Major Post One: Game-Based Learning

Who knew that during the time I spent playing video games and computer games when I was younger, I was actually learning? Obviously not my mother!

Accepting the learning potential of digital games has been a challenging discourse for me. An idea that I have had to completely realign and reconstruct, thanks to the endless arguments I had with my mother during my childhood. “Games are a waste of time!” she would say. However, could it be that the ‘waste of time’ turned out to be the argument itself? Game-based learning is becoming a significant learning task in many school classrooms today. It is important for all educators alike, to embrace this change and look towards the possibilities of the future.

Phan (2011)

Playing computer games has become a phenomenon worldwide. No longer is it solely an activity for the ‘nerdy’ male teenager, instead Williamson (2009) has found that 97% of 12-17 year old teens from the United States of America have made it a habit. Similar findings from the United Kingdom show 55% of males and 45% of females are active gamers. This is a direct result of the media culture that children today are growing up in. As Buckingham (2007) suggests, children spend more time interacting with media than participating in any other single activity, apart from sleeping. Children are natively attuned to intertwining speed, excitement, words, pictures, sound and film to acquire and construct information (Williamson, 2009). Therefore a traditional classroom which highlights the slow, uncolourful and out-dated mono features of yesterday, is not only irrelevant for the students of today, but is widening the technological gap between school and home environments significantly (Buckingham, 2007; Williamson, 2009). Recent Research from Buckingham (2007), Beavis and O’Mara (2010), Prensky (2006) and Resnick (2008) all suggests that incorporating digital games within the classroom environment is a powerful and dynamic paradigm which could not only close this technological divide, but offer the students of today with real educational benefits, instead of resistance.

“When young people play video games they do so as embodied subjects whose identities are shaped by the cultures in which they are situated, the circumstances of their lived experience, and the particularities of their dispositions, abilities and interests.” (Bradford, 2010)

Research by Williamson (2009) outlines four educational benefits of incorporating game-based learning into the classroom environment.

  1. Games are pervasiveThey influence people’s thinking and shape the way people act in the world. This is a result of the routines, rules and actions that are required to be successful in playing the game.
  2. Games support the construction of knowledge – They invite people to be active, not passive recipients. As active users, people will be encouraged to try out new ideas, make decisions, communicate with others and make meaning of new worlds.
  3. Games are authentic practicesThey encourage individuals to use problem-solving skills, make decisions, take risks and experience failure within environments which are safe and familiar. It is suggested that game designers usually create games that gradually build up the complexity of these skills throughout the process of play and invite individuals to practice skills constantly.
  4. Gaming can promote media literacyVideo games can support the learning and understanding of media as well as reasons behind how, why and for whom it was produced.

Each of these are 21st century skills which we, as educators, need to ensure students, as well as ourselves are mastering in our classrooms. We do not know where our world is going, or how it is going to change in the next ten years but as Prensky (2006) believes, digital games “offer up the most realistic vision of how everyone, young or old, will be learning and working in the decades to come.” Bringing gaming into our classrooms will ensure that students our students are active participants both within and outside of the school environment in the 21st century.

Throughout my research however, I have come across many theorists suggesting that educators should be taking this game-based learning one step further and encouraging students to design their own digital computer games in the classroom. Gershenfeld (2011) suggests game making is a rich, authentic task which requires a complex set of higher-order skills and links directly to the Critical and Creative Thinking general capability dictated by the Australian Curriculum. By designing characters, game rules, dialogue and visual design; students are expected to inquire, explore and develop questions relevant to their digital content (Resnick, 2008). This encourages the development of peer collaboration linked to the ability to process information, look at options, possibilities and alternatives. Problem solving is also an essential skill to game making as students work on logic with cause and effect in the design of a game as well as next step creative solutions (Dalal, 2011).

Betcher (2010)

Scratch is one game making software increasingly evident in schools. Scratch is a visual programming language which enables easy creation and sharing of digital interactive media (Scratch, 2012). Through exploration and experimentation with this software, children learn to snap together graphical puzzle pieces to create video games, interactive stories, animations and music (Resnick, 2007). These projects can be shared online through various communities and galleries on the Scratch website (Monroy-Hernandez & Resnick, 2008). From engaging in Scratch, young people can learn important mathematical and computational skills but also develop 21st century skills including, creative thinking, systematic reasoning, critical analysing and collaborating (Resnick, 2008). Beavis and O’Mara (2010) confirm this thinking, and suggest Game Maker is another piece of software with similar educational benefits. This platform of learning encourages young people to shift from passive media consumers to active media producers and ultimately gives them the power to control content of the online world and successfully join the participatory culture of today’s society, more fully than if they were just playing the game (Monroy-Hernandez, 2009).

Click to find out how Scratch can develop Critical and Creative Thinking in Children.

Although the prospect of incorporating game-based learning into all classrooms sounds exciting, there are important issues and implications that need to be considered before this can logistically become ‘best practice.’ These may  include; preparation time, licensing issues, lacking IT support in schools, inadequate classroom space, expense of software, lacking relevance to curriculum, inappropriate content and difficulty catering for all abilities in the classroom (Williamson, 2009). Apperley and Beavis (2011) also suggest that teacher competency and lack of appropriate professional development could also act as a setback for some schools that will need to be addressed.

As our world continues to change, the powerfully interactive nature of these new texts will need to continue to gain prominence in education, if we are to minimise this new digital divide between home and school. What I have come to realise is that we do need to reformulate the school curriculum, but this does not mean abandoning traditional literacies altogether (Beach & O’Brien, 2008). Incorporating computer and video games into the classroom environment will draw on the basis of these traditional literacies but position students in a world of 21st century learning. As educators we need to remain open minded to these possibilities, as they will socially position learning and encourage individuals to use their imagination to make sense of the rapidly changing world around us (Thomas and Brown, 2011).

 

References

Apperley, T., & Beavis, C. (2011). Literacy into action: Digital games as action and text in English and literacy classroom. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 6(2), 130-143. doi: 10.1080/1554480X.2011.554620

Beach, R., & O’Brien, D. (2008). Teaching popular-culture texts in the classroom. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel & C. Lankshear (Eds.), Handbook of Research on New Literacies (pp.775-804). London: Routledge.

Beavis, C., & O’Mara, J. (2010). Computer games – pushing at the boundaries of literacy. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 33(1), 65-76. Retrieved from http://www.alea.edu.au/resources/AJLL

Betcher, C. (2010). Teaching kids to think using Scratch [Image]. Retrieved October 24, 2012, from http://chrisbetcher.com/2010/10/teaching-kids-to-think-using-scratch/

Bradford, C. (2010). Looking for my corpse: Video games and player positioning. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 33(1), 54-64. Retrieved from http://www.alea.edu.au/resources/AJLL

Buckingham, D. (2007). Beyond Technology. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Dalal, N. P. (2011). Using educational technologies to further critical thinking, creative thinking, and wisdom. Paper presented at 2011 IEEE International Conference on Technology for Education. doi: 10.1109/T4E.2011.64

Gershenfeld, A. (2011). Levelling up from player to designer. Knowledge Quest, 40(1), 55-59. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/aasl/knowledge-quest

Monroy-Hernandez, A. (2009, March). Designing a website for creative learning. Paper presented at WebSci’ 09: Society Online. Retrieved from http://jounral.webscience.org/253/1/websci09_submission_161.pdf

Monroy-Hernandez, A., & Resnick, M. (2008, March-April). Empowering kids to create and share programmable media. Interactions. doi: 10.1145/1340974

Phan, J. (2011). Marathon gaming session has fatal consequences [Image]. Retrieved October 23, 2012, from http://www.sync-blog.com/sync/2011/08/marathon-gaming-session-has-fatal-consequence.html

Prensky, M. (2006). Don’t bother me Mom, I’m learning!: How computer and video games are preparing your kids for twenty-first century success and how you can help! St Paul, Minn: Paragon House.

Resnick, M. (2007). All I really know (about creative thinking) I learned (by studying how children learn) in kindergarten. Paper presented at 6th ACM SIGCHI Conference on Creativity and Cognition. Retrieved from http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/kindergarten-learning-approach.pdf

Resnick, M. (2008, December/January). Sowing the seeds for a more creative society. Learning and Leading with Technology. Retrieved from http://web.media.mit.edu/~mres/papers/Learning-Leading-final.pdf

Scratch. (2012). Scratch: Imagine, Program, Share. Retrieved from http://scratch.mit.edu/

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning: Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Lexington, KY: Douglas Thomas & John Seely Brown.

Williamson, B. (2009), Computer games, schools and young people: A report for educators on using games for learning. Retrieved from http://archive.futurelab.org.uk/resources/documents/project_reports/becta/Games_and_Learning_educators_report.pdf