Game to Learn: I don’t need lights on my pushbike, my light comes from inside.

Me and my computingy accomplice, Mr Brown, went to Dundee yesterday and today to the Game to Learn (Take 2) conference. The first day was aimed at games developers and Further/Higher educaton, so was more technical but still very interesting, and the second day was focussed on teachers.

It was a great couple of days and we picked up a lot of stuff, which I thought I’d share on here. It’s convinced me to pay much more attention to the online world as I’ve missed lots of stuff (such as a teachmeet about 800 metres from our school).

Daniel Livingstone talked about virtual world building. It was very interesting but maybe for us not helpful, as we don’t have enough time to build a big world. We are maybe interested in using one as a space for showing off 3d modelling skills though, so that was useful. Good talk about the usefulness of such environments.

Nicola Whitton talked about games based learning, and covered some interesting misconceptions, and touched on whether “gamification” can work in the current educational context for FE.

Jackie Mullen talked to us about the use of simulation and assessment through technology in the construction training world. It seemed really good but we got more on the quiz stuff than the 3D modelly scenario stuff. That was unfair. I commented that the quiz was just really a dressed up multiple choice quiz, and later on we heard from Tom Hodgkinson about the misgivings of this approach. Saying that, they said that it was mainly used for “Friday afternoon revision” – i.e. a more relaxed method or revision. We do the same in school. I don’t consider this games-based learning in a significant way though.

Craig Mill talked about devices for assisting with input for disabled users and it was great. Really showed what was available and how it worked. This is really good for Computing teachers to see as we talk about this and will influence our work on the NPA computer games development now. Thanks Craig!

Tom Hodgkinson ripped into the “flash wrapper for a multiple choice quiz” that constitutes a significant proportion of e-learning as understood by many schools (Think Inquisitor etc). Nasty? I don’t think so, when you consider that he was talking about the BBC. They have the resources for better, not to mention an archive of amazing radio and TV to work with.

Charlie Love talked about games design as it stood in schools now – this was good just to have a wee idea at what was going on nationally. We discussed afterwards how it’s a Very Good Thing that he and the consolarium folks are involved in shaping the new qualifications.

The last talk on Friday was on the NHS’s use of virtual worlds for training. I thought it was good but didn’t tick the boxes in terms of relevance for me and also, forgot to make any notes (sorry) for forgot what it was about!

On Saturday Derek Roberston started off proceedings by talking about what was going on with games, and touched on assessment. Would have liked to hear more about this, but it was a good way to start off. I think it stands as a testament to his hard work how many times I heard him mentioned over the two days in conversation: people realise he “got it” and continues to “get it” and are willing to listen to him.

We then went to a seminar on Kinectimals in nursery and Professor Layton in primaries. This was mainly because we signed up late and so couldn’t get into the ones we fancied. Saying that, it was interesting, informative and good to see pupils engaged. The teacher (Mr Lay?) from St Andrew’s PS Dundee was clearly very informed and thoughtful about his projects with Professor Layton for the Nintendo DS, and it showed in the work on display that it was working well.

Later in the day Ian Simpson took me through an ALICE tutorial and answered annoying questions about games development. It was really useful. I know Steven had a good time with Brian Clark getting his head round Build Your Own Blocks, a more functional version of Scratch.

Siobhan from Media Molecule (that made Little Big Planet) then talked about its creative possibilities, but did a huge favour by mentioning how much she loved the innovation she saw. She made a good link between creating ANYTHING and success and her presentation was really interesting.

So here’s just some of the stuff we did and found out. For raw coverage see out twitter account, @columbageeks:

  • We found out lots about 3D modelling repositries and a bit about Opensim. We had previously thought of starting an online space for pupils to deposit 3D models in a sculpture garden. If we can get Opensim working, this could be a possiblity (3D modelling for kids, though: crazy or possible?)
  • Thought about adding Creative Commons to our digital citizenship course as a bigger feature, maybe even getting kids to CC something they create.
  • Craig Hill showed us amazing videos of adapted computing equipment (including games controllers) – we want to use this in our discussions during NPA games development course.
  • The discovery of – yass.
  • The discovery of build your own blocks and panther – wowee!
  • The discovery of ultra-keen Kenji Lamb and the possible future hope of convincing him to help us do something gamey with our kids out of school.
  • The various highlighting of the Livingston-Hope review and how we’re beating Obama in understanding games.
  • Excellent practical tutorials on ALICE and BYOB.
  • Bacon rolls.

There was lots of other stuff too, it would be hard to write in detail about it, but I plan to as we make plans to implement it. Thoughts we talked about as we left were:

  • Making a game developer plan running from P7 to S6, so that kids don’t need to overlap/relearn and so that we have the best options for progression.
  • Looking at 3D editing as a new literacy need – is it possible to teach everyone it or not? Can the 3D VR-type world be embraced without being able to create content for it?
  • Bringing GBL into other classrooms in our school as part of our mission to be the most awesome computing dept ever.

Thanks to the consolarium and JISC for a great two days. And anyone I talked to, expect a barrage of emails, mainly about games development!