Thursday, September 22, 2005

game making conference reflection

This conference was held on September 9th in Melbourne and organised by an educational Game Making cluster of which I am a member.

The emerging theme for me was that of scope – there are more positive forces that we identified for expanding, developing the scope of using games (both making and playing) in schools than there are forces for restricting the scope of games in schools.

We can now marshal several arguments for the expansion of the role of games in education.

EXPANSIVE / HOPEFUL

Literacy: (Catherine Beavis) Games have actually been a powerful force in helping us redefine literacy, to see it in a new way.

My thoughts about this:
For example, there is a computer program which enables students to create a hero from various selectable options. Language teachers can then ask students to write a reflection about this experience.

But that is only the beginning of a thought process. The whole way of thinking about literacy in terms of the written word being the most important end product is out of date. This is a contentious issue no doubt but an argument that can be developed further. I’ve been reading James Gee’s book on this issue.

Asperger's Disorder - a Case Study (Margaret Meijers):
Margaret’s presentation was compelling and totally convincing. Game Making can open a pathway to assists certain students more powerfully than any other way we currently know of.

Templates (Al Upton): By the use of templates Al has extended the scope of game construction to a new, younger strata of students. But it seems to me that his technique has applicability across the whole spectrum and Al has theorised that too.

Computer Club (Tony Forster): Tony’s successful computer club offers another pathway for either teacher or parent/ other volunteers to offer game making to students.

Game Design (Vincent Trundle): The original game Vincent showed us of the man flying into the sky and space highlighted to need for us to move our students beyond making clones of existing commercial games

I think the point could be made that game development is still in its infancy and also distorted by commercial interest (Grand Theft Auto). There will be many amazing and original games in the future that have not been thought of or developed yet.

Something is making me do it (Bill Kerr): What I tried to show in my presentation was that Game Maker offered unique opportunities to engage certain students with ability or curiosity in programming and 3D presentation (not shown due to technical glitch). And that this particular medium (games) presented challenges to all involved due to the combination of computer culture and generational change.

Other:
Many students would do game making if the opportunity was offered to them. But not many schools or teachers offer that opportunity.

Margaret Meijers has suggested as a partial solution to this problem that we offer game making courses to teachers and students through on line distance learning.

CONTENTIOUS / RESTRICTIVE

Issues that I still see as problematic include girls, career pathways and teachers.

Girls: We can make efforts to put a spin on this issue but to me it is a real problem

Bernard Holkner made an interesting comment about this in the panel discussion – that real time chat, handhelds and mp3 players are what girls want and they are often banned in schools

Career pathways: Many students will not choose game making in the senior school because it is perceived as not relevant to their career pathways. This is important because senior school curriculum is a big determiner of what happens earlier

Teachers: I agree with the comments by David Patreo in the afternoon panel discussion that we have a long term fundamental problem with teachers – most teachers don’t have the skills to teach good cross curricular IT. And I also agree with another comment he made that learning objects is a passive form of IT / multimedia instruction (dumbing down approach)

3 Comments:

Anonymous Roland said...

This is a very good summary Bill. Can I quote some parts in my blog?

7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good work Bill , I used 1945 and car racing as vehicle for teaching about files , applications, sprites and animation. Students replaced visual game elements.
8 lessons was a good sequence with year 7.
I would like to try an older group next.
Elliott Castle Hill NSW

3:35 PM  
Blogger Bill Kerr said...

Thanks for the mail Elliot

It's interesting for me that you use game maker to put a different twist onto what sounds like teach a regular part of your course

I'm wondering if any of your students decided to take it further

5:45 PM  

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