Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Games Based Learning, Education Policy and Market

Looking at a recent speech made by Michael Gove and the responses to it tell us as much about the education system as it does about games in education.

In the section of his speech on harnessing technology in the classroom he stated:

“In addition to the debate over what is taught, and the issue of who does the teaching, we also need to think about how the teaching takes place. So as well as reviewing our curriculum and strengthening our workforce, we need to look at the way the very technological innovations we are racing to keep up with can help us along the way. We need to change curricula, tests and teaching to keep up with technology, and technology itself is changing curricula, tests, and teaching.”

He went on to say:

“Computer games developed by Marcus Du Sautoy are enabling children to engage with complex mathematical problems that would hitherto have been thought too advanced. When children need to solve equations in order to get more ammo to shoot the aliens, it is amazing how quickly they can learn. I am sure that this field of educational games has huge potential for maths and science teaching and I know that Marcus himself has been thinking about how he might be able to create games to introduce advanced concepts, such as non-Euclidean geometry, to children at a much earlier stage than normal in schools.”

He concluded:

“These developments are only beginning. They must develop on the ground - Whitehall must enable these innovations but not seek to micromanage them. The new environment of teaching schools will be a fertile ecosystem for experimenting and spreading successful ideas rapidly through the system.”

A number of games related blogs have been positive about Gove’s speech but others have been more circumspect. For example, The Guardian wrote a critical account in “Is Michael Gove's concept of learning in the digital era outdated?

My view: I guess we need to take him at his word, until we know more. He recognises the importance of technology in the education system. He cites the use of games in mathematics classes and goes on to say that they enable accelerated learning.

I recognise the Gove didn’t expand greatly on the use of games based learning. But is the Guardian is correct in stating “the problem is, Gove's speech represents an out dated concept of technology and learning; it is part of a lingering belief that computers should be used merely as information retrieval and reward systems within the traditional education system.”

Certainly, there are broader examples of games based learning including the work we do at games-ED:

But, could it be that he simply Gove just hasn’t got very good examples of the use of games based learning. Maybe, we simply need to wait and see. And with one third of secondary schools becoming academies, there will be more freedom in the education system anyway. As he says, “the National Curriculum should provide a foundation of knowledge. Great teachers, inspired by love for their subjects, should make the classroom come alive". Will he practice what he preaches?

Instead of looking for a game based learning to be decided on from the top, the industry needs to create the products teachers want and teachers need to take a few more chances in their classes. Who knows the market might just get it right and then it might not…

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