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
- 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?)
- KEY PERSONNEL:
-- 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 vs COMMERCIAL GAMES
- 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.