My profesional career has seen me devote my time, thoughts, ideas and energy into making the classroom experience for schoolchildren as worthwhile, dynamic and memorable an experience as possible. I like to think that I have a growth mind-set and that I will continue to evolve as a professional so that I can always look at new ideas and approaches with a critical eye but where I am always prepared to take informed risks. As Ken Robinson states, "If you're not prepared to be wrong then you'll never come up with anything original!"
Now up until now the work that I have done with teachers across schools in Scotland in the field of games based learning has received a pretty good press. In fact, that fact is mentioned by me whenever I deliver presentations. It seems though that I'll have to make a slight amendment to my presentations now after an article in today's Scotsman.
In Cash-strapped schools urged to spend on games consoles a rather disappointing attack is made on an offer recently made by LTS to local authorities to be able to buy Nintendo DSs for their schools at a discounted price, much less than what is quoted in the article. This, as I understand was a one-off offer to meet demand from schools that have had their interest in this educational resource raised mainly by the work of the Consoalrium but also because of some evidence based research that was carried out by LTS and the University of Dundee. This first research article is about to be featured in the British Journal of Education in the next month and if you are interested the reference is:
Miller, D.J. & Robertson, D.P. (in press) Using a games console in the
primary classroom: Effects of ‘Brain Training’ programme on
computation and self-esteem. British Journal of Educational Technology
Dr David Miller and I are curently working on the paper that details the finding of our extended research study that was partnered by HMIe in the summer term of last year. This work has led to requests to share our innovative work with audiences throughout the school community in Scotland, England (BECTa, Futurelab & Stephen Heppell's Be Very Afraid), and further afield-Singapore, Germany, Denmark, Australia, USA. I have also just finished, today, writing the UK case study for a forthcoming paper for European Schoolnet with a request to share our work in Strasbourg in May.
The Scotsman article mentions research by Professor Alain Lieury but fails to go into detail about research done in Scotland. Now I recently put my thoughts about Profesor Lieury's work down in print on the Games based Learning discussion forum but here's what I had to say about that:
I, on behalf of LTS, carried out the first small scale research initiative in Scotland. This is really what made people sit up and take notice of this application of a commercially available game. If you haven't seen the case study then have a look:
As a result of this study and the many questions that we felt were raised by it, LTS funded an extended study http://ltsblogs.org.uk/consolarium/2008/09/25/dr-kawashima-extended-trial-summary-results/last year that saw the same methodology compared with only a control group this time. This was done in 32 schools across Scotland. The results we found were very similar to our initial study. The first study has been peer reviewed and accepted for academic publication and the second one hopefully will too.
I read the headlines about the Rennes study and was at first a little bit apprehensive about what their findings meant for the work that I have led. As a result I have taken my time to reflect on things...
There are questions that I'd like answered before I make a definitive comment about the Rennes research but as there is little available to read (but you'll get it in a forthcoming book ) so I don't feel that I can do that. What I can do though is ask some questions:
I do think that they have missed the point here. Come to Scotland, see the children work with Dr Kawashima, listen to them talking about how they are better at maths, challenge them to the x20 test and watch their faces give you total respect when you do it in 10 seconds
Also come and talk to our teachers who continually talk of improved performance in mental maths, self-esteem gains, social dynamic enhancements, improved time-keeping, metacognitive activity and much much more. Also, teachers don't worry about the tech here, they can focus on supporting the learning. There is so much good that has come out of this initial idea that I devised whilst playing this game nearly two years that I find it hard to take in a piece of work that appears to be so detached from the real world of classroom practice that I like to think that I inhabit.
Finally, with a little help from Dr Kawashima I believe we have made it a valued aspiration for our schoolchildren to be red hot at mental maths. Can you really tell me that pencil and paper does that? I look forward to reading a fuller account of what was carried out in Rennes but I have faith and confidence in what LTS, the University of Dundee and Scottish teachers and children did. It worked an absolute treat.
I was also not convinced that Ken Cunningham's, the general secretary of School Leaders Scotland and Frank Gerstenberg's, the former head of George Watson's College, apparent scepticism was really about the value of the games and what we argue it can bring to the classroom. It was more about school budgets in particular. No it took Nick Seaton, the chairman of the Campaign for Real Education to really get the traditional mobs 16 hole Dr Marten boots on when he said: "It's absolutely crazy and a poor use of taxpayers' money for schools to be spending on things like Nintendos when there isn't sufficient money to pay good teachers and buy school books." Now I know that we are in a difficult climate at the moment and that money must be spent wisely but I do believe that schools who have chosen to spend some valued cash on this offer are doing right here...at least this ICT spend has some evidence to base the spend on! This appears to me to be a clear case of when the going gets tought the tough get traditional. Come on, who in their right mind thinks that pencil and paper, alone, is going to do it for the very many school kids who are not and will not connect with a school experience that does not move with the times, evolve and position itself in the cultural framework from in which it's client group comes from?
Have I got it so horribly wrong. Have I imagined the raise in attainment that our data has shown? Am I strong-arming the very, very, very many teachers across Scotland that I am working with to come on board with this? Am I not seeing happy, challenged and interested faces on school children in the classes that I work in with some of the most thoughtful and objectively critical teachers that I have met? I can assure that the answer to all these questions is no.
Maybe it is the turn of games based learning to have its bad press day but I will debate the merits of gbl with anyone. It works, it's right and this backward and traditional view is one that, in my opinion, will fail our schoolchildren...or do we never want them to come up with anything original?