Tuesday, April 10, 2012

A Box Full Of Learning

A box full of learning... and a box full of fun!

Box Full Of Learning by DavidDMuir
Box Full Of Learning, a photo
by DavidDMuir on Flickr.
It is not hard to see the box pictured here as a a box of fun.. but a box of learning? Yet, that's what it is. It is a box with a Playstation, EyePet mames, cameras and controllers - everything you need to have fun with virtual pets. It arrived in my office a few weeks ago - brought by courier from the Consolarium. I got it, so I could explore with one of my students the contribution Games Based Learning could make to social/health and wellbeing education: both from the looking after the health and wellbeing of the EyePets; and from the collaboration, group work and other game associated activities that would take place with the pupils.

I first heard about Game Based Learning from Derek Robertson. At the time, he was the external examiner for our Educational Computing course and he asked me if we were doing anything with computing games. We did have an hypermedia development module where people would often develop simple games as part of the coursework and we talked about the creative writing possibilities of pupil created adventure games but it was clear Derek was meaning something more.

When he talked about Game Based Learning, he meant games consoles and commercial, off the shelf games. He talked enthusiastically about what he was doing with Playstations back in Dundee. (Actually, I realise the word "enthusiastically" is somewhat redundant when talking about Derek. I have rarely had a conversation with him where he has not been enthusiastic, passionate even, about whatever we were talking about.)

It was not long after this that he set up the Consolarium with Education Scotland (or whatever it was called then!) to promote Games Based Learning. And promote it he did! Although many people greeted the idea of games consoles in schools with scepticism and suspicion (see for example Pupils 'made more violent by computer games', where it seems to me the main complaint is about poor parental supervision rather than games per se) Derek kept plugging away: speaking at the Scottish Learning Festival, setting up competitions and demonstrations, presenting at conferences, and (importantly) doing the research to show not just the potential but the value of Games Based Learning.

I think that, largely down to the work of Derek and the team at the Consolarium, Scottish education is at the forefront of developments in Game Based Learning not just in the UK but internationally. I was pleased to see, therefore, that this work was being recognised when Derek was nominated for an award from Naace in the Naace ICT Impact Awards 2012: Adviser or Consultant or Support Service category. Here is a video with some of the evidence that supported the nomination:

I was even more pleased when on award night, Derek was announced as the winner in that category.

Of course, the irony is, that even as Derek wins this award, either through economic necessity, or educational short-sightedness (or possibly both) the seconded teachers that worked with him are back in school and the Consolarium as a physical space is gone. What is left is a loan service, the service I used to borrow the EyePets kit. (I'll try to write more about what was done with this kit soon but in the meantime, you can read what others did on the Consolarium wiki.) Don't get me wrong, the loan service is great but what we had in the Consolarium was so much better; its closure is a great loss to Scottish education.

Anyway, congratulations again to Derek. And if you are a Scottish teacher, check out the loan service and have a go yourself. Seeing is believing.

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