThe only new thing about gamification is the word. In 1978 when educators were setting up the new Apple II computers in classrooms, they discovered that while their students enjoyed the simple chomping rocket and pong-style games on those huge floppy disks, their students were drawn to much more in the simulation game Oregon Trail. With Oregon Trail, students discovered they could become pioneers and provision themselves for the long journey and its hardships. Oregon Trail is still out there, and students using the simulation are still participating and learning, because it continues to engage students.

With all the talk of gamification, we need to look beyond simple buzzing, whirring, dizzying gimmicks to find education games that are as complex as the good lessons we call best practices. One of these is sort of a trail itself, in App form, called CoolStreet, and was demonstrated at BETT and then at ISTE by Promethean. CoolStreet can be downloaded free from the Windows Store.  If anyone has played the old-fashioned stock market game with students, the concept here will be easy to understand.  Instead of using a newspaper, students simulate the actual start-up, running, finance, stats, and sales needed to either succeed or fail in business, and they do it on a touch screen with tablets, interactive boards, and interactive tables. Everything in this simulation, from individual to collaborative efforts, lets students become entrepreneurs, even if the lure is that of a Pizza Shop and Pizza Battles.

With CoolStreet, students run a pizza shop operation, where they handle everything from production to winning customers. There’s a social media aspect as well, where students actually see and interact with others participating. So, while there is personalized learning here, there is also the need to work collaboratively as a team, just as in the real world. Games don’t have to be played in isolation anymore. Beyond the pizza shop, there are so many more possibilities for this CoolStreet App platform. Future releases just might be the Oregon Trail we need in classrooms today, but the avenue will be a CoolStreet. CoolStreet is recommended for the 12+ age group.

Ken Royal

Ken Royal is an educator with 34 years of classroom/school and instructional technology teaching experience, as well as a blogger on all things education and education technology. Teaching accomplishments include: 4-time district teacher of the year, Connecticut Middle School Teacher of the Year, as well as Bill and Melinda Gates award for Technology School of Excellence. He is an Education storyteller. Follow @KenRoyal on Twitter.
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