Connecting dots for digital learning and teaching

Game-Based Learning Evidence from Schools in Scotland

game-based learningFuturelab  in the UK has done a great deal of research into teaching and learning. They have also studied seriously at the role of games in learning.

A project to identify the educational benefits of console game-based learning in primary and secondary schools had been developed. The project sought to understand how the benefits of educational gaming could transfer to other settings and, in particular, how the model of the Learning and Teaching Scotland Consolarium – the national centre for games and learning that explores and supports game-based learning in the classroom – could be modified, extended or enhanced.

The data collection was carried out in 19 schools in Scotland through interviews with school leaders, classroom teachers and students followed up by a series of lesson observations in four of these schools. The findings suggest that well structured and planned game-based approaches to learning can provide excellent opportunities to engage students in activities which can enhance learning and produce a wider range of educational benefits.

A few case studies of classroom activities using console games from the publication:

Meldrum Primary School

Console games used: Nintendogs, Endless Ocean, Cooking Mama, Samba de Amigo, Wii Music, Guitar Hero, Just Dance!

Learners in the pilot were not only highly engaged but they were helping lead the direction of the project and the inquiry that was conducted. The outcome was more successful than the Depute Head had ever anticipated… What led to such a dramatic impact? According to the Depute Head, “it creates a collaborative story that everyone buys into… and then you have a community of learners who are in this context and everything comes out of that context.

Within the project, school staff observed the emergence of student-led learning as well as numerous skills being targeted and developed — including collaboration, communication, investigation, and problem solving, as well as transfer of learning. According to the Depute Head, “the whole package changed the dynamic of the classroom.”

The project had a notable impact on student behaviour as well. Students that were not confident with IT before were eagerly participating in the design of the website. Students who previously would have difficulty staying on task and presented minor problems behaviourally were now immersed in the activity and no longer disrupting class.

Elrick Primary Schools

Console games used: Nintendogs, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, Nintendogs, Endless Ocean, Wii Yoga, Brain Training, Wii Music, My Word Coach, Professor Kageyama’s Maths Training

Throughout the project, countless curricular areas were covered. Since students earn money for their band through playing the songs, they incorporated maths (such as budgeting and tracking spreadsheets, etc). Students were also charged with managing the band like a business, so there was lots of decision-making required. Elrick’s approach to this project also introduced ‘band mail’ to generate more interest than just the game, where bands would receive letters from individuals asking for demos, and the bands had to submit one to the recording company (‘owned and operated’ by the P7 teacher). This scenario created the opportunity for many higher-order skills, such as negotiation, when bands had to ome to agreeable terms on their new recording contract.

Overall, the headteacher said that the greatest achievement of the initiative was the increase in confidence with ICTs that both she and her staff had experienced alongside a greater reflection on pedagogy. The teachers describe a collaborative ethos at the school – where plans are shared, classes are frequently observed and teachers know they can lean on one another when trying a new game-based learning project.

In the Nintendogs project, the impact on writing for such young learners has been quite dramatic, where students are electing to write in the Learning Diaries even when it is not required. Reflecting on a recent lesson the P1 teacher explained, “I can’t believe how many students just got to work on their writing — I offered that as an option but didn’t expect it and I can’t believe how many students opted to do it on their own.” Of particular note is the improvement and engagement with writing by boys in the class and students who have had behaviour problems.

Longhaugh Primary School

Console games used: EyePet, Endless Ocean, Little Big Planet, FIFA World Cup, Gardening Mama, Sims

The project was designed to focus on literacy, where activity in the game was recorded by each student in a shared game log. The other critical component was the fact that this game-based learning project was occurring alongside a school-wide task of building a community garden. This was a tremendous opportunity for reinforcement and connections. Language lessons in classes built sentences using words from the game, and the game relived the experience of the activity in the garden.

Teachers repeatedly noted that they would see children helping each other, and even though they used individual game consoles, the students took on a collaborative, communal approach to achieving success…

The motivation and engagement of the game across classes at Longhaugh has had quite an impact on decreasing the number of behaviour problems. Observed daily, classroom teachers frequently saw “the concentration on the faces of some children who normally don’t concentrate”. This was a profound observation for the headteacher, who felt that maintaining this engagement and motivation is critical and therefore the game must continually be viewed as a learning tool and not a behaviour tool: “children are not to lose their turn because of bad behaviour.”

Lairdsland Primary School

Console games used: Guitar Hero, Endless Ocean, Samba de Amigo, Cooking Mama, Nintendogs, Wii Tennis

The project of Endless Ocean focused on international education and literacy with the class focusing on Australia and the Great Barrier Reef. Pupils explored the environment, the impact of people and Australian culture.

Today, Lairdsland has embedded game-based learning projects across the classes and structured the entire school curriculum to make sure that every student encounters a game-based learning project during their time in primary.

Looking forward, Lairdsland keeps a keen eye towards resources for game-based learning: “The Consolarium website and Glow group… brilliant.” Other schools have also become key resources: “We look at that to say, ‘well would that be good for us? And how can we adapt it?’ Because we don’t take something and just think well let’s try that…you make it work for you.”

“You get quality work from them in that term when they’re involved in that type of learning. The quality of their writing, they keep the standard up right to the last week.” Teachers attribute the change in their writing due to the nature of the project: “They take on that persona and write as that character. They’re that imaginative person, but actually the children really become very immersed in it. They really believe it.” With such a dramatic level of buy in, the students internalize the storyline and perspective, and from there the writing flows much more easily, “and that’s very powerful.”

For the pedagogical approach details including curriculum design, classroom management and arrangement, parent communication, impact on learning, Download the Impact of Console Games in the Classroom report in pdf format here.

photo credit: Axel Pfaender via photo pin cc


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“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember, involve me and I will understand.” -------- Chinese Wisdom "Games are the most elevated form of investigation." -------- Albert Einstein
"I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create digital tutors that are as effective as personal tutors, educational software as compelling as the best video game," President Barack Obama said while touring a tech-focused Boston school (year 2011).
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