Harness computer games to further education

There is a challenge in encouraging children to engage with on-line learning whilst they are easily attracted to on-line games.

Use the technology and the structure of the games to facilitate learning.

An example might be to include in the “football team management” game the need to understand fractions, percentages and probabilities in choosing player purchases as a means to progress through the competency levels.

Teachers could be asked for suggestions for such components and independent educational auditors could provide reviews to parents on the degree to which a particular game fulfills this goal.

Anecdotal –

This idea came to me when I was training in a comprehensive and a pupil was too tired to do the classwork. He explained that he’d been playing football late at night – meaning the simulation game.

If he’d had to tackle some simple maths to progress he’d be highly motivated.

Later, teaching A level maths in a sixth form college, I found a student playing simulation pool or billiards on the computer and realised that the problems solved by the game were similar (but far more advanced) to what we were teaching and we had nothing like the quality of visual presentation. Apparently professional snooker players claimed you could learn aspects of ballistics including spin etc that would allow you to improve in the real game.

I approached the games developers and they said we could have the obsolescent software as it stood, no support, and do what we liked with it in education. I had a friend who lectured in IT at the University and asked him if they could modify the software for teaching purposes. His suggestion was to make it a 3rd year project, for which they’d probably need funding for a research assistant to supervise it. The principal of the college I worked at was happy for us teachers to provide input. We had already done similar work for the Science Museum for their on-line educational material.

I was set up to present the idea to a government funding agency to get the money for the research assistant and some recompense to the teachers. They thought it was a “goer” and wanted to set up a company to develop and market it. I would run it, they would provide an accountant etc. They would assist until it started making money.

I explained we only wanted the funding to get it done and then we’d give it to all the institutions teaching A level mechanics. Their response was that if it was free no-one would value it.

I estimated the investment costs to develop and market it commercially and divided that by an estimate

of the number of establishments needing such a tool. Thinking further how difficult it was to get money from the maths department for such a purchase I decided it wasn’t a good proposition.

I was encouraged to go to a presentation at Southampton University by a software company that had taken these ideas even further and could simulate seriously complicated mechanical systems. In the after talk discussion I rattled on to the presenter about the opportunities for A Level mechanics. He was quite tolerant and agreed but explained that they were overwhelmed with commercial applications, some of which were in computer games !

 

 

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