We are good for kids, good for educators,
good for parents, and good for the global future.

~ Jill Brownlee Wolf (President/ Executive Producer of Trailhead)

Trailhead Learning Blueprint (see graphic above)
Our blueprint focuses on maximizing the virtual space for learning. We have harnessed the power of the game to immerse learners in a narrative-rich world where the practices involved in the gameplay emulate those in the world of the specific field of study.

We realize you can never replace the teacher, but the work of the educator shifts from sharing knowledge and planning the experiences to conferencing over progress and debriefing the learning from mistakes.

Advanced IT offers us the opportunity to put the learning experiences, assessment, and meta-level thinking into the gamespace and empower the player to become an independent self-aware learner that enjoys the journey toward deeper understanding.

What makes the Trailhead Learning Blueprint the SOLUTION for the 21st century learning needs?

Elements that Broaden the Scope of Learning
  1. Choice
  2. Narrative
  3. Meta-level Thinking
  4. Failure Learning
  5. Range of Experiences
  6. Literacy
Elements that have Never Before been Possible
  1. Individualization
  2. Supporting Special Needs
  3. Parent/Educator Reports

First Project - K-2nd STEM
Overall Game Design -

The game’s narrative centers around training the player/learner to be a secret design agent for Sector 8 of the CORD (Covert Operations for Rescue and Design). In the late 21st century a group of civilizations were found on planets in the outer Horsehead Nebula; each struggling to survive and in dire need of someone to design solutions to their survival problems. Although the Earth’s global community debates the pros and cons of providing aid to interstellar civilizations, the CORD feel it their responsibility to help those in need. Therefore they have formed training sectors across the planet in order to prepare young minds for this kind of secret mission.

The game has 45 levels, approximately 1,500 hours of gameplay, and covers the expectations for 3 grade levels (K-2nd). 

Basic Game Unit -
The basic game unit consists of a pre-brief, training room, mission, and debrief; each with a specific purpose both for learning and the game narrative.

The player/learner begins in the pre-brief where he/she hears an overview of the civilization’s problem from their CORD handler. The handler asks the player/learner to consider what they know about the tools needed to address the problem and makes suggestions for possible work in the training room. But ultimately the next step is up to the player/learner.

The player/learner either goes to the training room or straight to the mission. In the training room (TR) he/she chooses from various learning experiences (see PDF at the end of this section describing each training room learning experiences).

When the player/learner feels ready, he/she can choose to go on the mission.

After the mission is complete, the player/learner debriefs with the handler discussing the entire TR and mission experience. The handler then pre-briefs the player/learner on the next mission.

Choice -
One of the important parts of being an intentional learner is choice.  What do I choose to learn? How do I choose to learn it? In what setting do I choose to learn?

Opportunity for choice
  1. Do I know enough to go straight to the mission from the pre-brief? Or do I go to the Training Room and increase/improve my knowledge and skills?
  2. Which of these learning experiences helps me learn? And in what sequence? Should I stop one experience, go to another, and then come back to finish this one? What will I do differently as a result of that mistake? What notes should I record as reference for my mission?
  3. Am I ready to go on the mission? What tools should I take on the mission?
  4. How am I going to solve this problem? What do I do first? How do I recover from this mistake?
  5. Do I need to go back to the Training Room for a bit more learning? Should I restart this mission?
  6. Do I need to view a tutorial? Should I talk to my friend, who is ahead of me, about how to accomplish this mission?

Narrative -

Through narrative, the player/learner has modeled for them children doing science and participating with STEM professionals using the skills and habits of mind appropriate for that STEM area.
Opportunity for Narrative                                                  
1.  The Maggie, Mike, and Bunsen episodes found in the Training Room.
2.  The Maggie, Mike, and Bunsen digital books found in the Training room.
3.  The overall game narrative inviting the player/learner to become a solution designer in order to save civilizations in need.

Embedded Meta-Level Thinking -
Since choice is such a large part of life and gameplay it is ideal to help learners make aware and informed choices. Meta-level thinking is common with respect to behavior choices i.e. What did you just do to your brother? Why did you hit your brother? Do you know what triggered the emotion intense enough to hit your brother? How can you monitor that next time so that before you hit your brother, you stop yourself? Unfortunately most learners aren't taught to do this kind of thinking about their learning choices. Considering it is one of the most effective ways to increase learning, we've embedded into the narrative as a pre-brief and debrief.

Opportunity for Meta-level Thinking 

  1. During the pre-brief, the CORD handler asks the player/learner to consider what they already know about the possible tools (conceptual, physical, learning etc.) needed to try and solve the problem of the mission.
  2. After the mission, the player/learner must debrief with the CORD handler to update them on how the problem was solved. He/she is also asked to explain what they did  to solve the problem? What mistakes were made and what changes came from them? What did they learn from those mistakes for next time? What did they learn from the Training Room that was helpful in the mission? What learning experience did they learn that in? 

Failure Learning -

In our present educational culture, learners know “... it is better to be right than to make a mistake, especially in front of your peers.” Unfortunately, the greatest learning comes from making mistakes. Making mistakes and learning from them is part of game culture and a necessary part of learning. The Trailhead Blueprint therefore encourages mistakes to be made and shared in order to explain the learning to be gained by them.

Opportunity for Failure Learning -

  1. The biggest opportunity is in the freedom to be creative in the solution designs. The more creative the solution the more potential for a design that doesn't work.  Yet there is great learning potential through failure.
  2. The player/learner may may incur failure by choosing to go straight to the Mission without going to the Training Room first which may lead to mistakes in the mission.
  3. The player/learner may choose a learning experience in the Training room which they are not ready for. As they make mistakes they may decide to go to another experience and come back or restart.
  4. The player/learner may make mistakes in a number of the learning experiences in the Training Room.

Range of Experiences -
Having a range of experiences available to learners offers them different ways to interact with the ideas and tools. Thus each Training room includes learning experiences supporting the multiple intelligences, personality types, and learning styles.

Opportunity for Range of Experiences -
Any given Training room has a combination of the possible 9 kinds of learning experiences. More experiences are planned for development.

Literacy -
While literacy is about consuming texts (reading and making meaning) and producing texts (expressing one’s understanding), it is more importantly domain specific. In other words, the kinds of texts that an engineer interacts with are very different than the kinds of texts a painter or sales rep interacts with. Therefore it is important to situate reading and writing in specific worlds.

Opportunity for Literacy -
  1. Consumption - player reads/makes-meaning in stories (books, episodes), informational texts (penniepedia docs, videos, tutorials, short process animations), and graphics (charts, graphs, illustrations, diagrams).  
  2. Production - player expresses understanding in stories (create your own story), tutorials (create a tutorial for another player), graphics, and more.

Individualization -
No two learners learn at the same pace with the same learning experience in the same way.  A person’s individual areas of intelligence, learning style, disabilities, previous experience, prior knowledge, and emotional state all play a part in how a learner engages with ideas in a learning experience.  This makes planning for individualized learning paths for each student next to impossible. But with gaming principles and advanced IT design, the space can be flexible enough to allow for this.

Opportunity for Individualization -
  1. Choice - each choice the player makes individualizes the overall learning experience.
  2. Time - the flexibility in gameplay allows the player to have individual time needs met.
  3. Multiple Intelligence - each intelligence is represented in the training rooms offering the player the chance to leverage their natural intelligence to learn.
  4. Prior knowledge and previous experience - the player brings prior experience which may cause them to skip the training room, go straight to the mission, and complete it quickly.  This kind of flexibility with pace gives each player an individualized overall learning experience. 

Supports Special Needs -
Many of the supports our special needs learners need are reasonably simple. And in addition to those with diagnosed special needs, many other learners simply need freedom to restart or take more time. This kind of flexibility in a learning experience is next to impossible in a traditional classroom. However, in a learning space like ours these supports are part of the game space, some even built into the narrative, and no one but the player even knows they are being used. 

Opportunity for Support Special Needs -
  1. Deaf & Hard of Hearing - from the freedom to increase the volume, to turning on an ASL translator feature, the DHH player/learner can access this game space.  
  2. Visually Impaired - from the freedom to enlarge the viewing window to changing the contrast, the visually impaired player/learner can access this game space.
  3. Time - from taking as much time as needed to complete an experience to using currency to purchase more time in a mission, those learners who just need more time, have it.
  4. Repetition - since there is no penalty for restarting or repeating any learning experience, the learner has freedom to go back as many times as needed.

Parent / Educator Reports -
Presently the only progress report on a learner’s conceptual understanding and tool use is generated by the educator after multiple assessments. This puts the parent at a disadvantage since they rely on the educator’s timetable and measuring. This puts the educator at a disadvantage since they must design multiple assessments and collect all the data. This puts the learner at a disadvantage, because in a classroom with more than 5 other learners, the educator can only observe one learner at a time reducing the amount of data collection per learner.

An advantaced IT design can not only assess a player more often, it can collect and analyze the data instantaneously and generate a progress report for a parent or educator at any moment.

Opportunity for Parent / Educator Reports -
  1. After any amount of time engaged in gameplay, a progress report can be generated about the understanding of the player/learner.  
  2. Every unique player can have a parent and an educator attached to their membership in order to have access to their progress.
  3. Based on progress in the game, suggestions are made to the parent and educator about out-of-game activities that could support the weaknesses of the player/learner.

Our first project focuses on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) subjects for grades K-2.  Our long-term goal is to expand to projects that include both STEM and HEART (History, English, Art) content for grades K-8.  To do so with quality research and development, this will take us 10-12 years.

Come get to know our characters at

Our Progress

Follow our progress more specifically through our Blog. A handful of them are below.  The full blog is at
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