Student Data Privacy

Teachers Turn to Gaming for Online Privacy Lessons

Teachers Turn to Gaming for Online Privacy Lessons 

"Greetings, acolyte," says the otherworldly voice, as an abstract image dances on the screen: "We, of course, know exactly who you are. We know everything about you. We know where you were born. We know where you live. We know your favorite websites. We know your financial information, your math grade, and we know all your online aliases. We are everywhere and we have been watching you. We are watching you right now."

So goes Blind Protocol, an alternate reality game created by two high school English teachers to help students understand online privacy and data security. This form of gaming blends fact and fiction to immerse players in an interactive world that responds to their decisions and actions. In a recent article on KQED, Paul Darvasi and John Fallon described how they chose the gaming format to help their students gain a deeper look at how vulnerable their personal data is.

Darvasi, who blogs at "Ludic Learning," and Fallon, who writes at "TheAlternativeClassroom," are both immersed in the education gaming realm. As they told reporter Matthew Farber, the students in their respective classrooms, one in Toronto, and the other in Connecticut, begin the learning over the course of several days by viewing films and videos that focus on privacy, including Citizenfour, a documentary about Edward Snowden. At some point during the class, the teacher is called out, and the video begins on its own — as if being controlled by an outside force.

From there, the students are off on a hunt for clues that will lead them to the "four drives of HORUS," which, when combined, will allow them to discover the "Sarcophagus," in which "knowledge sleeps."

At some point, the students uncover profiles of other students not in their classes, leading them in a new direction to uncover who and where the other students are. As the article explained, "The process of uncovering this data is the win condition of the game, and the central mechanic that drives student engagement and learning." As that unfolds, the students gain an understanding of how much data people may reveal about themselves online and how little of that information is really needed to identify who they are.

Currently, the two educators are considering how to play with additional classes in other parts of the world. One challenge, as the article noted, is that the teachers need to "carefully mediate" the game experience, "pulling the game's strings and levers in the background."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at dian@dischaffhauser.com or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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