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Teachers Need Computer Games Knowledge to Use Them in Schools

**PRESS RELEASE ** PRESS RELEASE**

Teachers must have a detailed and thorough understanding of computer games to identify the learning opportunities available and to develop students' understanding of the game for them to be able to learn from it. This is according to the new Games and Learning handbook from NESTA Futurelab (www.nestafuturelab.org) which investigates the potential role of computer and video games to support young peoples' learning.

As interest grows in this area, Futurelab's handbook describes the research suggesting that games do provide powerful learning environments. Whilst playing games, thousands of young people worldwide are engaged in handling tasks that are at the challenging edge of their competencies. They are exploring a range of systems and rules and getting feedback on how well they are performing. Players are supporting each other globally, using the internet, about gaming techniques and they are beginning to use skills suited to 21st century life. However, more information is required on exactly what the player is learning and how best to capture that learning in schools. Also, some games have a tendency towards misrepresentation, for example the majority of protagonists are still being represented as overtly 'sexy' characters.

Commercial entertainment games are now gradually being introduced in schools but Futurelab advises that games of this type chosen for use in schools should be sufficiently challenging and rooted in a firm reality, or possess a strong internal structure and logic so that actions taken by the player reveal logical outcomes. Politically- or historically-based strategy games will engage learners by allowing them to explore, manipulate and discuss the factors that have contributed to historical events and to try out alternatives. Futurelab does offer caution on the use of computer games in schools, as the teachers' role is central to the students' experience and demands a solid understanding of any game being used.

The role of young people as games designers is also investigated in the handbook and is seen as a motivational activity which increases critical thinking about games and offers the learner a voice. This could contribute to the current hot topic of personalised learning which includes, among other things, personal learning goals and increased participation of students defining what and how they are going to learn at school.

Richard Sandford, Learning Researcher and co-author of Games and Learning, NESTA Futurelab, said: "We hope that this handbook will be read by teachers and games developers who are interested in games-based learning activities. Although the use of computer games for learning is still seen as controversial by some, this handbook sets out all sides of the argument and serves as a useful guide to this emerging and complex issue."

NESTA Futurelab's Games and Learning handbook examines the main developments in the use of computer games for learning and provides a number of examples where they are being used in educational contexts. The aim is to offer practical recommendations for teachers who are interested in implementing games-based activities in their schools, and for games developers developing titles for learners. However, with the continuing debate surrounding this area, Futurelab also reports on some of the arguments against computer games and the barriers against their implementation in education.

If you would like a copy of the Games and Learning handbook, please visit www.nestafuturelab.org/research/handbooks.htm.

If you would like to find out more about NESTA Futurelab visit www.nestafuturelab.org or contact Lacia Ashman at NESTA Futurelab on 0117 915 8222 /lacia.ashman@nestafuturelab.org

Issued: Ends Ref: nf076.doc

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About NESTA Futurelab - www.nestafuturelab.org:

NESTA Futurelab is an initiative of NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) NESTA Futurelab pioneers ways of using technology to transform the way people learn. A not-for-profit organisation, it works with others to create rich learning resources that are involving, interactive and imaginative by:

  • Providing support for ideas, turning them into working prototypes
  • Communication innovative practice
  • Undertaking learning research.
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