When we think of videogames, we tend to think of the ones we played when we were growing up. If you’re my age (mid 30s), you’ll probably remember ‘Zelda’ and ‘Mario 64’ being the talk of the playground. If you’re up with what the kids are talking about today, you’ll know that ‘Fortnite’ and ‘Minecraft’ dominate the conversation.
In 2019, videogames are far more complex, intricate, and in some cases, educationally viable than others. Organisations such as the ‘Institute of Play in New York’ and ‘MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten’ have conducted extensive research around the role that games can play in facilitating a student’s multiplicative thinking and problem solving skills at an early age. Academics such as James Gee, have written comprehensively on the significance and importance of games in education and how they can promote engagement in the classroom.
With the above in mind, Melbourne’s annual ‘Education in Games Summit’ run by the ‘Australian Centre for the Moving Image’ (ACMI) was held in Melbourne’s CBD on October 14. The theme was ‘Exploring challenges; seizing opportunities’ and designed to assist teachers and educators wanting to bring videogames into the classroom.
The one-day conference formed part of Melbourne’s ‘International Games Week’ and offered educators a great opportunity to engage with leaders in game-based learning areas to develop practical skills and strategies in peer-led workshops.
This year’s opening keynote speaker was Dr Kate Ringland, an award-winning researcher. Dr Ringland develops innovative technology to help support people with disabilities. As one attendee Michelle Dennis tweeted during Dr Ringland’s opening talk “Videogames can be portrayed as worryingly isolating. Dr Kate Ringland reminds us that with games like Minecraft and platforms like Autcraft (a Minecraft Autism platform), they can be places were kids come together and work together.”
Alongside Dr Ringland, a panel of professional educators from highly-renowned learning institutions held discussions around the barriers facing educators in getting games into the classroom, workshops and breakouts around Indigenous game design, coding and rural videogame development were just a few highlights of the summit. Dr Colleen Stieler-Hunt, a multi-award-winning educator, game designer, and researcher closed the summit.
One particular area of international interest centred on the concept of eSports. eSports is a form of competition using videogames as the catalyst for learning and often takes the form of organised multiplayer competitions. In Australia, Dan Martinez (Innovation and Learning Specialist @martinezgeek) is planning an extensive eSports national competition for Australian schools in 2020 with international schools in Asia joining in 2021. Mr Martinez believes that eSports can help promote positive gaming behaviour. “The main idea around the development of a national league is to provide students with an opportunity to represent their school in a face-to-face eSport competitive environment that promotes positive gaming behaviours, fair play, resilience, respect and encouragement.”
Mr Martinez’s digital-age competition will ultimately allow students from around the globe to connect in a fun and friendly learning environment where ‘competition’ is only one part of the experience. More details about the event will drop in early 2020, but local (UK) and international readers can register their interest at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdiJXPU2Coi3Hql4Qm8xATsquWUVhSIN18QkkSTnGuJORiMPw/viewform .
The ‘Education in Games Summit’ was a great success. Christine Evely (ACMI’s Education Manager) knows that videogames have the potential to engage learning in a unique and dynamic way for 21st Century learners. “ACMI is proud that the EiGS brought so many people together to share and unpack ways that games and other emerging technologies can be used to facilitate inclusive, real-life teaching and learning practices. We are grateful for the support of the Victorian Department of Education and Training. Such events provide a contemporary focus on building the skills and capabilities needed for everyday life and work, both now and in the future.”