Thoughts on Game Based Learning

Nintendo-DS-Fat-Blue
  There was a lot to inspire at the 2010 Game Based Learning Conference, it was a shame it was only 2 days as I would have loved to have heard more from many of the presenters. GBL I take the view that games have always had a place in learning, so why not computer games? I guess too many people, when they think of a computer game, think of the violent war-like games that proliferate. However, as this conference showed, there is a far wider range of computer game available, many of which are suitable for education. For me, though, the bottom line comes down to having trust and faith in the teacher, can we simply not trust the teacher not to include an ‘unsuitable’ game in their teaching? The term ‘game’ covers a wide multitude of genres from simple noughts and crosses type games (tic-tac-toe) through to complex simulations. There is clearly a wide variety of games which can be considered for their educational use. A further point that came across in the conference is that we should not just consider ‘educational’ games or games written especially for the educational market; commercial games too must be considered. The commercial game often has power to engage users in exciting storylines and game play that draws the learner in. However, we should always remember that engagement is not the same as learning. A pupils may be engaged in a game or activity but they may not necessarily be learning from it. Engagement is, however, often a pre-requisite or pre-cursor to learning and anything such as computer games that bring about engagement should be welcomed. I feel the work of Dawn Hallybone and Derek Robertson demonstrate quite clearly how games can be used to generate learning and how that learning is taken away from the computer screen and into the classroom or other learning environments. I was intrigued by the presentation by Massimilliano Andreoletti in which he showed the different way in which young learners and adults engage in game play. The young learners adopted a more collaborative and participatory style while the adults adopted a more autonomous and individualistic style. This was intriguing and could have implications for web2.0 learning in general and , perhaps, shows the discrepancy between adult and young person learning. It is unclear, though, whether this is a difference between the generations or a maturational factor. However, it would seem to suggest that success for young learners comes about more through collaboration and sharing than through competition. Overall, I found all the presenters at the conference had something significant to say or offer to the delegates, true, some presenters were better at presenting than others. I wouldn’t like to pick out one presenter more than others but as well as those I have already mentioned, I must make mention of Gill Penny who demonstrated the work her pupils had been doing, Tim Rylands for his usual excellence in engaging the audience, Ollie Bray, Derek Robertson and all from the Consolarium team for demonsdtrating how Scotland is leading the field in this area, and Jesse Schell for his uplifting closing speech. What I find most interesting is the way the iPod Touch has become a gaming device. This little device is already a fantastic tool for handheld learning but now it has a wide number of game apps. Sure, not all will be suitable for educational use but that is equally true for all other devices. Where I think the iPod touch scores well is that apps generally are reasonably priced, however, where it falls down is that there is no preview or try before you buy facility on iTunes store unless you are fortunate enough to be able to download a free version then upgrade to a paid version. For me, the Nintendo DS remains a disappointment. Even with its enlarged screen and new stylus, it still looks very plasticky, the graphics to my mind are generally unappealing and the price of games is ridiculous! I do use a Wii at home, which also has poor graphics but is sold on its motion sensor and, let’s be honest, is good fun. I would not recommend accessing the internet on it though. What I’d really love to see, though, would be a games console with a handheld device so that you can play a game at home, then continue it on your handheld.

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