Thursday, 15 April 2010

Games Based Learning 2010

Two weeks ago I was lucky enough to attend and speak at the Games Based Learning Conference.

Click here for videos of all the talks, some will be linked below as well.


I attended many sessions of the 2 days. I’m not doing to do a blow by blow review, but give some brief overview comments about talks that perked my interest and then direct you to them to watch yourself.

Day 1

Media Molecule creators of little big plant gave an interesting talk about how they become interested in games and the importance of allowing people to create things. LBP is a tool that allows you to be creative without all the programming instructions. They said that traditionally to make a game you would need to know a lot and so lots of energy would go into learning and you would have less final product. LBP allows it to be about content. They used a great phrase – ‘learning by stealth’ to explain that though playing the games you learn a lot. You have to go through a process of trying things out and then testing them.

Giving children time to explore and create seems to be important to the creative process and a tool that isn’t so hard to use is a way in to provide more immediate feedback before progressing into more complex areas.

Derek Robertson from Consolarium talked about the work across Scotland. He asked some good questions though about Why do we still need to justify working with games? They have started to move into games design saying it should be about creation as well as consumption.
It’s great to see so much positive work going on with a varied array of games. I loved the work with Sony Eyepet. (more on that later) Great to see the push towards games creators as well now.

Matt Mason author of the Pirates Dilemma wasn’t really a talk related to classroom practice. It was about how we understand piracy and the benefits that it has had on society. The best quote was innovation happens in piracy, because they can work in an area that the mainstream can’t. If you have been wondering about digital rights and the true impact of piracy then check out his talk.

Gillian Penny the Head Teacher from Gavinburn spoke about her whole school approach to games based learning. She emphasised that you need careful planning; Teachers need to be onboard and sharing with parents. She discussed the work her school had done with Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympics and Guitar Hero. She explained the cross curricular projects that where run.

Tim Ryland’s talk about children being creators and owners of games was great. He even had children creating a short game during the 20minites he talked. They were great, though I am biased as 2 where from my class.

Day 2

Ollie Bray introduced a session on games where he discussed the importance and value to games within education. The key points where that games are playful learning. Games are a new ideas but so where whiteboard and pens a few years ago. The competitive and non treating environment of games is hard to find else where. You can loose at a game and not feel bad, you’ll just go again, why can’t this be applied to a mental maths test. Only got 5/20 no worries lets replay the level. He went on to emphasis the need to get the teacher to on board. Can kids be as addicted to learning as they are to games?

Watch the contribution from me and Dawn Hallybone and the Redbridge Games Network.

Jo Armitage spoke about the Olympics project that is being run in Hounslow, which had Mario and Sonic at the Olympics as the core game. But the cross curricular work surrounding it was amazing, Children had to create a whole team of people surrounding the athletes and then do the research to support them, for example they had to have trainers, PR mangers and dieticians.

Brain McLaren of Consolarium spoke about some of the projects he had been running in Scotland. The two that caught my eye was the use of Little Big Planet, where KS1 children have the design brief to the older children. Also they had character designs done as models away from the computer. The Sony Eyepet was an amazing idea that I will be looking into further myself.

Brian Clarke also Consolarium spoke about games design and for me was probably one of the best speakers of the two days. The Scottish curriculum emphasises the need to children to be creators of games as well as consumers. Brian basically gave an over view of what games creation progression can look like from primary to secondary level. The key thing seemed to be use software that starts with having an icon based system that has fairly instant visible results and then move on to more complex code. So 2diy then move to action scripts and then scratch. For 3D games start with Kodu and then move onto sandbox and the UDK. The great thing is all expect 2diy are free. I have lots of learning to do to see how to use all these great bits of software.

The final PM session had a much more industry feel to it.

Margaret Robertson who is a games designer asked what makes a good casual game and how can educational games learn from this. Annoyingly there isn’t really an answer games need to be a lot of things but they importantly respond to needs. The advantage that casual games have is that they can be written quickly thrown out there and then updated an improved. Education need to copy the process not the result.

A number of people spoke and suggested that industry doesn’t know much about education and sadly there is little reason to pursue it since there is little profit in it. The message seemed to be that industry doesn’t know how to make educational games and have little interest in doing so.

Finally Jesse Schell spoke via video conference about his view of education. He is not a teacher this is just his opinion. His main point was that the future is beautiful, customized, sharing and real. But looking at classrooms today they are far from this is fact they are ugly, standardised, isolated, fake. This was a really interesting discussion, about the only one I questioned was isolated since think that sharing is getting a lot better, but the rest very true.

I loved his idea to make things more beautiful though using experience point and level ups to make recording progress in a more positive light. You can never loose this way. Check out his talk and his presentation.

He spoke recently at DICE 2010 and was a buzz for a while -

Overall it was a great two day experience. I came back with lots of ideas of where to take the Games Network. I got expanded view of the importance of allowing children to explore ideas and create games and programmes. Children need to become creators of content.

Where do I go next?
  • Investigate the following software - Sony Eyepet, Kodu and Little Big Planet.
  • Investigate the embedding of games creation with the curriculum. How to I make children creators of games content.
  • How can I insure that my classroom is Beautiful, Customised, Shared and Real?
  • The level up achievement system.