INF541: Module 1, Introduction (Part 1)

Starting this module, I’m wondering if this is going to be all about video/electronic games, because if it is, there is a missed opportunity.  There is so much that can be learned from board games and other tabletop games that I think it would be remiss to forget them.

I love that the artistry involved in games is highlighted straight up.  While this brief video focuses on visual artistry, I wanted to link to The Game Show on ABC Classic where each week they broadcast music from video games.

1.1 Why Use Games?

John Locke is cited early on in this module and… well he has some interesting things to say but he’s not the theorist I would be going to for robust educational theory.  Electronic gaming in the sense that it’s talking about sounds like it would work well in a flipped classroom.

What are the challenges you are aware of for playing games in your classroom?

What are the behaviors you want to encourage and discourage?

Playing electronic games in the classroom can be motivating and engaging, however it presents many challenges, not least of which is having adequate access to the technology to use the game in the classroom. It also heightens inequities in students who have home access to technology and gaming platforms as these students are likely to perform well in tasks.  Other challenges depend on the way the game or platform is set up.  For example, StudyLadder is often used by schools for homework tasks and students can earn in-game coins to customise a bedroom and a cubby house (and so on), but crafty students learn very quickly that they can play easy games to earn those coins quickly, and don’t necessarily learn the skill that they are supposed to be practising, they just learn how to beat the game.

Games In Space (Smith, 2015) is making me feel a bit nostalgic.  While not used for games, my father used to work with computers the size of a small room, with reel to reel tape, back in the 1980s. Also, my brother-in-law is in the video games industry, having worked on multi-console games like LA Noir, and more recently apps such as Lifty and Chicken Pox.  My husband is also a bit of a gamer, and we have a Wii U and a Nintendo Switch at home, on top of laptops, an iPad and smartphones.  He’s also developed a simple game app (in a foreign language) for the iPhone.  My brothers are pretty into games as well, with multiple consoles each, starting with Game Boys in the late 90s.  My earliest memory of computer games was Dad bringing home a Commodore 64 when I was 3 years old, and it had a simple game where I had to find and press the letters of the alphabet on the keyboard.  I also remember the simple two-screen handheld games – one of the boys in my Kindergarten class had Donkey Kong on one of these consoles.

A Commodore 64
Photo by Flickr user Shane doucette Licensed under CC licence CC BY SA

The article about teachers using video games in the classroom (Jennings, 2014) was interesting although I feel like this section could have been improved with some more recent links to studies on video games and violence (to counter the article’s final comment), such as Przybylski & Weinstein (2019).  In the same manner, the 2018 Digital Australia report could have been linked to instead of the 2016 report in the module.

The most helpful part of the first academic article we’ve had (Turkey, Hoffman, Kinzer, Chantes & Vicari, 2015) was the questions at the bottom, for evaluating games for classroom use, and one which I am sure I’ll refer back to over the course of this subject.

1.2 What is a game?

Oh the irony of an article saying that older works on games and digital gaming can’t be considered because the industry and technology changes so quickly (Becker, 2011), and yet we are assigned it eight years later as a reading.  This article brings to mind Belshaw’s (2014) chapter on ambiguity.  In the end, games are something that are played, and the players know they are playing a game.  Yes, there are other parameters that can be useful to put in place (it has rules etc) but we are never going to satisfactorily pin down such an abstract concept.  Further on in this article it refers to Prensky as a major figure in championing games for learning then boasts that he is the person who created the term “digital natives”, which is often derided.  Not exactly a claim to fame in my book.

What is your personal game history? How do you feel about using different types of games in your classroom or organisation context? Which games are you going to explore (from the recommended games, or choose your own).

I’ve mentioned some of my personal computing and game history above.  In previous posts I’ve also mentioned some rudimentary game design and development I did years ago, using a program called Adrift.  Currently, I do play some smartphone games (mostly match-3 style games and electronic versions of tabletop games) but most of my game play is board and other tabletop games.  I love to use games in the classroom although I don’t use electronic games, especially since I am only working as a casual teacher and you never know what sort of technology is going to be available in any given school.  I do play physical (sport) games, table games and other sorts of games with students where possible.

Kapp (2012) has a different definition of gamification than one I have seen before and I wonder if that is going to become an issue, trying to use a word in a way that is different to the way that it is commonly used.

How will you communicate to colleagues, parents and students what you mean by game-based learning? Write a short statement that outlines your own approach to game-based learning which sets out your approach using key words and phrases which help focus the reader on your use of games in learning.

As an early childhood teacher, I understand the importance of play.  Play is essential to early learning and skills development but people of all ages can benefit from learning through play.  Play enhances pleasure which increases motivation and engagement.  It can remove the anxiety about learning that struggling students can have and it can foster a sense of community and cooperation.  I believe that all types of games – physical, tabletop, electronic and other – have their place in education, but not all games are suitable for all students in all situations.

https://cdn.nmc.org/media/2017-nmc-cosn-horizon-report-k12-EN.pdf

Make a forum post (or add to a thread about the same game someone started) about a game which you have enjoyed in the past, or perhaps the one you love to play now.

  • What features of games stand out for you?
  • Are there aspects of this game you’d consider to be educational?
  • What games have you tried in the classroom – what was the result?
  • What games would you like to try?

Honestly, the electronic games I play these days are mindless drivel.  I learn to quickly recognise patterns in the game but it only helps me be better at the game, not learn anything useful that’s applicable to the real world – something that has has been proven in scientific studies (Hambrick, 2014).  I play Gardenscapes and Homescapes, both are match-3 games.  I have used Zombies Run 5K (not the same game in the reading, this one is a prequel and a run-walk program), and I currently use Plant Nanny.  Plant Nanny is an example of the more crude “points and badges” type of gamification, but it works.  I drink water in real life and through the app I virtually water a plant.  If I don’t drink enough it wilts and will eventually die.  I don’t feel like this game is at all educational but it is motivating because I hate to see a sad plant in the app.  I don’t use electronic games in the classroom because, as a casual teacher, I don’t have consistent, reliable access to technology, nor do I regularly teach the same class so the benefit to students would be minimal as they would need time to learn the game before they learned the content.

 

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: . doi:10.4018/978-1-60960-195-9.ch105

Belshaw, D. (2014). The essential elements of digital literacies. Retrieved from <http://digitalliteraci.es>

Big Think (2011, July 5) Playing games in the classroom (video file). Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/

Hambrick, D.Z. (2014, Dec 2)  Brain training doesn’t make you smarter. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/

Jennings, J. (2014, November 25) Teachers re-evaluate value of video games. Retrieved from http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/teachers-reevaluate-value-of-video-games-20151130-11jw0i.html 

Kapp, K. M. (2012). The gamification of learning and instruction: game-based methods and strategies for training and education. John Wiley & Sons.

Przybylski, A. K., & Weinstein, N. (2019). Violent video game engagement is not associated with adolescents’ aggressive behaviour: evidence from a registered report. Royal Society Open Science, 6(2), 171474.

Smith, A. (Producer) (2015, January 3) Games in space (audio file). Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/

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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