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  TIGC Notes: ‘Video Games in the Classroom’  
Posted 2006-09-04 by Tony Walsh
Following are my notes from David Hutchison's engaging lecture on "Video Games in the Classroom: Some Pedagogical Possibilities" at the Toronto Independent Game Conference last Friday. The notes are rough, abbreviated, and paraphrase, rather than quote Hutchison.

Video Games in the Classroom

David Hutchison

- writing a book on integrating games into the classroom
- games are underrepresented in schools
- (except for educational games)
- some game dev taking place in schools
- there's a market for game tools for younger kids ("Click and Play")
- example activity for schools: "Advertising Campaign" where students design a campaign for an upcoming or recently released game. This is framed with mathematics (budgeting, costs, business).
- wants to educated the next generation of indie game development
- kids should not just be consumers, but critics and creators
- what connections can the game dev community make with schools?

- tied to ciriculum (areas to target games at)
- develop a portfolio of small educational games (shorter games are preferred in the classroom)
- partner with the schoolboard to address a specific need
- familiarize yourself with course material
- what are schools doing in your local area?
- have they invested in technology (can they run your games?)
-- principal- key ally, owns the budget and educational strategy
-- teacher- someone into computers, preferably a gamer, someone who can advocate for you
-- parents- very involved in schools
-- boards of education- media department (hardware and software)
-- ministry of education- trying new things, new initiatives, i.e. boys' literacy, reading circles focused on games and game design
-- educational publishers- software or print publishers

- serious games have a very focused target audience (unlike commercial games)
- designer / player conversations help make better games

ACTIVITIES (from upcoming book, due out this spring, 100 activities and discussion questions)
- A review of the real world: students turn the notion of a video game review on its head and instead review the real world as if it were a video game
- Alternate history: Students write an alternate history of the world that starts with a decisive change in the outcome of a historical event years ago. Could be used as a storyline for a game.
- Arcade vs. Video games: students compare and contrast the social experience of playing games in an arcade vs playing at home on a console or computer.
- Artistic rendering: Students create an artistic representation of a real-world scene that will be modeled in a video game (concept art).
- Battleship: students assemble the materials for a classic game of Battleship which they play in pairs. What are rules, what makes a game fun...
- Best Kids' Game: Students rank and review their favourite kid-friendly video games. This can be a good way for an indie developer to learn about their audience.
- Body Image: Students discuss the relationship between body image and the physiques of both male and female video game characters. Stereotypes, steroids in sport, eating disorders...
- Book Review: Students review an academic or instructional book on video games.

[Audience discussion about games to help kids with learning disabilities, autism, ADD.]
- There's very little investigation of the impact of video games in schools on kids with learning disabilities.

- There was a lot of game development going on in the 1970s and 1980s, such as in the LOGO language. That diminished over time.
- students can be your beta-testers.
- older kids can make design games for younger kids
- younger kids can design the game, older kids can build it

Question from the audience: Are game makers legally liable for how their tool is used or misused in the classroom?
Answer: No, but protect yourself with a licensing agreement up front.
Immersion Studios rep: We work with established experts from known institutions to protect ourselves. There is a huge market for game developers in the educational space, museums, science centers.

Q from audience: What is the average technology used in the classroom? Do we address current tech or push the tech envelope.
A: Some schools have very old hardware. Many schools are updating their computers for Web usage. Laptops- some don't have good video cards.
Audience member: Schools in Ontario (Canada) get lots of money for computers but not for books or sports. Some budget money must be spent in a very short amount of time. Ontario schools are not taking old computers anymore.
Hutchison: Public entities have "end of year" budgets, so this is a timing issue for approaching schools etc for project funding.
Audience member: Toronto school board spends more money on tech than other districts, i.e. Peel and Halton regions. Do we really need all the tech for educational games?
Hutchison: Some schools are buying PDAs instead of computers. Cell phones are becoming bigger with youth and teens.
Tim Carter: Let's use board games more in the classroom. This is inexpensive but useful, can teach design skills.
Hutchison: You can offer yourself as a game trainer for highschool or young kids.
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Comment posted by Brace
September 7, 2006 @ 5:01 am
Kinda off the subject, but as an educator myself, I'm campaigning against the use of the word Pedagogy.

Its terribly old skool and really. Whats wrong with saying. Education. Teaching Tools. Learning Devices.

Anything. Except. Pedagogy.

Ouch it hurts just typing it...
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
September 8, 2006 @ 8:32 am
Yeah, I'm not a fan of the word pedagogy, but I'm sort of anti-intellectual at times :)
Comment posted by Brace
September 9, 2006 @ 8:24 am
I grew up in a family of intellectuals, most of them educators. Never heard a whisper of that word, until I hit the books to get my own credentials.

Its pretentious and ancient and makes me think of elderly white male victorians teaching about phrenology in some dusty lecture hall.

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