Digital Games Overlooked in Education?

“Life is more fun if you play games.”
― Roald Dahl, My Uncle Oswald

“Young learners today have the world at their fingertips in ways that were unimaginable just a generation ago.” (Ito et al, 2012). However, as is also pointed out in this paper – even though well supported learners are using social, interactive and online media to assist their learning there exists a “widening chasm between the progressive use of social media outside the classroom, and the no frills offerings of most public schools…” (Ito, 2012, p. 8).

I would like to suggest that these reflections are also applicable to the use of Games Based Learning in formal education – as another example of an interactive media that may have potential use in the education. My professional observations suggest a wide chasm between how secondary students of today communicate and interact socially with technology compared to how they currently use it in the classroom. I have taught in the secondary sector of education for over a decade – mostly in classrooms where students work on BYODs . Technology has flooded into these classrooms – but certainly not game based learning. Is this surprising since gaming is a digital literacy that many students have developed? Perhaps the influx of games into classrooms has not happened because teachers such as myself, feel ill-equipped about deploying games in our classrooms (Turkay, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes & Vicari, 2014).

John Seely Brown asks us to reflect on schools of the future by asking “What will schools, universities and research institutes look like in five years time?” (DML Research Hub, 2012) This question is followed by the bold statement “If they look the same as now, we got problems.” I often reflect professionally on these words as I sense that change in classroom pedagogies is imperative. However we need to acknowledge that reform in education is slow (Bekker, 2011) even though some educators are very willing to experiment with their practise. Such innovation is discussed by Jennings (2011) in the newspaper article Teachers re-evaluate value of video games. A reading of this publication would suggest that classrooms of the future will not look the same in five years time. A big question to ask is will they function the same? Will pedagogies be any different. Should the pedagogies be any different different? In the context of 21st Century education will we witness informed use of Game Based Learning?

While discussing Games Based Learning, Jennings show cases the work of Rebecca Martin at North Fitzroy Primary School and her active use of Minecraft in a formal educational setting. This is an exciting initiative but comes with a caveat that “schools still have a way to go before they can harness the full educational potential of video games.” Digital game technology is developing at a furious pace but relatively little scholarly work exists on the use of modern digital games for education (Becker, 2011). The lack of scholarly work need not suggest that games based learning has been overlooked but beginning readings for this subject hint at resistance to their introduction. Those working in education should not be surprised that a medium “as demanding of interaction as games should be met with resistance by those who have been entrained to sit quietly and pay attention” (Becker, 2011). Is this the only reason why the introduction of gbl into formal education has been slow?

I need to declare that on a professional level my current knowledge and understanding of game-based learning is limited. I have utilised Minecraft and other games in the classroom setting but not with any significant connections to curriculum. I enjoy the use of these games -as they can can be fun and very student centred – which is, I suspect, a good reason to bring any game into the classroom. Digital games support a positive and collaborative ethos in the classroom. Maybe this positive ethos that is created springs from the power of social groups -as mentioned by Turkay et al (2015). I also allow myself to join in with and learn from my students – which is in itself very professionally rewarding. Im my experience games have a strong ability to break down many class hierarchies. However, this unit of study is introducing myself and my study peers to serious games – those designed for purposes other than just entertainment including pure educational games (Becker, 2011). This, I need to know more about as I do not have a strong professional position on the use of game based learning in education.

As quoted by Jennings (2014) Daniel Donahoo states “the educational effects of video games are diverse and complex, and can be applied to assist learning in ways other tools – such as text books – can’t. Donahoo clarifies for us “It’s actually the culture and community that’s built around the games, and that’s what people don’t realise. Thus I am challenging myself to develop an understanding of the educational nuances and benefits of game based learning in a formal educational setting – and therefore empower myself further as a 21st Century educator capable of supporting participatory pedagogies.

Please gift me with your thoughts by leaving a comment.

References:-

Becker, K. (2011). Distinctions between games and learning: A review of current literature on games in education. In Gaming and Simulations: Concepts, Methodologies, Tools and Applications (pp. 75-107). Hershey, PA

DMLResearchHub. (2012,Sept 18). The global one schoolhouse: John Seely Brown [Video file]. Retrieved from http://youtu.be/fiGabUBQEnM

Ito, M., Gutiérrez, K., Livingstone, S., Penuel, B., Rhodes, J., Salen, K., Schor, J., Sefton-Green, J. and Watkins, C. (2013) Connected learning: an agenda for research and design. Digital Media and Learning Research Hub, Irvine, CA, USA.

Jennings, J (2014) Teachers re-evaluate value of video games. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20141130-11jw0i.html

Turkay, S., Hoffman, D., Kinzer, C. K., Chantes, P., & Vicari, C. (2015). Toward understanding the potential of games for learning: Learning theory, game design characteristics, and situating video games in classrooms. Computers in the Schools, 31(1-2), 2–22.

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