Games. Education.
Games. Education.

Games. Education.

This post is the result of three discrete conversation, with three respected educators. The first with Dan Roberts @chickensaltash, the second with Ollie Bray @OllieBray, and the third with Jan Webb @Janwebb. All three conversations focused on teaching and learning, and not on games. Yet all through conversations were about the use of games in a learning setting.

When writing about ‘games’ and ‘education’ there is a tried and tested formula. First I am supposed to woo you with a seductive title.

  • Gaming in / as / for / education.
  • Educational Gaming.
  • Games as Learning.
  • Learning through gaming.
  • Serious Gaming.
  • Education Arcade.
  • Learning in Immersive Worlds.

There are more, but its simply not be worth your time listing them all.

The next step is to swamp you with statistics. The number of gamers, the number of hours played, played online, on different platforms available, the average virtual spend, to total virtual spend, and then supposedly surprise you that the average age of a ‘gamer’ is not 11-15 before delivering a sucker punch, outlining that 98.8% of teachers have never gamed in their entire lives. In fact they didn’t even know the genera existed. (Do I need a comment here in brackets telling you not to take this literally?)

Next I exemplify through case studies that games are a hugely motivating and engaging learning experience before further spinning the yarn; the impact of game mechanics, social and collaborative aspects of games and their alignment digital cultures before closing with a statement alluring to fact that games are a ‘cure all’ for education itself. Including the ICT or Computing debate.

Without question, games can opens the doors for new possibilities in teaching and learning. There is a ‘the manager effect’ of course (as we saw today with Sunderland’s 2-1 victory with Martin O’Neil at the helm), though the employment of games does not nullify the impact of a great educator. And as with any good lesson, the students must walk through the door.

When the student is ready, the master appears. – Buddhist Proverb

I am not sure that these typically flamboyant, statistic ladend, superlative and rhetoric laced commentaries actually encourage the teachers to explore the medium, to enrich their deliver and inspire their learners. In fact, I think it actually encourages them to ‘leave it to the innovators’ to steer clear of this ‘goliath of engagement’ that they have been just told they know little about. Ironically, most teachers use gaming of sorts in most of their lessons, in rewards systems, Q/A strategies, seating plans, quizzes, it is just defined as ‘classroom management’ or ‘good teaching strategies’ instead.

So here, with the help of Dan, Ollie and Jan is ‘Games and Learning’ in plain speak.

‘Games as the Learning’ sometimes referred to as Serious Games.

Click recently covered Lyon’s Serious Games Expo in about about 10 minutes. ‘A whole new approach?’ I don’t think so. Somewhat, I can remember playing basic, certainly less sophisticated, vocational games, as part the NLN materials. In addition to this precise learning assets, there are games such as Pandemic II in which you evolve your disease, spread it across the continents and eradicate mankind. There are many other great education RPG examples such online safety with smokescreen or community involvement with The Curfew Game. Here, the game is the teacher. The teacher is the designer of the process. Look at the learning opportunities in ‘Learning Support.’ Monopoly, Scrabble, hardly bleeding edge. What about mancala and charades for critical thinking. I would put reading or playing Interactive Fiction here.

Games as Yeast

Using games to make learning rise. Repurposing of the genera. Notable inclusions,

Tim Ryland’s literacy work with Myst, more recently Samorost and Machinarium and other graphic games have been adapted.

The Physics of Angry Birds and more (a simple Google will bring back a range of post like this one from Kevin McLaughlin, for the ‘more’ part see Dan Meyer)

Using the RPG Bow Street Runners to engage with learners, and using the game as a reason to create a database.

Ollie Brays whole school project with Guitar hero and his more recent work with Kinect Adventures.

I would put designing and writing Interactive Fiction here, as an exploitative form to facilitative writing.

Designing, Building and Sharing Games as Education

Kodu, Scratch, Gamestar Mechanic and others teach coding (included writing Interactive Fiction with Quest), programming and the associated skills (this is not a debate of what coding has to offer). Then there is learning to design the games them, also covered by default by these titles, but platforms like Stencyl. With many platforms now edveloping an ecosystem of modules, blocks, bricks and more, with opportunities to uploaded, comment and rate as part of a community. What was interesting to find out was that stencil also offers the opportunity to create mobile games.

Interestingly one of the key points raised by the Click feature was that advertising is games was very effective and when we are immersed in game play our defenses are down. I wonder if learning is most effective when guard is down? Do you know or have an opinion?

If you are curious about the genera, there are 52 ‘saves’ here.



  1. I think in our excitement to spread the gospel, we often confuse the vehicle with the actual ‘load’ (learning) and hence why people shy away from using games. It also requires some creativity to repurpose content/ideas and from the research I have heard about, only about 15% of teachers are willing to do this on average. Sustainable culture?

    1. Kristian Still

      The way in which this model of teaching is presented, I am unsurprised that only 15% of teachers are willing to explore this medium. Sadly, I agree it is not sustainable.

      The second point you highlight, that I wish to underline, is the skill required to repurpose content/ideas. Ironically after that intervention, the games often drive the vehicle.

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