Today, Thursday, June 7th, sees the second Irish Symposium on Game Based Learning get underway in Waterford Institute of Technology. Under the guidance of Dr Patrick Felicia, PhD and his research team the purpose of the symposium is to:
- Report on the use of GBL in primary, secondary and third-level education
- Define the roadmap for GBL in Ireland
- Provide evidence of the effectiveness of GBL to motivate and learn
- Identify how GBL can be included and facilitated in instructional settings.
In recent years Game Based Learning, or GBL, has been gaining traction as a recognised, evidence based pedagogy with more teachers, education professionals and policy makers becoming aware of its potential use in reimagining the traditional classroom. GBL can be a powerful tool in the teacher’s arsenal, particularly when it comes to student engagement and motivation. In Ireland, however, it is still a relatively new concept for teachers at primary and post-primary levels. This symposium provides a fantastic opportunity to hear from those currently spearheading the use of GBL and presents up to date research and case studies in a variety of educational settings.
I was lucky enough to attend last year’s inaugural event. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect but it certainly didn’t disappoint. There was an eclectic mix of presenters and case studies drawn from both industry and education, mainly third level. Michael Hallissy, Director of the Digtial Hub gave a compelling keynote on a game making project aimed at young adults based in the Hub. This year Derek Robertson, Founder of Education Scotland's game-based learning initiative, The Consolarium and National Adviser for Emerging Technologies and Learning at Education Scotland, takes the keynote spotlight.
Since it began in 2006 the Consolarium has offered support and resources to teachers and schools in Scotland interested in using GBL techniques and, I believe, offers a possible model for the promotion and adoption of GBL in the Irish schools system. Teachers want and need no nonsense, practical applications and support, particularly when it comes to introducing new technologies and new ways of teaching and learning into their classroom. The Consolarium has adopted this approach and offers very practical support to schools and teachers including: a Centre where teachers and school principals can visit, a team of Development Officers who can make school visits and crucially a library and loans department where schools can borrow anything from video games to gaming consoles. So, all bases are covered from training and support right through to the hardware and software. What’s really interesting though is that the focus is not purely on the technology or this idea of programming for programming sake but more on the collaborative learning opportunities and the contextualised learning that GBL can bring to a classroom of mixed abilities. With this model in mind, It was great to see Dr. Felicia and his team recently announce a new longitudinal GBL study and research programme for Irish schools beginning in September this year. Participating schools will have access to resources, training workshops and an online portal where teachers and students can access material.
This year’s Symposium has a great mix of presenters and case studies. There are two focusing on the use of virtual worlds in education. My colleague James Corbett, CEO, MissionV Education is making a presentation on the MissionV 20 school pilot project which provided an open-ended non-proprietary environment for students to build, program and share their own interactive learning experiences. In addition Dr. Nigel Newbutt, PhD, from Smartlab UCD will examine the use of virtual environments for students on the autistic spectrum resulting from a 6 month UK case study. Brendan Buckley of Chessosity.com will be exploring the world of the school chess club and how playing chess can improve academic achievement. These are just my personal favourites but I’m looking forward to viewing all of the presentations when they’re available online!
More Reading & Resources:
Download presentations from IGBL Symposium 2011
Digital Games in Schools – A Handbook for Teachers, Dr. Patrick Felicia, PhD
National Programme & Study on Game-Based Learning beginning September 2012, Longitudinal study by the IGBL Unit, WIT, led by Dr. Patrick Felicia, PhD
What Kids Learn from Positive Games – Education Scotland
Deep Learning Properties of Good Digital Games – James Paul Gee
Game Design Tools: 2DIY, Scratch, Kodu, Unity 3D, XNA Game Studio, UDK, Robocode
Games Fleadh – Annual Digital Games Festival for post primary students, held in March at LIT-Tipperary
MissionV Videos demonstrating how schools used gaming elements in their virtual world simulations for Science Week.