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Fun Inc.

20 Feb

Fun Inc is a book that was recommended to me by Gill Wildman (of ‘Plot’) through the Master blog when I posted my original project proposal (see ‘What’s The Story?’ section).

I must admit to not finding it out immediately but the recommendation was supported about a month later through a @brainpicker (#ff) twitter post.. so I ordered on the spot and wasn’t disappointed.

As well as being an invaluable source for my project I have also chosen to review it for this semester’s Design Writing module. So, for now I’ll say that I’m enjoying it and that a full review will follow in due course.

A happy coincidence… if I can call it that, I suppose it was inevitable… through the course of researching his book Chatfield made contact with my key expert, Derek Robertson.

Derek works for Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) in the position of ‘National Advisor for Emerging Technologies in Learning in Scotland’.. the title, he dryly remarks, won’t fit on his business card!

I was fortunate enough to meet up with Derek in December and learn more about his determination to demonstrate the value of learning through contexts most of us view as entertainment.

Derek Robertson (left) 'GBL Hero'

In Fun Inc, Chatfield states, ‘It’s largely thanks to him that Scotland now leads the world in the emerging field of what Robertson calls “games-based learning (GBL)”.’

I met up with Derek again on Thursday and amongst other things we discussed a couple of exiting developments… In March’s of this year a GBL conference is to take place in Dundee, co-hosted by Dundee College and Abertay University; and also within the 2 weeks, the first ‘International Journal of Games Based Learning’ was published. More on both in a future post.

It seems to be the perfect time to be working and researching in the area of GBL and I’m convinced that there are opportunities to do something that could have a genuine impact and be of value to the subject.

Impact, value ‘and’ Fun..? …just doesn’t seem right..!

You can listen to both Derek Robertson and Tom CHatfield talking about GBL here:

“Games Rot Your Brains”

15 Feb

I’m not a gamer.

I have a computer and video game history, (For the purposes of context and, lets face it, nostalgia (!), I will document my personal ‘history of games’ in a future post.) but I’m not, by definition, a ‘gamer’.

I make this point because it would be easy to dismiss my project as a ‘gamers vanity project’; but only 12 months ago I had a much narrower view of games and their relevance – particularly in relation to my children and therefore their education.

In order to get to where I am now, in my research and in my understanding, a huge shift had to occur in my perception of games, so, already this project has already been a huge learning experience.

So my aim is to achieve an outcome (whatever form it may take) that will have quantifiable value for education and those already committed to Games Based Learning.

Through personal experience, and now through further research, I have witnessed a true value in games; not educational games, but off-the-shelf games designed for entertainment that have been repurposed in the realm of teaching.

I could write about how we engage more intently when we are having fun, I could point you to examples of teachers who have documented anecdotal evidence of children demonstrating understanding and intelligence that was not evident through traditional methods of teaching. These are some examples that have helped change my mind.

However, the most powerful example has been that of my own son, and translating what I feel as a parent is a tough job and maybe something I’ll feel more confident about further down the line.

So, while this project holds many challenges, including the task of convincing teachers (many of whom hold the same misgivings as I did a year ago) to try using games in the classroom) the ‘impossible’ part of my mission (should I choose to accept it…) is to convince ‘parents’ that ‘Games’ can be valuable in the classroom. Without question parents hold the greater share of influence in all maters related to children, and without their support, a Games Based Learning programme cannot succeed.

But what I and others have observed is that learning through the mechanics of games can significantly help teachers and pupils hurdle obstacles that may not be overcome by any other method.

So often I hear phrases like ‘computer games rot’ or ‘fry your brain’. I think that comes from how intently a child (or adult) focus their attention on what they are doing when playing games. It’s also true of most of us when engrossed in a good film or book.

While there is no question that ‘anything’ that is done for excessive amounts of time will be bad for you, but controlled use of a devise that singularly holds your attention in completing a task, that in a different context would ‘bore you senseless’, is an incredibly powerful tool.

My original intention was to develop such tools to produce advertising campaigns that, for the consumer, were more engaging, valuable and meaningful advertising projects for consumers. While I would still hope to do that, for now, the possibility of using these tools for the ‘greater purpose’ of education is irresistible!

I hope you’ll join me as either spectator or collaborator, or even if you ‘are’ into your games… I’d be glad to have you along… perhaps there’s hope for me as a gamer yet!