Are you playing mind games with me?

A brief examination of my gene pool sometimes makes me wonder whether I should undertake some form of Nintendo brain training to stave off the inevitable signs of mental aging. It will all be to no avail, no doubt. However, there is a lot of speculation in the educational world about the role of games in new technologies. European Schoolnet is performing some research in the role of games and gaming devices in school, but I remain something of a games luddite. I don’t get it, why pretend to race a car or play a guitar or swing a tennis racquet when you can do the real thing? And why do we think it might be educational to do so? Yet Terry Deary, of Horrible Histories fame, claims to ‘see no difference between entertainment and learning. If you try to “teach” somebody without making it fun then the young people will not learn very efficiently – schools have been boring children to sleep for a hundred years. But if you try to “entertain” them with something pointless then they will soon grow bored. Computer games are the perfect chance to entertain AND educate. They are the future and will be there long after schools (and teachers) have crumbled to dust.’

Hmm. Stark warnings, if, like me, you are starting to feel a bit dusty. Schools in Scotland have been working with many teachers to retro-fit commercial off the shelf games in to the teaching and learning that happens in nursery, primary and secondary classes.  They have put Dr Kawashima for the Nintendo DS in to P.6 to impact on mental maths attainment; they have used games such as Endless OceanNintendogs and Guitar Hero to become the contextual hub about which a whole series of cross-curricular learning can take place. They have even issued the completion of Chapter 1 of Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney as homework to S.2 pupils prior to classroom exploration of the narrative and a whole host of creative writing activities.

What does all of that mean? It feels like a foreign land, but one which even us luddites must traverse if we are to understand the modern pupils’ context. At root, I don’t think I’ll ever really get the point of these sorts of games, but many of the children I and others teach do get the point of them, which makes me think that I owe it to my professionalism to make the effort to at least understand them. Don’t you think?

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