I recently listened to a talk by Sugata Mitra at the Education Technology Conference in Leeds. I am sure you have all come across Sugata Mitra – he is widely known for his Hole in the Wall experiments carried out in India, which the inspired Vikas Swarup to write his debut novel Q & A, which later became the movie Slumdog Millionaire.
By the way Sugata’s talk followed a similar format to one given at TED (Ideas worth Spreading) – Child-driven education, which you can see below.
When listening to Sugata , I was struck by four implications for games based learning:
1. Generating Interest: Sugata discussed his work with Arthur C. Clarke, who pointed out that “if there is interest, then education happens.” Games based learning can generate a lot of interest. And a lot has been written about games based learning and its ability to motivate and engage learners. I won’t repeat those points here, but what I will say is that games can suffer from being too interesting. Specifically, the design of the game needs to support the learning process – see blog post “Six Key Principles of Collaborative Games Based Learning”.
2. The role of the teacher: Again, quoting Arthur C. Clarke Sugata said that “A teacher that can be replaced by a machine; should be.” It is worth noting that Sugata doesn’t believe that teachers can be replaced (well not yet), but he does believe that teachers shouldn’t be the purveyors of mere information. He believes that is what Google is for. Instead, they should inspire and help pupils analyse what they have found. Teachers can provide scaffolding and expertise, this particularly true in collaborative games based learning products such as games-ED. As game decisions are input into the game (at a class level) the teacher can ask questions such as, “Why did you buy that?” Game reports can be analysed by the students and the teacher – “What worked, what didn’t and how are we going to improve things this round?”
3. The method of the grandmother: Inspiration can come from unusual quarters. Both in experiments in India and Gateshead, Sugata discovered that students could achieve dramatic results (20% increase in test scores) just by being encouraged by an adult – “wow that looks good can you show me again”. Again, this isn’t to say that teachers aren’t required, but it shows how important inspiration is in the education process. Games based learning can motivate learners by presenting both an interesting narrative and a competitive challenge. The role of the teacher, as previously stated, is to provide scaffolding and expertise, but they should also simply nudge the players along rather like a grandmother. By moving away from rigid traditional instructional method, teachers allow the students to work together to construct their understanding. See blog “Learn by Doing”.
4. The power of collaboration: Key to Sugata’s learning ideas is the power of collaboration. In his experiments, he encourages the students to work in groups of four with one computer. He believes that the key to delivering improved education outcomes is generating conversations. I completely agree and as I written previously in a blog titled “The Art of Conversation”, collaborative games based learning anchors conversations and enables students to learn complex subjects quickly.