Learning opportunities opening up through the use of digital gaming technologies

Year: 2013

Author: Wegner, Graham, Cairns, Frank, Barnett, Jenny

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

There are varied perspectives about whether game based learning is relevant to the education context or merely a home recreational activity with little value for schooling. Woodville Gardens School B-7 is one of the new "super" schools purpose-built in Adelaide in recent years, with a 21st century learning focus, including a school wide wireless environment and shared learning spaces. Using the new spaces and connectivity is high on the school's priority list, and leadership are working to ensure that pedagogical practices are contemporary and that innovation has a place to grow. Of special interest is that Woodville Gardens School services a complex, disadvantaged community comprising ESL, indigenous students and a large percentage of school card holders. The research area was concerned with the learning opportunities that open up through the use of digital gaming technologies including Xbox Kinnect and Minecraft. There were three different focus groups involved in conducting the research process. One group was led by student counselors working with year 6 and 7 students for two lessons a week over six months; another group used Xbox Kinect and involved teacher observations of two Special Classes, and a third group used a school based Minecraft server led by an "expert" Year 7 student working with some year 4 and 5 primary years students.  Research methods included establishing a student digital games research group and instituting a pre-research student survey regarding digital gaming habits; digital games trialling sessions (weekly); focus group interviews  (taped, then transcribed and analysed); digital gaming observations and photorecording of sessions and environment and focus group discussions (notetaking and analysis). Findings were that there were learning opportunities from digital gaming technologies including social learning, dispositional engagement, spatial awareness, strategic thinking, planning, taking risks, experimenting and also the exploration of literacy, numeracy and spatial understanding.  Additionally it was noted that there is potential to use this learning for problem solving, resilience and other social skills. It was also noted that students preferred to play Minecraft in the "survival" mode which encourages quick impulsive decision making, as compared to the more sedate "creative" mode where students have greater access to building and crafting materials.  Further research is intended regarding which model encourages deeper learning, collaborative work and leadership skills. The advantages of the practitioner-academic partnership were that the training, progress report and various presentation opportunities were valued, although sometimes competing with other school timelines.