How does Just Press Play connect to curriculum?
It doesn't, at least not explicitly. A core design principle for Just Press Play was to make the game entirely voluntary and outside of the curriculum. Nobody has to play to do well in their classes, and nobody can be required to participate. However, many of our achievements do reward activities that students are likely to engage in as part of a class, from creating a game to making a video to starting a blog. We also have achievements that reward the community as a whole when certain academic goals--like having 90% of our freshmen pass their introductory programming class--are met.
Are you concerned about using extrinsic rewards?
When we were designing Just Press Play, we thought a lot about motivation--we read Daniel Pink's Drive, Alfie Kohn's Punished by Rewards, and much of the research that both were based on. We spent a lot of time thinking about the issue of extrinsic vs intrinsic rewards. Our goal is for every achievement to be a representation of an activity that a player enjoyed and felt a sense accomplishment for having completed. If the only reward is the achievement itself, we've failed.
Will this be too expensive for most schools to create and run?
Yes and no. Building it from the ground up was expensive and time-consuming, and we couldn't have done it without the generous support of Microsoft Research Connections. But we're about done with the heavy lifting portion, and everything we're creating will eventually be made available under an open source license. Our long-term goal is to create an easy-to-install package that you can customize with your own content. That said, creating content requires a real commitment on the part of faculty and/or staff in your school. Achievements should be a reflection of the activities and accomplishments that your students value, and the process of creating a solid set of engaging achievements can be time-consuming. And keeping the game running requires ongoing care and feeding in the form of community management and communication with your players.
When will this be available for our school?
As soon as we have the funding to begin building the distributable version, we will. Our hope is to have that by the summer of 2013. The toolkit would include the software (which is built on a .NET platform), as well as a set of guidelines and best practices for installing, configuring, customizing, and creating content specific to your students. Once it's available, we'll announce it via our Facebook page, our Twitter feed, and our Think Play blog..