The plan was to write two blog posts – one covering Monday and the other Tuesday, I am now looking at 10 pages of typed notes! So more than two blog posts – but it shows just how good the two days were! I got to listen and be inspired by a range of speakers – what comes below is a an overview on what I saw and my take on this!
Graham Brown-Martin, conference creator kicked off proceedings calling for the education sector to stop being precious and to talk to the industry in terms that they both understand in order to lead to more joined up thinking. Graham, announced that next years conference would be held in Birmingham and would involve the first 2011 Games Based Learning awards with support from Becta!
At this point I have to admit I almost choked on my mint! Becta have not gone out of their way yet to support the use of games in school – for example, their ICT in excellence awards has no category for the excellent use of online or COTs games, however it it nice to see that they are on board and it will be interesting to see how this develops!
Tom Watson MP was the chair for the mornings proceedings and announced we are all in the imagination game, teachers capture imagination of children and the games industry is about capturing imagination on a global scale through making/selling of games. I like this view of being involved in the imagination game – on another note he announced that the election would be called next Tuesday so we’ll see on that one!
Ed Vaisey then spoke, he is the current Shadow Minister who talked about the fact that games are very rarely shown in a positive light – why not? He came across games as part of brief as shadow minister – the games industry in this country is thriving, there are regional companies all over the country and has multiple applications across the board – heath, defence and education. If conservatives win the election – Ed is going to be a champion for games! He outlined three key areas:
1) skills that people need to develop to become games designers – to ensure that courses are there to produce graduates that have the tech and creative skills!
2) Body/quango to exist alongside film council – to act on behalf of games industry to give games a ‘voice’ at top table of govt. – to pull together diff strands of elspa/tiga/and games based learning.
3) Financial support for industry – Ed thinks its an industry that deserves to be backed
I agree with these three ideas, but it will be interesting to see what happens in May and if any of the areas outlined above come into fruition – after all actions speak louder than words.
Next up were Siobhan Reddy and Kareen Ettouney from Media Molecule, the company behind Little Big Planet (LBP), a game I have not yet explored they spoke about how they learned through Lego, Tony hart and Commodore – tools and games that they grew up with – as well as art and graphic comics, music bands learning to collaborate and jam together in a band. All these examples set the tone of how to recognize that gbl is all about the different influences . They spoke of a ‘jamming’ mentality – to do with experimentation, just do it and have confidence to try it out, idea of jamming as a term is playful – collaboration and can produce the best work - ‘improvised experimentation’ – all the influences mentioned above from their youth enabled them to know that they could figure it out and there would be an end.
Their aim was to make LBP approachable and friendly when they made it did not know how people would take it /make of it – it just ‘exploded! They saw a range of applications – saw for themselves the use of it in education – designing games but learning at same time on a ‘game’ expressive and user friendly tools are needed – need ways to present ideas that are not so hard that it takes all our energy to learn the tool itself – so that it is not exclusive – content more important than the tool. Which I think is a real factor in using games in the classroom – I have often said it’s not about the game, rather it is how the teacher makes the most use of the content.
LBP – tried to reduce the difficulty of the tool itself – able to market and publish their piece called it creative collaboration. The best part of LBP is the community, millions of user generated levels , the notion that it can be accessible and complex at the same time, genderless and ageless . The idea that it enables people to be expressive with 2 million levels uploaded in 2 yrs it shows how ‘hungry’ world is for creating!
They ended with a quote and a thought: “Only by watering ideas do you find out if it’s a weed or a flower” just because you share your pencils does not stop you being an artist! Just a fantastic presentation with a lot to resonate with education .
Alice Taylor from C4 was next on to the stage , talking about making educational games fun. They look at what platforms teenagers are using and try to make things that that internet native, do a lot of research , asking children to identify themselves, mainstream that are a minority. Talked about lessons that have been learned.
Lesson 1 = major engagement – 1066 games from ch4 type it i into google and ch4 games comes top – information is great but engaging with it even better.
Lesson 2 – entertainers like to teach, ch4 not curriculum based but soft learning. This raises the question for us as teachers as well do we like to entertain?
Lesson 3: TV is good for human stories
Lesson 4: innovation vs familiarity – blend of both. Games have long dwell time
Lesson 5: plenty of room for more!
She then spoke about a range of games that C4 have in the pipeline – I think primarily aimed at teenagers however a couple I want to take a look at as can see it fitting with work we currently do at Primary. The first was 303 squadron: culture/history game – looking at the role of the 303 squadron during the Second World War. The second game being cover girl which deals with media and image literacy – something that I feel is really required in an age where ‘celebrity’ and the notion of the size zero is high.
Consolarium is now working with most if not all local authorities across the country seeing real growth embedded into the curriculum. For example, Samba de Amigo, where children learnt about Samba culture, had a Samba day and a rainforest in the corner of the room. All the projects showed the following elements; purpose, owenership, relevance, they were agents of their own learning. The games have a demand and a cultural appeal so as Derek Robertson asked– why are we still justifying it use in the classroom! Derek also spoke about new projects like the Eyepet could this replace the class pet?? Also creating a culture of creation not just consumption, using glow to produce a community online developing games together . The mission is well under way in Scotland – Scotland is ready to level up – Derek asked – ‘are we?’ I know I am – are you??