Connected Pro-D


Game Building and Playing In Education

Posted in ECI 831 by tchcruiser on November 11, 2009
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Flip-Flop Hop-Scotch

Originally uploaded by seebeew

I like what this picture says about games and education – namely, that kids want the play the games they build and make and find them more interesting than any built for them. Many children find the pots and pans in the bottom cupboard far more interesting than the expensive manufactured toys their parents bought for them. I think it might be because they have to experiment and make their own connections, conclusions and adaptations to the new objects and it is the unknowing and experimenting that is the fun part of the process.

Sylvia Martinez presented to our class a few weeks ago about gaming in education and suggested some reasons why it is ok to be critical and skeptical about using computer games in schools. Essentially, it is not the best use of resources if students are brought together in groups, only to be isolated at individual computers to essentially do drill and practice activities under the guise of it being a game. If it is a glorified worksheet or set of flashcards, then perhaps calling it a game is not being truthful and is not using gaming theory to bring out the best learning in our students. I would tend to agree with Sylvia and I think that we could and should be using our time together in classrooms to be thinking deeply about content and processes and working together in more collaborative ways to practice how to work together to solve larger more complex problems.

This is where games and computers have a positive place in schools, according to Sylvia. Done properly, games can support educational objectives, but it is not in the playing of games, but rather in the conceptualization, the building and design and the problem solving when working out the bugs that the real learning takes place. The content of the game, what once used to the most important thing to be learning, now no longer really is. Instead, we can be using game design as a teaching method that addresses many of our most pressing educational goals and objectives:
1. engagement in their learning: Tell me this girl above is not totally engaged in what she is doing! And she is because she holds the chalk, was able to decide how big the squares are, what order the numbers go, what pattern to make the board and what the rules will be to get to the end. It was not made for her, which invites instant passivity.
2. real life problem-solving: when this girl jumps through her game a few times, she will come to know very quickly what is working and what is not and will formulate some ideas about how to fix it so it plays better for her and others. If her feet don’t fit in the boxes, she will make them bigger.
3. Critical and Creative Thinking: by playing other people’s versions of hopscotch in the past, she has perhaps made some choices about aspects she would like to see in her own version to suit her tastes, but also to make it recognizable and inviting for others to play.
4. Collaborating: although not visible in this picture, it is likely that the game maker here worked alongside others, informing her design, clarifying the order of the numbers, giving opinion to the colors she should use, etc.
5. Teacher as facilitator: we do not see the teacher making the grid, but we can assume that the teacher/parent helped supply the materials, gave permission to use the space and possibly helped with the initial conception of the idea. From there, freedom was given to build and play through the experience, giving feedback where helpful and when asked. Presumably, the teacher may even learned something they did not know about hopscotch design by listening to and working alongside the students that day.

I wanted to use a common and relatively low-tech game analogy to think about my thoughts about gaming and education. Although out of the classroom this year, I had certainly used games as a method of allowing students to show what they learned, much as they would have a poster or pamhlet. I never did anything related to working with students on building an actual game in a digital way (other than the power point jeopardy review type activities) but now that I think about it a bit more, I can see how my pedagogical beliefs align with the use of this strategy. I don’t know the first thing about digital game building or design, nor do I think I have to…. but I do know that it would be very interesting to see history come alive for my students by layering it a game of some type. I can see a lot of rich potential, even if it is only in the design stages, to see how they might take a familiar format of a video game they know, and apply the historical time period and events into in in some way to show they understand the charachters, the time period, the settings, the actions and consequences of those actions…. or possible ones if not the actual. I also think there is powerful learning in layering this kind of understanding alongside other people, other nations, other cultures that may have been living and involved at the same time and to see how they might layer that within the game. There is much potential for meaningful collaboration, research, analysis, creativity…. and I would be right in there with them, as engaged in the process as this girl is.