On March 14th, I attended the Games for Learning: Transforming Learning and Assessment with Digital Games hosted by the Finnish Government and GlassLab. It was recommended to me by one of my professors who is currently conducting research in collaboration with several Finnish researchers. It was a very small and short conference, and but I learned a lot of things about myself and the game-based researcher world.
I was not in Kansas anymore.
When I arrived there, I realized how far removed I was with the gaming researchers and the gaming industry. Despite the fact that I am a doctoral student, most of my days are spent teaching in a high school classroom. The only reason I knew anything about gaming was because I had to take a gaming course in my program. Of course, that hasn’t made me an expert in game-based learning at all, and I am still learning. But I thought I was beginning to gain some important insights. While sitting in a room with industry experts, I realized how little I knew about the movers and shakers in the game-based education world.
Still I was thrilled to speak to Jessica Lindl from GlassLab whom I saw at the Games Learning and Society conference in June of 2013. I found out that she was scheduled to be one of the keynote speakers for this year’s conference. Mighty Eagle, Peter Vesterbacak, from Rovio also presented to a small group of intellectuals and investors who could bring real money to start up companies, hoping to influence educational gaming market. Even though I felt somewhat intimidated, I raised my hand and spoke during a panel discussion.
Teacher Professional Development in Gaming
I urged the group to think about all the barriers of getting the games into students’ hands. I shared my frustration of teachers being the biggest barriers in spreading the gaming and how companies seemed to miss great opportunities to work with teachers.
I sat next to a nice young man from Finland who had an educational application company. He told me that his target was parents. I told him that teachers were also parents. I shared an example I read in the book Freakonomics. When Roth IRA first came out, many investment companies aggressively targeted teachers because teachers naturally educate the public if they are convinced of the benefits. I suggested that they should consider creating games that encourages teachers to become gamers. How can teachers use games to teach students when they don’t know how to play?
Where are the games?
Before we adjourned, I approached Jessica Lindl and asked, “Where are the games?” I asked because I see this happening all the time. In my years as a teacher, I have been to too many conferences with a presenter lecturing about why teachers shouldn’t lecture. For a gaming conference that was supposed to promote game-based learning, we didn’t do any activities that remotely resembled a game. Games work because they are situated and experiential. I realize the conference was more of an information sharing and networking opportunity. However, I thought we could have play one game.
Free SIMCity licenses
At the end of the conference, Dr. Tamas Makany from GlassLab approached me. He was sympathetic and wanted to help. We discussed the technical limitations and challenges that rural teachers face. To help me, he offered 30 SimCity Edu licenses for free. He was so encouraging and supportive of my passion for spreading game-based learning into rural areas.
After nearly a month, we are finally getting around to installing the program at one of our computer labs. Why? Because we don’t have the right video cards on the computers that our school owns, which goes to prove how many barriers classroom teachers to overcome to do things that we know work.
I know that I still have so much to learn. But I am glad that I learned the value of game-based learning. I can’t wait to develop lessons for my students and colleagues in the future.