Could video games be used to boost children’s education?

Published with thanks to Nottingham Evening Post.

PLAYING video games in the classroom could be the future of learning, according to teachers at an Arnold school.

Christ The King Catholic Voluntary Academy is taking part in a 3.2 million euro international programme

The No One Left Behind initiative will allow children at the Darlton Drive school to use a digital toolkit to develop games on mobile devices.

9491486-largeAdam Blazewicz-Bell, head of learning and science at the school, said: “We have never had anything like this in our school before and the pupils are very excited about the opportunity. This project adds a new dimension to the learning experience and while they learn they are actually helping to develop the software for others in the future.

“We have a Year 7 humanities group and a Year 8 science group involved so it will be used for a wide range of things. I am all for using mobile devices in the classroom and this takes that to the next level. I am excited about this myself and this programme could help develop the future of learning.”

The only restraint to what the children will be able to create is their imagination but the likes of gaming heroes Super Mario and Sonic will be left out and replaced with original ideas.

The children involved will be responsible for programming and designing games linked to subjects such as science, maths, history and English – effectively developing and adapting the learning material themselves.

Year 7 pupil Rhianna Barrett is looking forward to starting the project after Easter.

The 12-year-old said: “I think it’d be very cool to be able to create your own game because everyone could play it.

“I’d enjoy doing it, I think it’d be a good experience to have.

“I am looking forward to the creative and technical side of creating the game and it is always good to learn how to do new things as well.”

Both Nottingham Trent University and GameCity – which is due to open the National Videogame Arcade in Hockley next month and runs a gaming festival in the city every year – are key partners in the two-and-a-half-year project.

David Brown, Professor of interactive systems for social inclusion at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Science and Technology, said: “Imagine students being challenged to design a game which involves gathering evidence and building arguments to fight their own campaign for the abolition of the British slave trade in the late 1770s. Or one that involves manipulating shapes using arcade-style games to teach fractions or percentages.

“Children will author these types of games, taking responsibility for the programming, coding, design and graphics, and everything will be carefully tuned into curriculum delivery. We want all students to realise their full potential by making gaming an integral part of the primary and secondary curriculum.”

The project is funded by the EU Horizon 2020 Programme and it will initially be piloted in five schools – and by 600 pupils across up to 12 subjects – in the UK, Austria and Spain.

It is being driven by the pressure on schools to address the challenge of too many pupils leaving school with no meaningful job skills, and children at risk of exclusion and not reaching their full potential.

Year 7 pupil Lucius Cherubini is looking forward to learning about the gaming industry.

The 11-year-old said: “I’d definitely like to create my own game. I enjoy playing Halo and think I could create a game like that and I would enjoy it.

“Creating the game would help me learn about graphics and art. I will also enjoy the technical side of creating the game as I am good at it.”

To make the games, a programming package called Pocket Code will be used which allows users to create games, animations and interactive music videos directly on their phone or tablet.

Twelve-year-old Ciaran Barnett, from Year 7, said: “I’d like to be able to create my own game because I play a lot of games, it would be pretty cool to have people play my game and see it available to others.

“I would really enjoy the graphical side of creating a game because I am good at computers. I play a lot of computer games like Minecraft but I don’t really play games on my Xbox.”

Helen Boulton, principal lecturer in education at Nottingham Trent University, hopes the project is a success and will be delivered to every school in the country eventually.

She said: “Nearly every child is used to using games in some way or another.

“With this project we want them to create their own games while engaging with education and different subjects. Hopefully as they work through the project their numeracy and literacy skills will improve.

“We are right at the start of the project but we are also working alongside other schools so in total there are 600 children taking part.”

While the children use the programme they will also be helping to make it better by finding bugs and easier ways of doing things so others can benefit in the future.

The project also means that the teachers have to learn new skills in order to teach it.

Religious education teacher Rebecca Nokes said: “I will be teaching the project in RE lessons. For me this is all new as well and I will be learning how to use the software myself.

“We are doing a module on Judaism and hopefully we will be developing a game that explores a synagogue.

“The children are over-excited about getting started which is always a good start.

“We will be starting with the very basic and then getting bigger and bigger over the years.”

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