Some thoughts on games based learning…

The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development recently published their research findings form their games based learning trials. The results were incredibly positive – and as the person brought into design and run the Game Development strand, incredibly gratifying. There’s more detail in the shape of the program in a talk I gave at the 2011 Screen Futures conference.

Since then, I’ve been thinking a lot more about the role of games in education and the difference between vocational skills and cultural skills.This program – by design – focused on vocational skills in design and development. The aim was to create games and to integrate games with the curriculum, and I think it succeeded, but – and this should come as no real surprise – it needed the education outcomes as the sugar that made game development palatable. There are some telling comments from parents in the research report about their wariness of their kids making or playing games in the classroom, all of which given the nature of games, the media landscape and narrative, and the gap between experiences, is entirely understandable. In the context of all of that, the results are even more surprising and optimistic.

In my reflections on the process, the outcomes, and the influence of this year’s Freeplay, I’ve started to wonder what shape any education program that stripped out some of those more industrial and vocational skills and focused on the cultural, creative, and technological history of videogames at a primary and secondary level. What games would we play as part of that? What would the threads be? How could we convince parents that there was value in that conversation? I don’t have any answers at the moment – and I think we are perhaps a generation away before the idea could even be mooted – but I think the success of this initial trial points to the fact that people are open, with little nudges, to having the beginnings of conversations like that. Hopefully they can continue.

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