Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Proof of the Pudding...

I’ve written a lot about collaborative games based learning from a theoretical perspective, so I thought I would share a bit of practice.

Firstly, let me state I am not a teacher; in fact most of my skills as a trainer have been learned on the job.  Before we started our games based learning (ad)venture games-ED, my fellow directors and I ran a businesses called pixelfountain (actually we still do), where we delivered over 450 workshops using learning simulations. Around 40 of these workshops were delivered in schools, colleges and universities.

Pride in a winning score.
As part of our launch of games-ED, which licences our collaborative games based learning to educational establishments, we have recently delivered a couple of pilot classes. The first was held in Primary School for a group of nine and ten year olds. The second was delivered in an all girls school in London to a year 8 tutor group aged between twelve and thirteen. The ages were particularly important as we wanted to test the games with a younger age group.

Learning outcomes in the two schools:

  • 77.5% improvement in subject knowledge.
  • 57% improvement in decision-making skills.
  • 67% improvement in understanding of cause and effect.
  • 51% improvement in group working.


The Class Teacher / Deputy Head at Mellor Primary, who observed the session, provided us with the following comments:

  • The children were fully engaged for all the session and the ‘buzz’ in the room was one of real active learning. 
  • The money aspect involved really captured the children’s interest and they were genuinely interested to see the impact their purchases had made on the town. They were disappointed to see the results/consequences of their purchases in Year 2 and were keen to rectify them in Year 3!
  • The workshop pulled together many elements – working together, impact of managing and dealing with other people who have differing opinions, dealing with consequences of actions, environmental issues, dealing with money, managing a budget plus many more. 

Pupils considering issues.
The Teaching Assistant at Mellor Primary School stated, “I thoroughly enjoyed the session, as did the children. This group of children love anything involving money so it really captured their attention whilst dealing with lots of important and complex issues.”

The Assistant Head at Central Foundation Girls School said, “The students were engaged in the activity and enjoyed seeing the results of their decisions.”

In a sense, the teachers confirmed what we already knew, but as the old adage goes ‘the proof of the pudding is in the eating’. I won’t repeat my previous blog “Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning”, but it is worth re-iterating five of the six principles and relating them to the experience in the two pilot classes:

  • Create a sense of realism (as opposed to fantasy) – In the words of a pupil, “It was great being in charge of the town and seeing what the result was.”
  • Deliver engaging interaction by means of authentic activities (not just playing for the sake of it) – Being able to spend money in the game really captured the pupil’s interest, but it was the link to the outcomes that was key, as one pupil said “[I liked] the way you were free to make a decision by yourself and your team mates and whatever you did it affected the village.”
  • Group level game play where the goal is collaborative problem solving – all of the teachers picked up on the fact that the pupils were engaged in the activity and that they enjoyed seeing the results of their decisions.
  • Provide an anchor for multiple learning conversations – The “buzz” in the classrooms was not a metaphor that was literally the sound of the children as they all discussed what they were going to do.
  • The game needs to work in a learning continuum – the children played Sustainaville, which teaches sustainable development and links to geography, citizenship, PHSE, science, business studies, enterprise and supports mathematics and English

Dynamic main graphic of Sustainaville games based learning
The children enjoyed the constructivist learning style, typified by comments such as ““[I liked] the way you were free to make a decision by yourself and your team mates and whatever you did it affected the village.” I write in more detail on the value of Situated Gamed Based Learning in a previous blog.

If you want to read the full case studies of they can be found at Slideshare (see widget on the left-hand side of this blog) or visit the games-ED website:


I was going to write about a couple of projects where we designed and developed games with young people, but given this post has gotten a tad large, I think I will save that for my next instalment… Pin It

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