Tomorrow is my last day working at Education Scotland. I have worked under this banner for the past two years but previous to that and prior to Government restructuring it was with Learning and Teaching Scotland that I earned my crust! This working relationship began in August 2006 when I left my post as a Lecturer at the University of Dundee and accepted a seconded post at LTS as National Development Officer for Game Based Learning, with the success of that seconded post leading to a permanent role from 2008 until now. Now, I am reversing that move as I head back to Dundee University to rejoin the Lecturing and Research teams in August.In 2006 the concept of GBL was still one that was from the leftfield and not really one that was common place in schools. I had a real interest in it though having embedded it in my practice as a classroom teacher from the mid to late 1990s (click this link then select Children's web Publishing link to hear me talk in 1998 about Nintendo's Zelda as a learning resource) and from building it in to the student experience in the B.Ed (P) and PGCE(P) course at Dundee University. Armed with my own experience and the knowledge and learning I was gaining from the growing academic interest and emphasis in this area by people such as John Kirriemuir, Angela Macfarlane, Stephen Heppell, James Paul Gee and Marc Prensky I was really keen to see if we could bring the ideas and practice of GBL to Scottish schools and to try to scale it up. At this time I was lucky enough to have had the line management of one of LTS' Directors, Laurie O'Donnell whose vision and influence helped create the opportunity and space where ideas such as mine could be imagined, explored and tried out in schools. His leadership was central to the work that I had hoped to carry out and he was ably supported by Ian Graham who was always willing to support my thinking and aspirations by supplementing the modest budget that I was initially allocated.
At the heart of what I did and what I always do was a desire to create contexts that will impact on better outcomes for learners and it was with this in mind that I took to the floor to speak to the SICTDG key contacts in December 2006. In a 15 minute slot, I shared with them my developing thoughts and theoretical perspective on the purpose, nature and potential of game based learning and then invited them to come to the Consolarium - a space I ambitiously named the Scottish Centre for Games and Learning - to play with and learn about games and and to partner me in some GBL initiatives that I had planned. The response was a mixed one with some colleagues finding the thought of GBL quite an amusing one and others concerned that this was simply a frivolous waste of taxpayers money. Nevertheless, this experience and opportunity was a valuable one because very soon some real notes of interest came my way and before long I had to get the biscuit tin full of tasty things for visitors to scoff as I prepared for the series of visits to the Consolarium from Scottish and international educators - visits that didn't stop until the Consolarium had to close its doors in 2011.LTS/Education Website and the Consolarium blog. At the time I retired my own blog as I wanted all my/our work to be associated with the National Education body who had funded and committed to this project (although I aim to rejoin the blogosphere in my new post).
Some of what we did includes:
- Our work helped ensure that game based learning and game design was explicitly referred to in CfE documentation
- Engaged with almost everyone of the 32 local authorities and helped to establish game based learning and/or computer game design in all of these.
- Consolarium visited by 26 of the 32 local authorities on at least one occasion
- Independent sector engaged with Consolarium to learn about the benefits and opportunities that the Consolarium’s work could offer
- Partnerships developed with 5 of the 7 Scottish TEIs with visits to speak to teaching students established in some University programmes
- Consolarium visited by BECTa and Futurelab and asked to help them take forward their work in this area
- Peer reviewed academic research (randomized control trial) published that showed statistically significant gains in mental maths by using the Dr Kawashima Nintendo DS game. (Methodology allowed us to make claims about generalisablity)
- Peer reviewed research published exploring the impact of our Nintendogs work and the signature pedagogies that arose from this
- Asked by Futurelab to submit Consoalrium case study to European Schoolnet GBL in schools Document
- Asked to curate European Schoolnet’s Games in Schools work. Spoke at their conference at their GBL European Parliament in Strasbourg
- Series of published case studies and blog posts helped influence a change in the discourse around game based learning with schools all over Scotland engaging in this work
- Presentation given to DfE and MPs at the Houses of Parliament
- Developed CPDConsolarium - a GBL loan service and community within Glow.
- Contributed to Hope/Livingstone Report that was commissioned by UK Government with the Consolarium being held up as an example of what could be done to help address digital skills gap in schools
- Articles in many newspapers and magazines and features on BBC TV, BBC Radio (Scotland, National & World Service) including a feature on Rai Uno with me dubbed in Italian!
- International interest with requests to speak in Australia, France, Norway, Denmark, Italy, Singapore, Qatar, Canada, Brazil, America and many other countries
- Requests form a significant number of commercial companies for consultancy support to help their understanding of what effective learning with games might look like
It was not always an easy job trying to convince people that GBL was a good idea and it is fair to say that the occasional media swipe and a disappointingly placed FOI did unnerve those who maybe should have believed in me and my team a bit more than they did. The creation of Education Scotland in 2011 and all that that entailed meant that the Consolarium space was no longer available, the team was disbanded and the funding stopped. Nevertheless, Scottish Education has shown that it has the capacity to take informed risk and that it is not afraid to explore innovative ideas and practice with digital technology. Maybe it just needs to be wary of the inexorable, glacial march of the habitus of education and the destructive power that this can wield and not to allow itself to lose sight of how innovation and culture change needs long term commitment and high level support.
As I look at back at my time here I want to make mention of the people who without their help none of this would really have happened. First mention goes to Anna Rossvoll who when she was with Aberdeenshire Council was one of the first to visit the Consolarium. She and her team then became a hugely valuable partner in what we were doing. Many of the early ideas were given her full support with their first school tests in Aberdeenshire and it was she who came up with the idea of putting Nintendogs in to a P1 class. At this time I was introduced to a class teacher from Aberdeenshire called Kim Aplin who was the first person to take on board my Guitar Hero ideas. As a result of her continued work in the field of GBL Kim even joined me later as seconded member of my team! Other LA people who merit specific mention include Laura Compton, John Low and Margo Kerr from West Lothian, Sally Fulton, Margaret Cassidy and Joe Shaw from Stirling Council, Hamish Budge from Eilean Siar and Maggie Irving from Argyle and Bute. Great colleagues who really supported my ideas in the early days. Thank you and sorry if I missed anyone special from this list.
I'd also like to thank Graham Brown Martin for the invites to speak at the Handheld Learning and Game Based Learning Conferences in London. He gave us a great platform to share our work and to promote our ideas, Some of our Spotlight Scotland sessions were really memorable! Great to be part of that. Thank you.
Lastly I'd like to thank Brian McLaren, Brian Clark, Charlie Love and Ollie Bray who were just simply superb members of my team and who really helped to raise the profile of our work and tried to effect change in classrooms across Scotland. Thank you.
Ach well, it was good while it lasted but now it's time to move on... it's been quite an experience but I look forward to the future knowing that there are so many people in education who are prepared to continually grow their practice, take on board new ideas and use a range of digital tools that can allow learning to be situated within culturally relevant contexts that offer challenge, demand and appeal for learners. It's great to be part of that and to be a colleague to so many of them.