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Talking Point: Digital games linked to learning

October 19 2011

A new Griffith University education study is investigating how digital games enhance high-level understanding and learning. Professor Catherine Beavis from the School of Education and Professional Studies explains.


Digital games linked to learning

Digital games have an enormous impact on the lives of children but their potential to improve learning in schools has not yet been realised.

Young Australians' social and cultural experiences are increasingly digital. Their everyday lives are characterised by digital play and online interaction and their futures will involve digital workplaces, regardless of the career paths they follow.

As they play computer games and interact online, young people are learning a great deal about new forms of literacy and communication, and about working together to solve problems, as well as learning about what is involved in playing particular games.

Professor Catherine Beavis

Professor Catherine Beavis.

More and more they are becoming producers, not mere users, of digital culture. School systems, however, struggle to connect to this digital world and to fully utilise the opportunities available to maximise on what and how students learn.'

We can learn a great deal about learning, and new forms of literacy, from observing young people's engagement with computer games in their own time, with clear implications for pedagogy and curriculum.

There is increasing interest in how computer games might be adapted and used to support learning. However, many 'serious' games designed for schools have been introduced with little awareness of the role of context in gameplay or of links between digital culture, gameplay and identity in young people's lives.

This project focuses on literacy, learning and teaching in the digital age, with a focus on the Australian games based classroom.

It investigates what happens to curriculum, pedagogy and assessment when digital games are introduced into the school.

It looks at how teachers integrate games-based learning into their curriculum, at how games and games-based pedagogies are used to support literacy, creativity and curriculum, and at what forms of assessment are best able to support and provide evidence of using and creating knowledge online.

In relation to teaching and learning, it will explore the ways in which students with widely different preferences and experience of games and digital culture approach games-based teaching in the classroom and the ways in which teachers can work with games most effectively.

It will investigate the kinds of pedagogical practices and approaches which best capitalise on the capacities of games to teach, and consider how teachers can work with games most effectively, and what constitutes best practice in games-based teaching and learning.

Picking up on the creative potential of games, the project will also explore the opportunities they provide for creativity, production and innovation through asking students to design and make their own games, using commercially available software.

An important element of the study focuses on literacy, on digital literacies and the ways in which learning through games challenge and extend multimodal literacy learning.

The study also recognises the need for an assessment framework which can identify and support the multimodal literacies and e-learning capabilities made possible through the use, analysis and creation of games. It will trial and develop approaches for assessing deep learning, creativity and the production and sharing of knowledge online.

The project brings together a research team with wide-ranging expertise in digital culture, online learning and 21st century curriculum. Researchers from Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology, Deakin University and the National Institute of Education/Singapore will work with primary and secondary schools in Queensland and Victoria and use a range of methodologies including surveys and case studies.

Researchers will work alongside teachers in primary and secondary schools to develop and document curriculum approaches using games.

Some schools will focus on using games to support learning in curriculum areas such as Science, Health and SOSE. Others will explore the ways in which computer games work as new forms of storytelling and as cultural forms in their own right, in English and Media.

In other classrooms, students will work with game-making software to design and create their own games.

The three-year study is funded by an Australian Research Council grant in partnership with seven Queensland schools and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in Victoria.