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The use of computer and video games in education


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A presentation from 2003, given to various educators, teachers and technology in education funders in Scotland at several events.

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The use of computer and video games in education

  1. 1. The use of computer andvideo games in education John Kirriemuir
  2. 2. John Kirriemuir• Age: 35• Currently living in Lochwinnoch• Game playing: 20-30 hours a week• Current games: – Animal Crossing (GC) – Halo (Xbox) – Jet Set Radio (Dreamcast)• Work: Self-employed researcher, mainly working for education funding bodies. Scope includes ICT, games in education• Other stuff
  3. 3. What is a game and what is play?
  4. 4. Defining the boundariesA game is defined by:• Boundaries• RulesThis creates problems:• Where are the boundaries?• When does the game start and end?• What are the rules?Does a game of football start when:• The referee blows the whistle?• Match day begins?• The football clubs are formed and begin to acquire players?
  5. 5. Arenas for play: the “total game” conceptSociety consists of a number of rules (some legal, some informal, some conduct-oriented) and overlapping game arenas.• The playground• The office (office politics)• The home (relationships between family members)• Travelling (especially driving)• Your relationship (objective: happiness?)“I don’t play games” arguably translates as “I don’t play video games but passively or actively participate in other games”.The player constantly participates in a number of other games, usually without realising it.
  6. 6. What game(s) are you currently playing?Implicit rules: sit sociably, face the front, digest the information.Goal(s): learn something, open your mind to further paths of thought, challenge preconceptions, pass the assignment, get a qualification.Other players: the person sitting next to you is playing the same game.Strategies for passing the assignment:• Take copies notes and write them up afterwards• Read around the subject• Work in collaboration (discuss?) with your colleague• Use Google to find similar assignments, and cut ‘n’ paste 
  7. 7. Motivations for playing video games• To be able to say to your peers that you have finished the game.• To enjoy mastering a challenge set by another (the game designer).• To try out things you saw in an advert or promotion.• To beat your friends and family in multiplayer games.• As a social experience (either multiplayer or online).• To do interesting things in the game e.g. in a racing game, to see if you can crash into other cars.
  8. 8. Project overview• Collect examples of the use of computer and video games in schools• Informal project – no strong methodology• No current funding – done in spare time• Surveys: – Spring 2002 (for BECTA) – Summer 2003 (for the DiGRA paper) – October 2003
  9. 9. ObjectivesMain: find examples where “pure” computer and video games were used in schools.Other1. Find especially where such games are used to support or enhance teaching and learning2. Determine obstacles to the use of games in the classroom3. Find examples where such games are used in further and higher education4. Determine trends in the use of such games in the classroom
  10. 10. “Pure” computer and video gamesGames for the PC, Xbox, GameCube and Playstation series that are designed and marketed as games, and not as educational or “edutainment” (cough) products.Examples:• Super Monkey Ball (physics)• Sim City (urban design, economics)• Civilisation III (history)
  11. 11. Examples and points from 2002 survey 1. The teaching and learning relationship between the teacher, thestudents and the games became more flexible: “Some they teach me (Microsoft Golf) - some we work on together(The Sims) and some I start them off (Civilisation)...usually they learnfrom peers" (Diana Battersby, Waterloo Lodge School, Chorley) 2. In UK schools, games were nearly always directly linked to somespecific part of the National Curriculum. For example, at GrenewaySchool in Royston, the following games have been used: - Sim City / Flight Simulator: Key Stage 3 ICT 2c, 5d [Modelling] - Pirates: Key Stage 3 History 2a, 2b, 2c Several survey respondents pointed out that if games were not NC-related, then issues may be raised by others about relevance andteaching quality.
  12. 12. 3. The most significant advantage of computer games, to many teachers,was as a catalyst to schoolchild interaction, discussion and collaboration.For example:"The use of Rollercoaster Tycoon in particular was a key motivator ingetting children working as a team. Those who were usually bored, or tooshy to participate, in group discussion and decision making often took amore prominent and vocal role. Receiving immediate, positive feedbackfrom the game increased confidence within the individual and thegroup." (Philip Sinclair, ex-teacher, York)4. The computer games most frequently discovered to be used in aclassroom setting were Rollercoaster Tycoon, The Sims and SimCity.5. Unsurprisingly, there was no regional or national co-ordinated program ofcomputer game take-up and usage in UK schools. In nearly all cases, agame was introduced into the classroom by an enthusiastic teacher, usuallywith the approval of an “open-minded” head teacher.
  13. 13. 6. Schools (usually outside of the UK) that installed games on PCs oftenallowed and encouraged use and access outside of lesson times e.g. lunchbreaks, after-school clubs. For example, Nudgee Junior College,Indooroopilly, Queensland, Australia has a number of PCs which the childrencan use to play games during lunchbreaks and other free periods. 7. Schools that used computer games (again, usually outside of the UK),tended to use not one but a range of games in appropriate learningscenarios. These schools also had a tendency to use and evaluate arelatively wide array of software and instructional technologies. 8. Formal and (crucially) independent/unbiased research on how the use ofgames enhanced the classroom learning experience tended to befragmented or patchy. Such evaluations that positioned games within thecontext of a wider application of technologies were usually positive. Forexample, research into the use of ICT in 3 to 8 year olds in a region ofAustralia recommended that "problem solving games are often the mosteducational while being fun and challenging".
  14. 14. 9. Anecdotal evidence points to games being used in the classroom inearlier ages in first world countries, such as the US, Canada and Australiathan in the UK and possibly mainland Europe. Further research confirmingthis and discovering as to why may prove useful. Having said that, thereare instances of computer games being used to supplement learning inprimary schools, such as the use of Sim City by 6 year olds in US schools.10. Teachers often introduced games into the classroom which theythemselves were familiar with through using, for fun, in their own time:"I have been a keen player of the Sim City series of games for severalyears, and could immediately see the potential for use with my KS2classes. Henceforth, my familiarity with the game made it easier todemonstrate its relevant features to my fellow teachers, and ensured arelatively easy implementation into the classroom - the only difficulty beinginstalling the software on the lab PCs!". (Malcolm Kingston)
  15. 15. 2003: Collecting examplesUsed a variety of mainly Internet-based methods in order to find examples:• emailing education/teacher mailing lists• newsgroups (low quality responses)• web searching (predominantly on game name)• hunting through literature• contacts in education and gaming sectors• hassling games researchers and speakers at events
  16. 16. 2003 survey: Examples of mailing lists used (108 in total)JISCmail Education listserv lists• basic-skills • acsoft-l • aera-c• creativity-in-education • aera-k• elearning • ceut-l• innoed • cti-l • eceol-l• lis-link • ednet• lt-theory • edtech• netculture • h-high-s• school-management Game research lists• sosig • games-for-health • digiplay • gamesnetwork
  17. 17. Non-helpful responses• “Games in schools? Don’t be absurd!”• “Violence, sex, get enough of games at home, corrupting, turns children into killing machines etc”• “There’s this great piece of edutainment software that we use…”• “This is really interesting. Please send me your results.” (many, many responses like this)• “Can I interest you in our new, teacher-approved, edutainment product?”• “I play games! Have you finished Zelda: Windwaker? How do you get past…?” (several)• “What is Playstation?” (1 email)
  18. 18. Main uses of games in schools (in order of frequency)1. Playtime or computer club (lunch breaks or after school)2. As a reward for good behaviour3. As part of a research project looking at the potential for games use in the classroom4. Use in the classroom as support for subject matter5. Use in the classroom integrated into curriculum activities
  19. 19. Some examples from schools…
  20. 20. 1. Playtime or computer club Case example: Portola Middle School, near San Francisco, California• Supervised computer club, Wednesday afternoons• PCs (no consoles) used for reports, online work, game playing• Games include Sim City, Lemmings, Roller Coaster Tycoon• Most popular game of the 30 available is Starcraft• Some games educational, some fun; absence of controversial games e.g. Vice City.
  21. 21. 2. Facilitator for exploring difficult subjects“Unexpectedly, we found that The Sims was an unusually useful game in helping children illustrate difficult personal family situations, especially the divorce of their parents. In our youngest class [5 to 6 year olds] the majority of children belong to single parent families; the game provided an outlet, excuse, reason, call it what you will for a few to articulate their home situation.”Anonymity requested, Manchester, UK
  22. 22. 3. Illustrating concepts safely“We use Super Monkey Ball in order to illustrate how objects moved in certain conditions.We used to use a marble and rulers instead, but the kids found it “boring” and used to damage the equipment and each other. After one child swallowed a marble and the mother threatened to sue this was stopped. Unfortunately the same mother is still causing problems as her son now allegedly has nightmares about monkeys falling to their deaths.”Randall Perry, Keele, UK
  23. 23. 4. In use alongside other tools Case example: Discovery Junior High School, Fargo, North Dakota productiontech.htmlProduction Technology: “This class focuses on the different processes being used in production that relate to the field of technology.”Rollercoaster Tycoon used as a tool alongside robotics, lathes, mills, hot air balloons, K’nex and a gumball machine
  24. 24. 5. As part of a research projectPeriodically occurs in UK schools• BECTA (education funding body) “Computer games in education project” looked at the use of a small set of games in various schools (bias towards simulation games): section=1&id=2826• TEEM (Teachers Evaluating Educational Material) looked at the use of a wider set of games in various UK schools:
  25. 25. 6. As a curriculum related tool“We tried to use Sim City as an integrated part of geography for our classes … It was only partially successful due to the hassle of getting set up on the PCs every session and keeping the children on track … some support material for both child and teacher would have been very welcome.Another problem was caused by other staff in the school who either didn’t think there was a serious lesson taking place (because it involved playing games) … or were vocally against the idea at every opportunity for the same reason.”Margaret Thomas, Scotland.
  26. 26. Other interesting examples…
  27. 27. 1: Learning about foreign social behaviour“…on a recent holiday to Japan my husband and I realised that by far the most helpful source of information on Japanese society had been Shenmue that wed played on the Dreamcast!Id read no end of websites and tour guides but Shenmue had been more educational than any of them, especially when it came to social behaviour and everyday life. Were playing Mr Mosqeeto on the PS2 at the moment and that is even better.”Jenny Jones, University of Bristol
  28. 28. 2: Teaching people with special needs“I am willing to share privately with other researchers the fact that I have used Civilisation III to teach social and historical studies to a group of SEN (special education needs) learners, with great success.”FM, Galway City, Ireland
  29. 29. 3: Stimulating lateral thinking“I worked in Arabia for 8 years in the 1990s at the Sultan Qaboos University library where we had a collection of text-based interactive adventure games. One teacher used these to promote lateral thinking and develop students level of English, amongst other things.”Colin Johnston, Goldsmiths College, London
  30. 30. 4. Pre-course catchup“A few of the new students on the A-level economics course did not have a clue about simple concepts such as profit, loss, income and expenditure. How they manage their personal finances is beyond me.More by accident than design, I recommended they work through Sim City in their own time, paying particular attention to the financial aspects. It seemed to do the trick.”Don Green, lecturer, Worcester, UK
  31. 31. Conclusions…
  32. 32. 1. What is a game…Many teachers (parents, educators) confused about the differences between:• Edutainment• “Pure” computer and video games• Web-based games• Online games
  33. 33. 2: Which games are usedPredominantly still games with mainly a strategic element:• Sim City• The Sims• Civilisation III• Roller coaster tycoonWith simulations, the borders between “game”, “entertainment”, “learning” and “strategy” become very fuzzy to many people.
  34. 34. 3: Games as part of formal learning1. Number of - reported - examples is slowly increasing, but not dynamically2. There is a much greater awareness of the potential of games to assist with teaching3. Still too many obstacles for most teachers who wished to use such games4. Stereotypical ideas and misconceptions about games still abound, but are receding5. Most uses of pure games in education are for niche applications e.g. special needs or cases
  35. 35. Ways forward• Using game engines e.g. Unreal, Neverwinter Nights.• Using “lite” versions of games. Irrelevant content stripped out.• Use older, cheaper versions of games (works on more school PCs)• Adapt games, either using in-built tools or by getting the developers to adapt them.• Using sub-games within games, backed up by teacher learning and support materials.
  36. 36. 4: The chicken and the egg…Many teachers want case studies of where games have been successfully used in realistic classroom settings (not as part of a research project).Case studies unlikely to come about until there is proof - through applied, “real world” example - that such an approach can work.
  37. 37. Future plansLooking to obtain funding to do the following:• Make the survey more formal; application of a more rigorous methodology• Longer survey period would enable more methods of uncovering examples e.g. requests in newsletters• Identify and look in greater depth at case studies• Possibly focus just on Scotland, but collaborate with similar surveys in other countries• Disseminate widely amongst the education and games communitiesWeb: