PREVIEW: Game Based Learning

Ben Parfitt
PREVIEW: Game Based Learning

What is the main objective for Game Based Learning?

The aim of Game Based Learning as a teaching practice is to encourage the use of video gaming and social media technologies, to improve the quality of formal or informal learning.

The aim of Game Based Learning as a conference is to bring together industry and education leaders, publishers, developers, innovators and practitioners to share their knowledge and explore the positive impact that games are having on learning, teaching and training. We hope that the knowledge shared and the relationships established would lead to a better understanding of each other’s sector and will improve the quality of games.

Why is it important that the industry gets involved with Game Based Learning?

This is an expanding industry and it needs first class talent, but where is this talent going to come from?
Game Based Learning will open up the vital discussion with the education sector over the skills studios require.

Also, games have been repeatedly abused by the mainstream media for the decay of western society. The industry has been blamed for causing obesity, violence, bullying and more.

Yet, there are hundreds of good news stories from the education sector where games and social media are being used throughout the country to improve educational attainment, social cohesion, well-being and family play. These aren’t just stories either, they are backed by hard evidence.

Game Based Learning is a vital opportunity for the industry to learn about these under-the-radar activities, engage with this best practice and encourage detractors to take a second look at the benefits of gaming.

How can the industry get involved in Game Based Learning?

Be proactive, add your opinion to the debate, make contacts with people in sectors that you wouldn’t normally connect with, give presentations in the Monday evening sessions and play pool and network at the GBL social reception on Monday night (March 29th).

How can the education and gaming communities work closer together?

A challenge for the schools sector is in motivating children around STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) as well as arts, design and creative writing. Video games, by their nature, encourage the development of these skills. Many games require a significant amount of abstract problem solving and establish context for collaborative learning, such as working in teams.

The current generation of students are the first who have been mainly influenced by non-linear interactive media – video games, social media, the web and so on – whereas earlier generations were typically influenced by broadcast media, such as TV, radio and magazines. This not only has a significant impact on their expectations when they enter the formal education system but also what career they may wish to follow. A career in the digital economy from games to web will require a grounding in STEM, arts and creative subjects. Linking these subjects to an area of interest and relevance is likely to motivate students. 

The ever-expanding game and digital industries need an abundance of talent if they are to succeed and compete in the 21st century. Consequently the industry must work closely with the education sector to ensure that their skills requirements are met.

What differentiates Game Based Learning from edutainment?

If you sugar coat broccoli you can still taste the broccoli – kids will always spot the phoney. Educational software that is designed to look like a game but with a fraction of the budget will always come across like ‘Dad dancing.’

Game Based Learning takes a game that may have cost millions to develop – purely for entertainment – and is used by an imaginative teacher as a contextual hub for rich, satisfying learning. A teacher will take aspects of a game and then build a learning framework around that. 

Games that cost millions to make are available to schools and individuals for negligible amounts, in comparison to so called educational software.

It’s like teaching physics via skateboarding – a good teacher will build their learning around a point of interest rather than expecting a piece of software to do it for them.

We have schools teaching strategy with Call of Duty, a group of Nuns in Milan teaching religious studies with GTA IV and so on.

What is your long-term aim for the Game Based Learning conference?

We want to establish the conference as the global number one annual gathering  for professionals from the entertainment, education and technology industries.

We want to encourage games to be taken seriously across education and government. We want becoming a games designer to be seen and nurtured as a valuable career option and that the government invests in the gaming industry.

But we’d also like to make sure that the games industry takes the education sector seriously, and works with educators to develop the key skills the industry needs to compete.

Game Based Learning 2010 takes place at The Brewery in London, and runs from Monday, March 29th to Tuesday, March 30th.

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