Are digital games being overlooked in ‘digital education’ reform? Read: Teachers re-evaluate value of video games, Sydney Morning Herald, Nov, 2014

Using this article as a springboard, and your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of game-based learning. As games and gaming appear to have arrived on the educational-technology agenda, how do you see them fitting into your practice? What is the context of your learning? What are your personal aims in this subject?ges What challenare you hoping to meet for yourself?

Anyone who makes a distinction between games and learning doesn’t know the first thing about either. —Marshall McLuhan

I am still reeling with all the information that I have been absorbing about game based learning in the past week or so. Game-based learning (GBL) encompasses multiple game formats across society. Becker declares that “a clear understanding of what is meant by educational game is crucial to effective communication” (2010, p.29). I am still working toward achieving that clear understanding. As the Sydney Morning Herald article comments, GBL allows for assessment of the 21st century learning skills of collaboration, organisation, technology, communication, creativity and design.  It provides for engagement, motivation and learning in meaningful and authentic contexts.

As for the provocation, yes, I believe digital games are being overlooked in ‘digital education’ reform – though this may need qualifying/quantifying. There has been an up-swell in game based learning in the corporate and NGO world with Serious Games and Simulation games; and the explosion of massively mulit-player online (social) world with games like Minecraft, World of War Craft et al for recreational purposes. As Becker (2010, p.32) stated too:

“Although it may sound like an exaggeration, the rapid evolution of the field means that most works published in game studies and game technology areas prior to 2000 are no longer useful.”

Change in the field is happening so fast, that schools are being left behind. Yes educational games are being used in schools. But the constraints of traditional and conservative educational institutional structures are  hindering ‘digital education’ reform. It was interesting to read the article “The politics of gaming in schools: a sociocultural perspective from Western Australia” (Bate, MacNish & Males, 2014). It acknowledged in practice, my own experiences and concerns regarding how schools are going to ‘move forward’ when so stymied by the continuation of the current educational system. That is, the importance of examinations such as NAPLAN in Australia (and all the marketing hype that is associated with them).

Foremost, the issues of ‘safety’  “in ensuring that students are provided with a safe and secure online environment in which to engage in on-task, curriculum-related learning” (Bate et al, 2014, p. 308) and containing intellectual property behind ‘high walls’ is still ongoing for many educational institutions. As a result, I think a large percentage of games are  firstly, the marketed ‘skills based’ games focusing on ‘low cognitive levels’ than use of serious games and simulation games which move students forward to a more analytical and reflective level. Interestingly, teachers see these low level games as ‘ticking the box’ for meeting digital education reform. Certainly, they have a place in the curriculum but hopefully teachers will not be restricted to using only these forms of games. As Dr Catherine Beavis was quoted in the article: “We know games can be highly motivating. We know the ways they are organised can lead to deeper factual and conceptual understanding, but we need to find ways to use them that are consistent with the ways teachers teach.”

At my current school there is a “Minecraft CCA” which is offered to the upper elementary students. But, the next step of including it as part of the curriculum and student learning is not happening. Many teachers are not “prepared to take the ‘leap of faith’ required to pass over the locus of control to students so that they can explore, create and problem-solve in digital gaming environments.” (Bate, et al, 2014, p.317)

There is also the issue of equality of technology access  across many schools, and even maintaining it.  At my previous school ipads were slowly being introduced across the school, 1:1 laptops for year 6 classes, and 1 computer lab; and teachers were still struggling with technological issues of even accessing the wifi and technology ‘working’ on a daily basis and this school was in a high socio-economic area. Bate, MacNish & Males (p.308) references Baek (2008) who “identified six factors: inflexibility of the curriculum[1], negative effects of gaming, students’ lack of readiness, lack of supporting materials, fixed  class schedules and limited budgets”.

Still, there are schools who are embracing change, and digital games are part of that. There  is amazing game based learning happening in educational institutions around the globe (Ref CSU INF541 Module 1): video Katie Salen; and the article SMH referencing Nth Fitzroy Primary School) based on my readings to date.  I feel I am very much generalising here. I do need to follow up with more research about what is being achieved (see personal aim & challenge #3).

Fitting into my practice: As a specialist teacher librarian my focus is to work collaboratively with teachers to develop information fluency/meta-literacy skills with the students. Perhaps I can start with incorporating a ‘gaming philosophy’ into my sessions? It is very early days.

Context of my learning:  I am an upper elementary (years 3 – 5) teacher librarian at an international school which has a 1:1 ipad program, so I am interested in this upper elementary/middle school game based learning.

Personal aims and Challenges I am hoping to meet for myself: I see three aims

  1. To become personally familiar with an online multiplayer digital game – a challenge considering the time restrictions of full time work and study.
  2. To incorporate digital game elements into my work with the Year 5 class cohort this year. I think the challenge with this is to ensure that there are clear learning objectives that will see an alignment of curriculum and digital game based learning (Ref: Futurelab – Scotland schools report). I am wondering if Kahoot may provide this.
  3. To become more familiar with what is happening in schools globally. The what, how, why of digital games that are successfully being implemented into school especially upper elementary/middle school level.

References: 

Bate, F., MacNish, J.,  & Males, S. (2014) The politics of gaming in schools: a sociocultural perspective from Western Australia, Learning, Media and Technology, 39:3, 306-327, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2013.872655

Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions between games and learning: A review of current literature on games in education. InGaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 75-107). Hershey, PA: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

Elliott, D. (2014). Levelling the playing field: Engaging disadvantaged students through game-based pedagogy. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 22(2), 34-40.

Millians, D. (1999). Thirty years and more of simulations and games. Simulation & Gaming, 30(3), 352–355

Teachers re-evaluate value of video games. (n.d.). Retrieved January 8, 2015, fromhttp://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20151130-11jw0i.html

[1] “Expending time and energy to implement a complex game in an already crowded curriculum was perceived by teachers as a risky strategy.” (Bate, MacNish & Males, 2014, p. 321)

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