Games and what emerges from the games are not the same thing. This seems an essential message in teacher education getting excited at the idea of game based learning. However its not as simple as deciding on a game to play as it requires making sense of how games work, specifically in balancing mastery and boredom.
Professional Development in technology generally assumes an operational integration of technology-tools into the existing system, which in itself is entirely focused on assessable, known and stable outcomes measured though essays and exams.
Deciding on a technological tool is determined by individual and organisational belief of how well it will ‘fit’ or ‘integrate’ into known, stable practice which is ruled by constant grades and scores. Abandoning existing technologies also means abandoning methods, which in turn declares them less useful. Education hates this idea – as it constantly draws on seers of the past to interpret the future.
Generally speaking the function of technology currently is productivity. A typed up essay that suits the small amount of time markers actually spend reading it is preferable. A hand written exam is preferable when ticking off declarative knowledge, the NAPLAN allows governments to regulate and assign funding. Technology is by an large system-focused or dismissed. We find it incredibly hard to assess the soft skills, which is evident in the lack of them appearing in the National Curriculum beyond motherhood statements.
Outside of fractious formal educational, technology spawns networks of external sites and forums that support guilds, databases, and wikis, or the technological infrastructure that support solving diverse problems has become an intensely liberating factor in mass social development – which involves not only consuming, but producing and modifying knowledge in numerous form factors online. This work – and teaching about this work – takes place almost entirely in downtime and is perhaps is the exploit needed for those who never stood on the school stage as the celebrated academic elite, or never got that job because the qualification demand was high (despite the pay being low).
As a colleague suggested – everyone wants to pay a nickel for a dollar song – meaning formal education is used to call the shots in life. And yet the most innovation, the most opportunity for those yet to receive an education lies in mobile, mass access to the Internet.
Here is a game you can play with teachers as future-ologists.
Imagine two teams playing a video game online. Both have the objective of building a defensible fortress from the game control enemies. The game-world has limited resources to use in constructing this, and limited time before the first wave of bad-guys seeks to eliminate players. What happens next?
Educators will come up with scenarios based partly on their understanding of the problem and their assumption of what you asking in context. The way they will explain it will be to vocalise or to write something down – and use language that they assume you share a common understanding of.
If we set this problem to educators, they will usually want to know more information, and claim they can’t set about solving it as it has too many variables and too little information. Ask the same problem of children and you’ll probably get the same answer. What becomes interesting is if one team is children and the other adults, even more interesting if you separate them into gender.
This is the recipe that has been served up on reality television for over a decade. It’s what keeps people watching MasterChef, The Amazing Race and Survivor. It’s the same formula that broke gaming out of the arcade era into games like Tombraider.
If we set this as a text-based question in a blog or wiki – what can we learn? How helpful would it be to delve into past-research in order to try and make links between lab-rats and gamers?
What emerges from playing this game – in a game world – is useful. It can spawn a host of explorations and discussions in which those who are situated inside the game-world can explain broader, applied theory of how to solve more complex problems. They have shared experience, shared meaning and shared identity.
When people ask “which game should I use to teach grade 4 science” I can only answer that the question is floored unless you want to use a Taylorist ‘computer as a tutor’ instructional, education game. What would be better is to ask “what scientific phenomenon can we explore in a game-world”. To me that is the point of game-play – to explore scenarios that cannot otherwise occur.
This is one of the key reasons I dislike the idea of ‘gamification’ — the idea that people will declare new enthusiasm or be more work-life innovative, simply because they collect tokens or badges in a game.
What emerges from game-play in teacher education are raw materials. The building blocks of web pedagogy and social development strategies. And I’ve I’ve said before – building a personal learning network is game-play – it’s what happens next.