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Fun and games in education

On 9 October 2013, Nesta and the Serious Games Institute, University of Coventry, co-hosted Game Science and Game-Based Learning: Bringing Education to Life. The event brought together stakeholders from across research, policy, industry, and practice, to discuss how digital games can be better used and integrated within education to improve learning outcomes.

Building off this initial discussion, Nesta is publishing a blog series around the use of games and game-based learning in education over October.

We start with a proposition: that student learning, experiences and achievement can be improved through better use of games in education. But how, when and where is this possible - and desirable? As we found in Decoding Learning, when you ask if a technology can improve learning, the answer will inevitably be "It depends".  Instead of generalised possibilities, we need to reconcile what's possible with what's actually occurring. 

The series brings together examples and provocations from a diverse and talented range of communities and organisations, including contributors from Aberdeen City Council, edugameshub, Epic Learning UK, GlassLab, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, Littleloud, Nesta, Preloaded, the Serious Games Institute, the Teacher Gaming Network, the University of Nottingham, and UKIE. Blogs will be published daily and consider digital games and game-based learning from one of three perspectives:

  • Proof: Are digital games a valuable tool for learning?
  • Promise: How are we making effective use digital games in education?
  • Potential: What new configurations are required to improve the use of digital games in education?

With stories and lessons from experts and pioneers across research, industry, practice, and policy, we hope this blog series will provoke a wider, yet grounded discussion that will find ways of make better use of games in education, and spreading these approaches more easily.

Why is Nesta interested in games?

Growing evidence base: Games are a particularly well explored and discussed tool for learning, not least because they are so diverse. Games can be used to open up learning into new spaces, underpin innovative pedagogies, and motivate pupils. A large and mature body of educational research into games and learning now exists and continues to grow, offering valuable insight to anyone attempting to combine technology with pedagogy.

Economically important: Digital games are a significant creative industry for the UK, with immense expertise already channelled primarily towards commercial entertainment endeavours. Our work with the video games industry to produce the Next Gen. report highlighted a significant shortage of digital and creative skills among young people. Improving the use of games in education could contribute to the skills agenda while also helping to raise interest and awareness for the games industry.

Increasing accessibility: The proliferation of mobile and browser-based gaming has opened a realm of possibility for how, when and where digital games can be played. A mere five years ago introducing games to the classroom meant working with consoles, limited access to controllers, or at the very least, the complicated installing / downloading of files. As technologies such as HTML5 develop, game titles can be accessed and played from any device with a browser, and as smartphones become more ubiquitous, each student will have a potential game controller in their pocket. 

People love games: It's no secret that games are immensely popular and increasingly ubiquitous. Whether digital, mobile and video games, people of all ages like to play: mobile game AngryBirds have been downloaded well over one billion times while, as of July 2012, World of Warcraft had 9.1 million subscriptions and Grand Theft Auto V sold $1billion-worth of units in just 3 days. 

When even the Prime Minister is a Fruit Ninja fan, it's pretty safe to say that gaming has gone mainstream. So how can this mass appeal be extended to the realm of education? 

Kathleen is the Policy Advisor for digital education at Nesta.

Tom is the Director for digital education at Nesta.

Over October 2013, Nesta will publish a blog series on games in education. For further information or questions, please contact [email protected].

Nesta's games in education blog series seeks to encourage a wider discussion. To share your thoughts, ideas and questions, please comment below or tweet using #gamelearning

Author

Tom Kenyon

Tom Kenyon

Tom Kenyon

Director of Education in a Digital Environment

Tom was programme director of the education in a digital environment programme which explores ways in which the proliferation of digital technologies can transform education.

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Kathleen Stokes

Kathleen Stokes

Kathleen Stokes

Senior Researcher, Social Innovation

Kathleen was a Senior Researcher leading on Nesta’s policy and research work in digital education and the collaborative economy. At Nesta, Kathleen researched and written various pub...

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