Gaming in the Classroom Daniel Donahoo Late last year we saw the launch of the next generation of consoles from Microsoft and Sony. The Xbox vs Playstation rivalry continues, while online, the cool kids are relishing the rise of PC gaming. Yet, for all the talk about technology in schools, the debates about 1:1 mobile devices and BYOD policies, and how to maintain a diverse technology ecosystem in schools, so that students can be exposed to a breadth of devices, operating systems, and programs – consoles rarely get a look in. Although the impact of games and gamification has been acknowledged in previous NMC Horizon Reports – most recently in the preview of the Horizon Report > 2014 Higher Education Edition – it is a different story with gaming consoles. These technologies probably hasn’t registered on the edtech radar because of their strong association with entertainment. This is disappointing, especially with the increased thinking and focus on learning through play and game-based learning. It reminds me of a mentor who used to say that schools missed a great opportunity with television, and that its potential as an educational tool was never fully realised. Just look at the quality of experiences that consoles offer, like Journey, an artful game for Playstation that explores the power of narrative to immerse people in open-ended, collaborative experiences. The Wii can also be a learning technology, with its collection of Wii Sport games, which could be used to explore physics, movement, or even statistics. There is obvious potential for education here. That said, there are educators out there who are exploring the potential of consoles. One console champion is Dean Groom, an Australian academic and game-based learning expert who blogged at the end of 2013 about consoles and Minecraft. He said, “In the primary aged classroom the Xbox 360 makes a great (simpler) alternative to Minecraft on the computer. Next Gen consoles are here, and the old Xbox 360 is looking like a bargain in the new year.” He goes on to explain how teachers can explore and integrate a game-based learning program using Minecraft into their classroom. It is great to see Dean talk about the way 4 controllers can facilitate dynamic, collaborative learning. Here are two slides that sum up Dean’s ideas on educational innovation in a nutshell: Slide 1, Slide 2 Consoles also offer the ability to create. Infinity Learning is another educational program that is exploring how consoles and the new Disney Infinity platform can be used to teach game-making and development with primary students. The website offers a peek into a 6-week program where learning takes place off the console, then on the console and off again. It shows how to use consoles as a way to design plans and work that has first been done on a computer, or on paper. It challenges probably what is one of the greatest limitations about having consoles in class – the idea that popular culture and children’s entertainment don’t have a place in the learning environment. Infinity Learning leverages recognizable Disney characters to connect with students to help them develop ideas, improve storylines, and develop characters through their own mash-ups and other creations they make using the Disney Infinity Toy Box. The best research I have found on consoles in learning environments comes out of Scotland and is about three years old. Produced by FutureLab for Learning and Teaching Scotland, The Impact of Console Games in the Classroom report is an accessible piece of research that lays out a good argument for why consoles have a role in learning, but also points to the policy challenges, barriers and risks to using them in a game-based learning approach. Those teachers and schools who are exploring the use of consoles are probably less common than those that have embraced mobile devices, but they are innovative and should be congratulated for exploring the potential of this popular and pervasive type of technology amongst young learners. There is a role for consoles in the classroom, and it is worth any school considering what role they might play in the broader picture of using digital technology to support learning outcomes. Thumbnail photo cc by-sa via Un ragazzo chiamato Bi About Daniel Donahoo Daniel Donahoo is a researcher and author interested in childhood learning and development, as well as technology and emerging literacies. He has published two books, Idolising Children and Adproofing Your Kids. Daniel is currently the Director of Project Synthesis where he works with education and community organisations to support digital capacity, inclusion, and research. He is a contributor to Wired’s GeekDad.com and collaborates on digital projects like In B Flat 2.0. He tweets @ddonahoo and can be found at danieldonahoo.com. The NMC first came to know Daniel through his NMC Horizon Report coverage in the Huffington Post. Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.