Game Based Learning – Game On!

I’m a gamer at heart. Have been since Dad bought home a brand new Apple Mac IIe sometime in the late 80’s. I played everything from Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, to Oregon Trail, to Lemmings, to the original Prince of Persia, and haven’t stopped since. After high-school I took a tumble into World of Warcraft and spent a good (read: very good) amount of time in Azeroth. I was in a serious raiding guild, even. I’ve since moved away from the MMORPG scene and am enjoying my PS4. I’ve just finished playing The Last of Us, which was a brilliant, captivating story and enjoy pwning n00bs via epic headshotz in Battlefield 4.

I’m also an educator, passionate about leveraging the affordances of the digital age for good learning.

Naturally then, I have come to this most recent paper in my Masters programme, “Game Based Learning”. Here is where my current thinking is at regarding gaming and education and it’s challenges and opportunities…

Games have the ability to be platforms for great learning or platforms for mindless consumption. I’m not saying that mindless consumption is a bad thing – I do it all the time, but only at home after a hard days work and when the 2 year old is asleep. School is for learning and challenging and growing the skills, knowledge, and dispositions people need for an increasingly digital future-world. Games are risky, perhaps, at school, because game-design is based on elements which immerse the gamer into the game world, keeping them wired in and playing. Educators need to be careful, critical, and judicious when selecting how to best use games for good, solid, helpful learning.

You can ham-fistedly, haphazardly introduce games into the classroom without considering their effect. Much like app selection, it’s important to choose games with a critical eye. Is this just fluffy, round the edges learning, or will the experience of the game truly bring about deeper understandings and authentic learning. Is the game a skill and drill game (which has it’s place) or a sandbox game? Games such as Minecraft and apps such as Explain Everything are powerful platforms where students can be flexing their creative muscles and producing innovative, personality-filled learning, for example.

But where might games fit? The technology is here, the will is here, but if we are mandated by the Government to be focusing heavily on reading, writing and maths, and being judged by the public and the Ministry on our reading, writing, and maths data in league tables and such, is there room for the judicious use of games? I certainly hope so, but can’t quite see how they might fit together just yet.

It’s my intention in this paper to find where the two may meet – gaming and traditional school stuff we have to do.

There is the other side of the coin here too – building the skills, knowledge, and mindset a programmer / creator of games requires. This is amazing, authentic learning, so rich in both skill development and dispositional development. To have students growing up understanding the world around them is created and create-able by themselves, not just there to be consumed, is powerful learning.

I’m also interested in this lingering notion that gaming is for socially-inept weirdos. I’ve felt it myself when explaining to people how I spent a few hours playing a certain game on the weekend. They don’t quite get it. The only people I can really talk with about gaming is my 7 – 11 year old students! What cultural, social pressures would gaming in a classroom face? Quite a hefty amount, I presume.

So that’s where my current thinking is at regarding gaming in education. A slight inch of sceptiscism which I’m finding odd considering my years and years of gaming experience, but mostly curiosity and interest and a true desire to find out how games could fit into the multitude of other competing considerations which swirl around schools. I’m really looking forward to exploring these challenging questions further.

Game on!

#INF536 Critical Reflection

The prompt for this blog post is a reflection on how my views, knowledge and understanding of the work of an education professional in digital environments has changed and/or developed. I think however, a lot of my most tangible learnings have not been in the digital realm at all – they have been on me, as a person, and in the physical world.

Here are some of the ways I’ve grown, my knowledge has grown, and my professional understandings have grown. It’s a highlights reel of my most key learnings from this course:

  • A rekindling of my creative confidence! Being creative is rarely that one off “lightbulb” moment, where you are struck with inspiration – you need to work hard to be creative (Gladwell, 2008; Dyson, 2011). Knowing that I didn’t need to get creative pursuits right, or perfect the first time really opened me up to just giving things a go and getting started. Creativity is an amorphous beast though, and takes many forms for many different people.

  • Bringing more ideas out into the real world – making them visual, moveable, actual items – frees them from a range of digital and mental constraints. Elements of thinking can be collected in a Project War Room, where the whole picture, rather than individual snippets can be seen (Kolko, 2010). Links can be made, and patterns can be found. Different organisations or sorting of the elements can occur (such as in a hexagonal thinking activity).

  • Growing a bias towards action (Kelley, 2012). Design is about turning ideas into action (Brown, 2009). I feel empowered now that I understand, and have had practise with, the process.

  • An affinity for collaboration. Much of creative culture, and the Design Thinking process, is enhanced when with, or around others (Siedel & Fixson, 2013). Connect with others, talk things through, share your ideas. But also, don’t be afraid to go it alone when you need to (Thornburg, 2001).

  • Welcoming feedback. Feedback is the gold dust of learning and improving (Hattie, 2013). Be open to feedback, get it early and often, and when giving feedback, make sure it is kind, specific, and helpful (Berger, 2003).

  • Keeping the ‘user’ at the centre. Teaching isn’t about you, it’s about the students. Co-design, and involving students at every stage in learning will lead to more meaningful outcomes. In contrast though, your role as a knowledgeable expert is no less important (Hatte, 2013).

  • Setting my eyes on the horizon. Let your big, audacious, Moonshot ideas out. Experimenting allows unexpected outcomes to emerge, rather than sticking with the same old status quo. Frame your thinking on what could be possible; don’t be daunted by the blocks in the way. At the same time, don’t be afraid to start small (Doorley & Whithoft, 2012).

  • Knowing space is a powerful change agent. It communicates the kinds of relationships you value (Kelley, 2012) and facilitates the kinds of learning experiences – collaborative, creative, flexible, real-life, feedback-laden that are the pillars of effective learning (Claxton, 2009; Hattie, 2013).

In reflection, this is probably the first time over my whole academic career that a paper or course I’ve taken has been so shifting. Mostly, in my experience, papers throughout University are the ‘regurgitate in your own words’ style of showing your learning. Actual, brain-chomping learning however, comes from tackling weighty issues, not pseudo ones (Claxton, 2009). It involves those intense moments of confusion and chaos when everything seems to be too much and you can’t see light at the end of the tunnel. But then you stop, you reflect, you start making connections and finding patterns and a glimmer of hope appears. The sense of accomplishment, at knowing you’ve waded into complexity and turned up on the other side is very fulfilling. And there is NO way this isn’t good learning. And that is one of my central takeaways from Designing Spaces For Learning – the power of this kind of learning process. It’s hard, it’s exhausting, but so much learning comes from the struggle.



Berger, R. (2003). An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. Heinemann, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc., 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. HarperBusiness

Claxton, G. (2009). What’s the point of school?: Rediscovering the heart of education. Oneworld Publications.

Doorley, S. & Whithoft, S. (2012). Make space: How to set the stage for creative collaboration. John Wiley & Sons.

Dyson, J. (2011, August 4). No innovator’s dilemma here: in praise of failure. Retrieved from:

Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The story of success. Penguin UK.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge.

Kelley, D. (2012). IDEO Founder David Kelley: Bias Toward Action. Retrieved 12th October, 2014 from

Kolko, J. (2010). Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis. Design Issues, 26(1), 15-28.

Seidel, V., & Fixson, S. (2013). Adopting design thinking in novice multidisciplinary teams: The application and limits of design methods and reflexive practices. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 30, 19–33.

Thornburg, D. D. (2001). Campfires in Cyberspace: Primordial Metaphors for Learning in the 21st Century. Ed at a Distance, 15(6), n6.

A Critical Reflection ( / Taking the Red Pill)

Please forgive the overplayed movie reference, but #INF530, for me, was like stepping into “The Matrix”. Perhaps I should say stepping out of “The Matrix” – the computer simulated world humans live a half-life in, and into the “real” world. What I’m trying to get at is that I’ve been floating through life, even as an educator and tech-guy, without knowing what’s really going on. #INF530 has opened my eyes to the undercurrents of technology, knowledge, and information which flows around us, shapes our understandings and pulls us into the future. In taking this Masters program, I chose the red pill; I want to see how far the rabbit hole goes. – Paul L Dineen – CC BY 2.0

I can honestly say I’ve developed both as a professional and as a person in taking #INF530. Both are intertwined, sure, but it’s not very often you can say that a professional development course or the like affected you at a deeper level. I’ll get to that later. As a teacher and an IT leader though, I’ve developed knowledge which has had an immediate implication on my practice.

Probably the most hard-hitting was a realisation half-way through #INF530 (Reflective Blog Post 3) that I was using:

“what I thought was smart use of Web 2.0 software, a bit of blogging and wiki-learning. It turns out though, I’m probably just engaging students in “low level” learning experiences”

And that was quite a tough pill to swallow. It was also though, a platform. A starting point. An ideal to chase. I’m now much more focused on providing learning experiences which enable connections to occur, for creativity to flourish, and for passions to be followed. It’s up to ME to embody the change that schools need to take, and I’m taking responsibility to do just that.

So I’ve learned a lot ~

Theories of knowledge flow (From Reflective Blog Post 2, on Connectivisim)

“It is a learning theory for the digital age – one which acknowledges we live in a world of multiplicity. Individuals and communities are nodes of knowledge, scattered about, complicatedly connected”

Concepts of linked data, the semantic web, and meta-data (From Reflective Blog Post 4)

“Berners Lee claims there is a latent, largely untapped potential of the world wide web to link data sets and information together. It’s also called ‘the semantic web’ – a “common framework that allows data to be shared and reused across application, enterprise, and community boundaries.”

But what I’ve really found to be a development for me, was working in the participatory nature of #INF530. It was amazing to see how quickly people bonded and started talking. We had a shared passion and a shared goal, and were “all in it together”. It was an interesting feeling for someone like myself who is usually quite blasé and “too cool” when it comes to group endeavours. I immediately felt this one was different. And I’m not going to sit here and say it was always easy – I ooh’d and ahh’d a number of times over making comments, posting, and asking questions. I battled with some inner self saying – “what have you got to share?”, “who cares what you think?”, “they already know that!”. But I came to realise (while not always comfortable) putting your ideas out there and connecting with others is vitally important. Setting your ideas free, no matter how silly you think they are, can always lead to other ripples in the pond down the line. It’s altruistic. It benefits society.

So thanks, #INF530. You’ve not only given me oodles of new knowledge and aspirations and ideas to put into place in my classroom, but also an increased propensity to share, connect and collaborate. And that, is a great thing. It was tough getting back into study (time-management wise) but I’m very glad I did, and am looking forward to the next few years and developing even more.

Digital Essay Proposal

My proposal is a focus on changing notions of the author in a participatory world (as exemplified by Wikipedia) and the implications of this on curriculum design, in particular, writing.

Here is a potential structure:

Part One:

Detailing the rise of a participatory culture as exemplified by the rise Wikipedia. Vector knowledge, knowledge networks (Connectivisim) connecting to create this mesh of information and knowledge – theory illustrated with examples from Wikipedia.

Part Two:

What this means for notions of “the author”, the nature of information, truth, facts, expertise, authority.

Part Three:

Why examples like Wikipedia often get “bad press” – the critiques and concerns of this change in the notion of the author.

Part Four:

What skills / knowledge / fluencies are needed to thrive in this participatory world (information fluency frameworks etc), and how curriculum design goals might be met to assist students to gain competencies in working in this participatory world.


I’m planning on creating a Google Site as the tool with which to submit this essay. It will be a traditional essay but extended with video, audio, images and hyperlinking. I can create navigation headers at the top of the essay, so readers could skip to which ever parts interested them, or see just the media components etc.

After the essay is submitted and returned, I’ll keep this live. My plan is to “walk the talk” and hopefully open the project up for commenting, editing, and extending (this is possible in a Google Site). Hopefully it could become a great resource of ideas for writing (and other) activities in a participatory world.

In terms of the subject material, the Carrington reading in the course content greatly interested me, it links very well with a professional inquiry we are on at my own school into writing, and I have identified that this is a gap in my own understandings and practices I would like to rectify. Providing learning experiences for my students which prepare them for life in this participatory, networked world is getting really important for me!

Feedback and guidance would be greatly appreciated 😀

Some Recent Reflections

Blog Task 3: Visit three of the blogs of this subject cohort. Browse through the blogs and choose at least one post to leave a considered reflective comment about content, or ideas, or thinking that might have been stimulated by reading the post.


I’m slowly working my way through “Module 3: Knowledge Networks”. It’s slow going because I’m really really into it. I’m following links to links to other links and getting washed down a rabbit hole of information. What makes this information meaningful for me is that what I’m learning is shining a stark spotlight on my current practice. I was reasonably confident that I was designing learning experiences which hit on 21st Century skills and competencies. I peppered in what I thought was smart use of Web 2.0 software, a bit of blogging and wiki-learning. It turns out though, I’m probably just engaging students in “low level” learning experiences – a realisation both sweet and sour. I’ve not been utilising these tools to their potential – but now that I can see their potential, backed with the knowledge I’ve been acquiring through the modules and I’m excited about what learning experiences I can design and where my students will take their own learning for the upcoming term.

So with that in mind, I read Margaret Simkin’s recent Module 3.1 Reflection.

Margaret highlights that:

  • Educators should “realize the importance of curriculum design consciously based around C21st skills and objectives

The “consciously” part of this sentence struck me, and linked with some of the other interesting tidbits I ran into while exploring through the course content:

  • The Conole reading, in particular the ‘Mapping of Web 2.0 tools to different pedagogical approaches’ section.
  • An article I read on DML Central about Alan Levine – his title not an Instructional Technologist but a Pedagogical Technologist, reflecting his role as an “architect of open, connected learning systems that enable students to take power over and responsibility for (and joy in!) their own learning.
  • Another point Margaret emphasises, student’s “apparent facility with computers disguises some worrying problems” … “Digital literacies and information literacies do not go hand in hand
  • The  useful ‘information fluency’ resources and frameworks, such as the ISTE Nets
  • Joyce Valenza’s inspirational Ted Talk about the importance of transliteracy and the evolving learner.
  • The Carrington reading which asks – are we teaching students to thrive in a fluid, wiki world, or actually in a world of stable ‘print’ knowledge (and then that wikis are a great place to start for scaffolding, modelling, into this participatory world)
  • The OER resources, and the learning design tool CompendiumLD Margaret linked.

So, these and other core points have coalesced into certain personal understandings:

Connecting, participating, and openness is of central importance. But it’s not a skill students have innately – no matter how it may seem sometimes – therefore students need to be scaffolded, guided and modelled. Every student is different, so they will all need different levels scaffolding – knowing your students is key. Web 2.0 tools are an effective platform with which to enact these experiences of participating and connecting. Learning within these environments, coupled with a ‘conscious’ attention to the right learning activities, trigger the key skills, attributes and behaviours we know of as “information literacy”.

So I guess if you’re doing all that, you’re will on your way to becoming a “pedagogical technologist”!

Some questions at this stage though:

  • In what ways can blends be formed between information literacy and traditional literacy? This is important as in NZ we are mandated to report on achievement towards literacy standards twice yearly.
  • A further investigation into open and accessible planning
  • How this fits in with a holistic, inquiry based approach to education (I’m sure it does very well, I just want to think about this a bit more)
  • As Margaret says, how to “get others on board”.


Thank you to Margaret Simkin for stimulating many of these ideas!

My Current Understanding

Blog Task 1: Using your readings and interaction with the subject to date, develop a statement about your current knowledge and understanding of concepts and practices in a digital age within the context of your work or professional circumstances. What is the context of your learning? What are your personal aims in this subject? What challenges are your hoping to meet for yourself?

New media tools and frameworks have facilitated the rapid expansion of participatory, collaborative learning opportunities. I say expansion rather than generation because humans have always learned from one another throughout history. The New Zealand curriculum states “facilitating shared learning” as a valid, effective pedagogy. It’s just that in our current times, more than ever, we have the tools and infrastructure to enable these kinds of interactions to a previously unavailable extent.

The web allows people to come together in communities of like minded individuals, communicate with one another – work, play, and think together. The world has become more open. Content and data which was previously holed up in libraries or labs can now be accessed, commented on, and developed further. The world’s history is in the process of being digitised, catalogued and made searchable.

These nodes of knowledge are being connected together like synapses in the brain to other nodes; both real people (amateurs, experts, communities) and other pieces of data. Connections between previously unconnected nodes create new avenues of thinking, help solve problems and drive further questioning.

This availability of knowledge however, is challenging the traditional definitions of “teacher” and “student”. It begs the question – if all of the knowledge I’ll ever possibly need is a Google away, why do I need to be taught things from a teacher? Does the role of “teacher as expert” still exist?

This is one of my personal aims in this course – to explore what it means to be a teacher in these times of enormous change; the interplay between new forms of learning possible and the core skills needed to be taught to enable effective participation with them. As a primary school teacher responsible for laying foundational skills and knowledge to students aged 6 to 11, as well as growing their capability to live well in the future, this is of high personal interest.


So while without a doubt, some core sets of skills and knowledge remain central to our ability to learn and participate effectively, what Thomas and Seely Brown (2011) call our “new culture of learning” challenges our traditional emphasis on certain literacies. It calls upon a new model of competencies. It revises the toolbox of skills students need to actively participate in the world of the future.

One of the competencies key to success in the future is the ability to adapt to rapid change. As people living in these times, how well are we dealing with this shift?

This is the sharp end of the spear as I see it. Change, in practice, comes slowly to education – how can we speed it up? How can we move from isolated pockets of teachers and innovative schools trialling, thinking and doing, to a more mainstream application and understanding of 21st century learning? How can we get parents and community stakeholders understanding what it means to teach and learn in our connected, networked now?

These are some of the challenging questions I hope to investigate as I move through this course, and why I’ve decided to choose “Digital Leadership” by Eric Sheninger as the focus of my book review.

I’m looking forward to the journey ahead, in particular “walking the talk” – being actively engaged and participating in our community of learners.



How Humans Learn Best. Retrieved from

Thomas, D., & Brown, J. S. (2011). A new culture of learning. Cultivating the imagination for a world of constant change. Educause: Berkley, Thomas D & Brown J, Souellis Studio.

TKI: Effective Pedagogy. Retrieved from