The things we do as teachers eh? I remember spending hours upon hours in 1997 locked away in my classroom and study room at home learning how to use Adobe PageMill teaching myself how to create webpages so that I could then teach my P.5/6 class how to do the very same (poetry example). I also remember taking the school Archimedes home one weekend so that I could practise and in doing so enhance my ability to use Fireworkz spreadsheet and database. My commitment to this was such that I didn’t go with my friends to see my team Dundee United play Hearts in Edinburgh. What made it worse was that we one for the first time in years at Tynecastle that day, 2-1!
What’s the point of this you may ask? Well, I was just thinking about the nature of some teachers in terms of the commitment that they bring in terms of developing their own skill set with new technologies. There will also be a very keen and committed minority of teachers who will, out of their own interest in many ways, take the time to engage with new ideas, news approaches and new technologies. These folks will no doubt always take care of themselves and will continue to push the barriers of what they do in their particular classroom or local authority contexts. The ones who are reading this blog post are probably identifying themselves as members of this group.
In relation to games and learning I have been thinking about this very issue, particularly in relation to games design contexts. When I was a teacher and a lecturer at Dundee University I used the branching stories books by Steve Jackson and Ian Livingstone as the context through which we could create a dynamic, multimedia laden branching adventure story. This task had a low technical skills threshold and every pupil and student managed to create a finished artefact that could be shared, played and enjoyed by others. The beauty of this approach was that it developed technical skills but the real focus was on the imaginative writing. I often hear PowerPoint being talked about in disparaging terms but I feel that it has the facility to support imaginative and dynamic learning contexts…if you used appropriately and I’d like to say that I like it. (That’s better I’ve said it, this is may become a forum for PowerPointers Anonymous) The important point here is that there was low threshold level in terms of technical skill development that allowed the real focus on the writing to occur.
What training is required to support teachers in their ability to learn how to use software like this?
How can we identify teachers who will run with and be committed to spending time outwith allocated training time to develop the necessary skill set to support teaching and learning with games design software?
Where do class teachers include time to develop pupil skills in the use of games design software?
What do we do when the expert trainer goes home….?
I recently held a training day for one of these games design applications and even after that day I still needed to spend quite a bit of time going over the rules so that I could make a series of basic things happen within my game. I am maybe one of the perceived ‘nerdy’ guys that would be prepared to invest the time necessary to make this work for me but what about the wider teaching body? How do we impact on them in terms of taking low to medium through to high threshold new technology applications? Shouldn't we first focus on low threshold ideas/approaches that will enable a wider group of teachers to engage with particualr contexts such as the idea of creating a games based multimedia artefact?
I hope that this does not sound like defeatist post because I am really up for trying out these new games design applications within a variety of educational contexts in Scotland but I think that this is a question we must address. Yes we must be aspirational and aim for excellence but our dreams must also be attainable by the many and not just the few…
Mind you, we can't not support a small community of nerdy guys (I mean this cross gender and affectionately) who will really run with applications such as this and make it work in their classrooms.
For all you rock imposters out there who have been fumbling about with 5 figure scores on Guitar Hero have a look at the leaderboard for the Guitar Hero II Tour. That's it...I'm taking the guitars home to get myself up to that standard. That high score is double my best yet!
As you can see the tour is coming to Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Does anyone fancy accompanying 'Slash Robertson' to one of these events??? I feel a high score coming on...
Moral panics...they're like buses. Nothing for ages then along come two or three. Just logged in to my yahoo account and I saw this headline link: Violent video games harm the brain. Ah, a great deal of information there to help me make sense of this study and how I should make an informed judgment on what this academic claims and what it means for those championing games and learning.
Found this link a few minutes later on dubious quality's blog. This offers a much more detailed account of the study and a much more critical look at it in view of an interview that the author had with Newsweek.
I have just tuned in to the debate surrounding the the Rule of the Rose games for the PS2. This game has been given a 16+ PEGI certificate yet the moral panic mongers have managed to cause such a furore that the release of this game has been postponed!
The Daily Mail (as you might expect) have called this game 'obscenely cruel' and surprisingly The Times have jumped on the band wagon also. To put the tin lid on this the EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini has also released a press statement calling for an investigation into some of these obscene and perverse video games.
Look, where is the parental responsibility here?! If a game has a graded certificate that tells you that it's not suitable for your young child then don't buy it. Would you buy an 18 certificate DVD to put in your 10 year old's Xmas stocking? No, well then use the same judgment when buying games.This is very similar to a minor celebrity spat that I saw on Never Mind the Buzzcocks during the week. Jamelia (of Singstar fame) had said to Lily Allen that she would have liked a censored version (no swearing or sexual references) of her latest release so her very young daughter could enjoy it. Lily Allen point blank refused and said that her audience was not young girls and that no she wouldn't change her work...Why do we have to even consider that art and media should be made palatable for a very Young audience when it is clearly stated on much of it that the target audience is adult. Yes I know that youngsters will get their hands on this material but isn't that what growing up is about at times? Breaking the rules, pushing the boundaries, exploring the taboos and things that are 'not for you'. All we can do is to put mechanisms such as PEGI in place that informs adults of the nature of media that they intend to buy and we have to leave it up to them. That's my tuppence worth anyway.
Now, it seems that I'm going to have wait to be flegged to death as they say in Dundee by Rules of the Rose so I'm just going to but Fatal Frame instead.
On Friday 1st December I was given the opportunity to speak to the Scottish ICT Development Group (SICTDG) about the Consolarium and our plans for the promotion of the games and learning agenda within the Scottish context.
I had just started to deliver my talk when the fire alarm went off! As a result we had to postpone the presentation until after lunch.
Anyway, although I felt a little bit rushed within the 20 minute slot that I had please find attached my presentation for your perusal: