- August 8th, 2011
- Derek Robertson
- Comments: 1 CommentTags: compas, Consolarium, David Shaffer, epistemic games, futur en seine, game based learning, games based learning, GBL
When we first began the Consolarium initiative way back in 2006 its main aim was to explore and share ways in which the use of computer games and game design could have a positive impact on teaching and learning and support Curriculum for Excellence in Scottish schools. Over the years this aim has remained the same and our reach across the country has been quite a success. Many of the ideas, approaches and methodologies we employed as well as many of the challenges that we faced in growing this practice became of interest to educational colleagues in England and further afield and this led to a number of invitations to speak at many conferences and other professional development settings. This wider recognition from colleagues outwith Scotland has played some part in affirming Learning and Teaching Scotland’s (now Education Scotland) ambitious and somewhat prescient decision to invest in and commit to such a venture back in 2006.
One of the invites that we were able to accept and honour recently was from the Digital City events (part of the Futur en Seine Festival) in Paris. As part of a three part seminar programme organized by Le Group Compas, Cap-Digital and Microsoft we were asked to deliver a keynote talk about our work in leading game based learning in Scotland and also about what we have seen in terms of impact on learning.
The session was to be shared with Professor David Shaffer from Wisconsin University. Prof. Shaffer is the author of How Computer Games Help Children Learn and he is the person behind the Epistemic Games website. It was a delight to share the session with such an eminent GBL leader and as it turned out although we shared the same belief that games can help children learn, how we should go about this was slightly different…
Our main thrust in relation to games in schools has been to use commercially available games (COTS) that have been built for entertainment and not for education. Our reasoning behind this is embedded in James Paul Gee’s take on Semiotic Domains and the fact that so many computer games present challenging, demanding, complex and culturally appealing contexts for learning that schools can undoubtedly employ to great effect. Some examples include using these games in schools:
We have also worked closely and carefully with our Local Authority Education partners and schools in Scotland to ensure that our endeavours are always wholly based in sound pedagogic principles that would fit in with the established practices and workings of a classroom to some degree but that would also begin to challenge established mindsets regarding the nature of technology in learning, valuing and exploiting what children value in their own cultural domains and how effective learners can be independent of adult intervention.
Prof. Shaffer’s work with Epistemic Games focuses more on making bespoke games that would enable players to be professional people. This definition of Epistemic Games is offered on his website:
Epistemic games are computer games that can help players learn to think like engineers, urban planners, journalists, lawyers, and other innovative professionals, giving them the tools they need for a changing world.
In epistemic games, players see what it is like to live in the world of adults. They learn ways of thinking that matter in the digital age, and have a chance to imagine the kind of person they might someday become.
In essence Epistemic games such as Nephrotex, Urban Science, Digital Zoo and Sodaconstructor are designed in such a way that to play successfully the player has to situate themselves within the real life context of the job of being an engineer, urban planner or animator thus learning about AND applying the skills directly related to these positions.
Prof. Shaffer established a thread through his presentation that questioned the effectiveness of schooling in respect of learning being detached from the context of application of newly found and developing skills, knowledge and understanding. School needed to change to help learners reach their full potential and the application of Epistemic Games should be central to that change.
The discussion session at the end of our presentations was particularly lively with an emphasis on some of what we had touched on in relation to metacognition, development of self-esteem and enhanced attitudes to being a learner and learning. Professor Daniel Andler from the University of Paris-Sorbonne was tasked with summing up the seminar session. As part of this summing up Professor Andler chose to focus on the different approaches that Prof. Shaffer and his team have taken. He compared us to the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks with the Consolarium being observed to be the more moderate of the two in relation to trying to effect change from within established structures and attitudes but with Dr Shaffer looking for educational revolution on a much quicker scale!
Yet again it was a great delight to be able to share the vision and the innovative practice coming from of Scottish schools with colleagues in another country. We look forward to hearing how people such as Julien Llanas and other interested parties that we met in Paris make progress in the domain of game based learning In French schools as well as learning more about the work of the team at Epistemic Games.