Review by Caryn Lix, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2014

Quest Atlantis

Jam-packed with proven content but technically finicky

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Math
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
3-12
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Pros: A huge array of topics to discover in a world that lets kids make a difference.

Cons: Students and teachers are likely to run into frustrations.

Bottom Line: For teachers willing to put in the effort, Quest Atlantis provides opportunities for student-driven exploration and discovery in a safe virtual environment with build-in assessment tools.

Teachers can browse existing quests or create their own quests and assign them to students. There are also lots of opportunities to talk about the "pillars" of the game, things like social responsibility and creativity, and how these skills and competencies are cultivated in the game and can be used out of the game to make a difference in the world. Many of the quests will spark interest in students, and teachers can provide opportunities to continue these activities in real life. For example, a student intrigued by the concept of the mayor's election could write to city hall or become more involved with youth political groups. Unfortunately, teachers also need to be aware that it's not easy to use Quest Atlantis in the classroom. It requires a large time investment to learn how the game works, get it set up technically, build lessons and materials, and have students play it. That being said, it has a strong pedigree backed by actual research studies, and many teachers have found it worth the investment.

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Quest Atlantis immerses students in a rich, multiplayer online game environment -- familiar to players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). Students complete quests and interact with people to collect "lumines" and help revitalize the "arches of knowledge." Quests run the gamut from visiting a national park and then traveling back in time to gather evidence of early civilizations, to participating in research to aid a mayor who is running for re-election. Different content is covered including math, science, and ELA, but throughout the focus is on student inquiry and problem solving. Teachers can assign specific quests to students, and kids can also explore voluntary activities that increase their standing in the community. Since it's all online, students have ample opportunity to interact with each other as well.

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Quest Atlantis covers a huge variety of topics, and this learning content is backed by demonstrable learning outcomes. The pedagogical approach is experiential, inquiry-based virtual learning through field trips and immersive experiences, and there's an emphasis on encouraging students to make a difference. It's likely that student will find it a powerful and appealing experience as long as the technical issues don't get in the way. It requires a lot of initial time investment on the part of both teachers and students, has clunky Mac support, and suffers from a number of technical glitches. There's also a lot of reading -- much of the game involves going to different people and getting their information and perspectives; students will be tempted to skip over big blocks of text. Thankfully there's built-in assessment to alleviate the issue, in which students submit responses during play for teachers to review.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Features an immersive environment with rich, project-based learning opportunities, but there are a lot of potential frustrations that might lead kids to back off without really exploring.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Kids take virtual field trips and time travel, completing quests and exploring worlds. The concept is sound, but there's a lot of reading that kids will be tempted to skip.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

It can be frustrating to navigate. However, there's a lot out there to assist lesson planning, an in-game assignment system, and multiplayer functionality that allows kids to lean on peers for help.


Common Sense Reviewer
Caryn Lix Classroom teacher

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