If you attended BETT10 how was it for you? For me, it was a disappointment. I could not help but feel a sense of deja-vu as I walked around the exhibition and saw really much of what was on display and offer last year and try as I might I could find little or no evidence of commercially available computer games and games consoles showing their educational face at the event. My tweets at the time captured my disappointment:
Why should I focus solely on computer games you may ask when there was so much else in terms of educational technology available for delegates to engage with and consider how that might be used to support and enrich learning? Why should my experience be such a disappointing one when it appears that Play and Playful learning was apparently a major theme of this years conference? I'll tell you why, it's because commercially available computer games that have been built for entertainment are, in our experience in Scotland in recent years, some of the very very best educational resources that schools teachers and pupils can get their hands on today. Yet, at this huge event they were singularly absent from the exhibition.
In this article about the theme of Playful Learning at BETT10 Professor Stephen Heppell said, “Playful learning has re-energised classrooms, rekindled school and parent relationships, re-engaged brains, provided a powerfully competitive space for problem-solving, and at other times a place for real individual concentration,”
Prof. Heppell's Playful Learning stand was one of the very few areas in the exhibition that at least made delegates question just what we mean by educational technology and the rationale and underpinning approaches that will have a positive impact on learning in classrooms. It was great to see resources that we are trialling in Scotland, such as 2DIY and Manga High featured on the stand. This is no surprise when you consider how much of a friend and advocate Prof. Heppell has been of the GBL work that we have been involved in over the past few years. However, I was very surprised and disappointed to see that the excellent game based learning practice with resources such as the Wii, DS, PS3, Xbox360 etc that has been nurtured, grown and embraced by schools across Scotland, England and further afield not really at the show. But apparently....
"...signs of a games-based, ‘playful’ approach were in evidence on many stands around the 14,000 square metres of trade show that made up BETT 2010. Arvind Desikan, head of UK consumer marketing for show lead sponsor Google, said tech-savvy, creative students can also come up with new ways to use technologies. Interactive games-type approaches help teachers and students alike."Where was this? I didn't really see it. I believe that the success that we have had in using commercially available computer games in schools has been down some fundamental principles. One of our GBL principles that is of particular relevance to this post is the fact that COTS belong in children's own cultural domains. For very many young learners game-play with COTS is what they choose to do in their own time, COTS culturally resonate with young learners, COTS have status, attraction, appeal and they are not from the domain of the school. This very fact has an immediate impact on interest and engagement when we work in schools because learning is being linked to a context that has significant cultural appeal and a sense of an "I belong in this activity...this makes sense to me" effect. James Paul Gee articulates this very well when he talks about Semiotic Domains and we use this to help explain the dynamic that we see when we use COTS in classrooms.
Yet what do we see at BETT10? On the most part more educational technologies being sold and linked under the banner of play and playful learning when, to me, they are very much in the domain of the school and the teacher. Yet apparently, as the article from Channelweb.co.uk, it does not have to be about 'conventional computer games. What does this mean? What is a conventional computer game anyway? Is this in some way an attempt to dismiss the world of COTS and the place that they may, and in my opinion, should have in classrooms?
Most of the tools that I saw that were linked with the Playful Learning theme are very interesting and no doubt of great use in the hands of good teachers but for me to not have the some of the most dynamic, appealing and hugely engaging learning resources that are currently available on show or display at BETT10 was a huge own goal. It may be the case that the major game companies wish to remain to be seen as entertainment companies and not to be explicitly linked with education. If this is the case then so be it but I think that horse has well and truly bolted though when you consider how game based learning with built for entertainment COTS is becoming more and more mainstream and widespread in schools.
Maybe BETT2011 will embrace Play and Playful learning in a far more wide reaching manner than it did this year. I hope so, we need to be showcasing the best resources and practice available to teachers to help inspire and engage learners and for me some of what would be 'Best in Show' were not even on the exhibition floor of this trade show.