Rats, Rum, Dysentry and Death: History, Games and Imagination at the Australian National Maritime Museum

Year: 2016

Author: Rowan, Leonie, Beavis, Catherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper explores teenagers’ responses to a games-based learning experience at the ‘not-school’ space of the Australian National Maritime Museum.The past two decades have seen a rapid growth of interest in the potential for digital games—and ‘serious play’ (de Castell and Jenson 2003)—to help diverse children achieve multiple learning goals within formal education settings. More recently, digital games have also featured prominently in discussions concerning the ways that what ‘not-school’ settings—such as museums—might also use digital games to pursue educational goals (Sefton-Green 2013). Museum staff are increasingly interested in whether games might help to increase audience engagement, foster historical imagination, and, in this process, contribute to the curation, construction and dissemination of knowledge.But while there is growing research relating to digital play within schools, relatively little is known about how students respond to opportunities for serious play experiences, when they occur neither at home, nor at school but in the school-like environment offered by excursions to museums. This paper reports on insights offered by three groups of year 9 students (aged 14-15) after they engaged with one purpose built digital game —The Voyage—at the Australian National Maritime Museum in 2015. Students reflected on strengths, weakness and possibilities as they saw them, associated with using games in museum contexts. As such, the research reflects sociocultural perspectives on gaming that emphasise the importance of attending always to context (Mehrotra, Chee & Ong, 2012) and demonstrates that learning is ‘situated intricately and intimately in a matrix of “transactions”: experiences, life trajectories, voluntary and involuntary learning contexts, affective frames and social groupings that make up experience across our lifeworlds' (Erstad and Sefton-Green 2012). In exploring student use of new cultural practices the paper enhances the capacity of museums to maximize the potential of digital games, to enhance historical imagination and knowledge, and strengthen partnerships between schools, museums and homes. References De Castell, S. and Jensen, J. 2003. Serious Play. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 35(6) 649-665Erstad, O., & Sefton-Green, J. (2015). Identity, community, and learning lives in the digital age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Mehrotra, S., Chee, Y. S., & Ong, J. C. (2012) Teachers’ Appropriation of Game-based Pedagogy: a comparative narrative analysis. 20th International Conference on Computers in Education, Singapore, 26-30 November 2012.Sefton-Green, J. (2013). Learning at not-school: A review of study, theory and advocacy for education in non-formal settings. London: MIT Press.