Making Games in Schools Workshop, 17th – 19th March 2010 By Ray Mathias
As mentor * for MGiS I see my role as a critical friend (and occasional adviser) to the project. As well as seeking to support the success of MGiS, I am also interested in the lessons that we can learn from it, which might inform similar projects in the future. So I come to the project with several questions, from ‘how does the Adventure Author software work?’ to ‘how effectively can a making games approach be integrated into classroom teaching?’ to ‘how far could we extend this approach across disciplines/the curriculum?’ It is self-evident that if learning to use the software is not a barrier to using it, and the games it produces are good quality, then it will engage some students. However, will engagement lead to deeper learning and will the range of students who engage with game-making be wide or narrow?
Judy and Catherin’s suggestion that I join one of the MGiS teacher workshops seemed a good opportunity to experience the project at first hand and maybe answer some of these questions.
The workshop was extremely well organised and created a professional atmosphere in which the teachers felt they were ‘valued’ and being offered a high quality training experience. The course was well structured and the content was very comprehensive. I especially liked the way that the course was embedded in the broader context of professional development, learning theory etc., but without detracting from the core tasks of understanding how to use the software in the classroom.
A particularly valuable activity was meeting a teacher (and 19 of her students) who had been part of the first training cohort. The students and teacher were convincing advocates for the MGiS model. It was clear that the approach had done much to enthuse and engage them. Generally, the students reported that MGiS had changed their approach to story-telling and this was supported by the teacher who reported that students had been motivated to write much more, and more creatively, in essays. The only real criticism seemed to be that some students would prefer a more modern game environment. The teacher had ‘no buts’ about the MGiS approach.
Participating in the workshop allowed me to understand how the software works and to appreciate the flexibility and power of the MGiS model when engaging students. The participating teachers were very impressed with the course and the potential of the project. MGiS is clearly an excellent opportunity for cross-curricular working in schools.
The ‘hidden questions’ in the project (does a games making approach increase student’s logical and computational thinking skills) will only be answered once the in-school phase of the project is completed and all the feedback and evaluation is completed. If MGiS delivers evidence that game making has a positive effect across disciplines (benefitting both literacy and computing skills) this will support the argument for more gaming (and more cross-curricular working) in schools.
*MGiS is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council as part of their Public Engagement programme. Each project funded under this programme is allocated a mentor to support and advise the project team.