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Playing the System

I flew over to Wellington on Wednesday the 25th of July to pitch my 'Games in Education' crusade at Nikki Kaye and her Education and Science Select Committee.  And as far as I can tell, it all went down pretty well.  I figured that I'd only get one shot at this, so I pulled no punches.

Here's what I said...

I'm Edwin McRae, a strange hybrid of professional educator, writer, and game developer.  I'm here to represent an under utilised industry, a whole lot of scared teachers, and a veritable sea of bored and frustrated young adults.

I'd say I'm passionate about bringing the learning power of games to education, but passion is too general a term by far.  I'm angry.  I see the massive investment that the government as made into the ICT infrastructure being squandered on Google Docs and Mathletics.  I have nothing in particular against those two tools, except that they're being used to tick the 'I use ICT in the classroom' box and most teachers don't seem to be going any further than that, falling back instead on digital chalk and talk...PowerPoint presentations and ETV.

The teachers are still lecturing and the students are still scribbling down notes like good little robots.

In the meantime, your investment is being wasted.

There are many solutions.  Mine is games.  NZ children are already immersed in computer games that provide far more engagement, skill development, reinforcement, assessment, and feedback than any traditional classroom could hope to manage.  In a game a student is told whether they've passed or failed, learned or missed the point, on the spot.  They usually have to wait a couple of weeks for a teacher to tell them that.

The resources are out there, many on the Internet, many for free, and teachers aren't using them out of Fear and Ignorance.  They don't know how and they don't know why.  And worse yet, we have a thriving game development industry in NZ. NZGDA Chairman Stephen Knightly can give you all the facts about that.  And it is fully equipped to tailor make NZ learning tools for the NZ curriculum.  BUT non-one is asking them to.

I'm here to ask you to help make the most of your vast investment in educational technology.  You've upgraded the hardware and we thank you for it.  Now it's time to update the software.

I know it all sounds a little 'in your face' but sometimes you've simply got to 'head butt' the message through.

Would love to hear you thoughts on this!



  • Merryn Dunmill

    Hi Edwin - your workshop in Auckland was a success with one of my Virtual Professional Learning and Development group members who posted the following on our VPLD Ning site for others to discuss. Lorraine Vickery has given me approval to cross-post here. Powerful stuff, having looked at the games she highlights and considering their enormous potential to be integrated with curriculum, support higher thinking, target specific differential needs of students and engage with the wider community. Anyways, here's Lorraine's post:

    'I attended a workshop with Edwin McRae on using Gaming in Education to enhance student learning and making your lessons interactive.

    What we need to look for in the games we choose?

    1. The game must flow and this facilitates the emersion of the student in participating in the game.

    2. The game must suport clear goals. For example the CSI game supported his goal to teach the vocabulary of crime scene investigation.

    3. The student gets feedback as they play. For example points, moving up levels, completed levels, badges etc.

    4. The student must earn the knowledge they need from the game and not be able to cheat.

    5. This is described as "guided engagement giving the student the illusion of freedom".

    For me the the lessons on his website have shown me the way of the future, for developing lessons that show the use of differentiation and where the teacher becomes the facilitator rather than the holder and giver of knowledge. A good example of this can be found on his website under game to learn units called "criminally good writing."

    The Fiction Engine


    He showed us how you can through the use of annotation of videos, create interactive video lessons. For example "Take the Knife" where the students get a question and they have to make a choice which then leads to another video and the story continues. 

    Take the Knife


    Another Game site Games for Change facilitates the creation and distribution of social impact games that serve as critical tools in humanitarian and educational efforts.

    Games for Change


    I see this as an exciting and new development which needs educators and game developers to work together to produce games that support essential learnings and applying good learning theory.'



    Merryn Dunmill

  • Edwin McRae

    Hi Merryn,

    Thank you so much for you kind comment, and for cross-posting Lorraine's content here.  The more we explore and realise the learning potential of games, the more we can tailor education to a generation that's emersed in digital interaction through the entertainment industry.  We can't beat them, so let's join and use some of that power for Good. Innocent

  • Mike Wilson

    Hi Edwin, definitely agree at the need for gaming within the classroom and there is a huge relatively untapped market. As a science teacher I constantly look for games suitable for my students and have found some excellent ones by using the filetype:swf search on Google. Another science teacher that makes his classroom like a game is Bozeman science. He recently gave a TED talk on gaming in education. http://www.bozemanscience.com/