“Play is a key strategy in developing a design practice that is agile enough to entertain a constant need for transformative thinking but substantive enough to throw its strategic weight around when needed.” Katie Salen

“Research is beginning to suggest that computer games can help to stimulate a successful learning environment and provide motivational learning contexts that suit many learners. They also provide an opportunity to develop communities in which learners have a sense of ownership over what they do.” Education Scotland

“Games are increasingly recognised as becoming the literacy of the 21st Century” Chris Swain, Associate Research Professor

“What will it take to move classroom literacy practices and instruction into the 21st century? It will take teachers who are skilled, excited, passionate about the effective use of ICT for teaching and learning. It will take a curriculum that integrates new, exciting literacies and instruction. It will take courageous and bold initiatives that include yet unimagined information and communication technologies and these will result in the development of unimagined new literacies.” Associate Professor Kaye Lowe

For the past five years I have been fortunate enough to work with thousands of students and hundreds of teachers across NSW primary and high schools through MacICT’s game design projects, teacher workshops and student bootcamps. Nearly all of the students I have worked with play games, whether they are via consoles, computers, portable gaming devices or smartphones. Always when I ask why they play, the answer usually is, “because they are fun”. When we unpack what that means, usually it equates to challenge. Raph Koster states, “Fun from games arises out of mastery. It arises out of comprehension. It is the act of solving puzzles that makes games fun. In other words, with games, learning is the drug.” Games not only are fun, they are creative and engaging. They provide the feeling of working towards a goal, opportunities to solve problems, make decisions, develop interesting narratives and collaborate with others.

Much has been written about the use of games in learning. An article on ‘Ten Reasons Why Game Based Learning Works in Education’ in connectEd is well worth a read. Dean Groom’s blog post on ’10 Considerations for Bringing Games into Class’ is also worth reading.

There are many sites that document ways that games can be integrated into learning including:

Using Computer Games in Education

Christina, Crystal and Jen’s Game Based Learning Live Binder

23 Interesting Ways to use a Nintendo DS/DSi in the Classroom

12 Interesting Ways* to use a Nintendo Wii in the Classroom

‘My Spore Journey – digging deeper into GBL’

Why Games are Effective Educational Tools

Games and Learning: Teaching as Designing

There is also a wealth of information on Education Scotland’s site including research articles and ideas for integrating games into learning.

If you are a Stage 1 or Stage 2 primary school teacher who is interested in game based learning, a great game to start with is Little Space Heroes. Little Space Heroes is a virtual World for kids and families. It’s an interactive, online multiplayer game in which kids create their own hero and explore a galaxy full of fun and adventure! It requires no extra equipment to play apart from a classroom computer connected to the Internet and has one of the highest safety ratings around for young children. The parent and teacher resources page outlines some of the learning benefits from playing this game. There is endless potential for rich design, literacy and science activities to be generated from Little Space Heroes. From November last year, primary students involved in MacICT’s Good Game Design bootcamps have been involved in beta testing the game involving students in a rich learning experience linked to curriculum outcomes situated in an authentic context. This year MacICT are continuing to partner with Bubble Gum Interactive and together we will be offering students some exciting, authentic learning opportunities around games and game design.

MacICT is searching for K-4 teachers who are looking to make learning irresistible! If you are interested in participating in a games based learning project around Little Space Heroes, please contact us at macictsupport@det.nsw.edu.au