March 02 2009

Bored of Education

Posted by Lucy in Debate, Gaming

In my previous life as an English Language Teacher in Hong Kong I never found lessons boring. My daily encounters with class clowns, prodigies, toddlers and teenage rebels kept me endlessly interested and entertained.

A lesson about the Olympics, in which the kids mimed different sports as I called them out, ended abruptly, in insurmountable giggles, as all thirty members of 2b lay across the lids of their desks, frantically ‘swimming.’ A drawing of a dragon spiralling across the white-board could prompt a collective and strangely synchronised ‘Aaaah!’ of approval.

Children, I discovered, are frequently hilarious, but in a report released in January in the UK, Ofsted accused teachers of tedium. As we have discussed in previous blog posts, one way for teachers to make lessons outclass leisure is by incorporating online activities and games.

Most commentators now recognise the value of digital tools in facilitating learning, and research shows that kids are engrossed by games and the internet. However, in a recently-published white paper, the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA) advises principals and teachers to introduce digital tools and new technologies carefully, to ensure that pupils don’t switch off. Lee Wilson emphasises key issues related specifically to the implementation of games in an school context, in order to help educators escape the potential pitfalls of play. He notes, for example, that ‘advocates for EduGames need to earn the trust of IT early in the process, or the project can be shut down before it even begins,’ that students ‘won’t easily tolerate poor design’ and that teachers ‘are the lynchpins of success.’ ‘Get the right teachers on board,’ advises Wilson, stating that: ‘ideally you want people who are leaders – politically, technically, and pedagogically.’

Wilson’s tips are a useful reminder that in order to utilise the power of play for good (as we at Online like to do) rather than evil, teachers need to lesson-plan ahead. Educators need to take extra-special care of the children of the (digital) revolution.

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