Teachers Want Gaming In Schools!

A MORI Poll investigating teachers’ attitudes to mainstream computer games has revealed that 59% would consider using them in the classroom for educational purposes. The willingness of respondents to use computer games was reflected in the fact that almost one third have already used them in their classroom.

The Poll was commissioned as part of Teaching with Games, a research project by NESTA Futurelab, an organisation that pioneers the use of technology to transform the way people learn, and Electronic Arts.. In addition to higher than expected percentage of teachers interested in the use of games in school, the study also found that 53% of those who would consider using computer games in school would do so because they are an interactive way of motivating and engaging pupils. The majority of teachers polled believe that playing mainstream games can lead to improved skills and knowledge. For example, 91% felt that players developed their motor-cognitive skills, while over 60% thought that users would develop their higher order thinking skills and could also acquire topic-specific knowledge.

Marius Frank, Head Teacher at Bedminster Down School in Bristol, who is taking part in the Teaching with Games project comments “I am excited and intrigued by the prospect of using gaming technology in the classroom. Individualised learning, at rates hitherto thought impossible, may be the norm if we get it right.”

The Poll findings also highlight some barriers to the use of games in schools, noting a lack of access to equipment capable of running the games as well as a lack of strong evidence of the educational value of games, an issue of focus for the Teaching with Games project. The appropriate choice and suitability of computer games to be used was also noted by respondents. Despite over one quarter playing computer games themselves, around two-thirds still felt, for example, that computer games may present stereotypical views of others and lead to anti-social behaviour.

Teaching with Games aims to explore the practical issues surrounding the use of interactive computer games in schools using three games The Sims 2, RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 and Knights of Honor. In the next phase, researchers will work with teachers to develop lesson plans to support the use of games in classrooms. Also, a ‘Futures Group’ of leading thinkers and practitioners in education, curriculum and games design has been formed to build upon findings arising from the research and to present possible future scenarios that push current boundaries.

Angela McFarlane, Professor of Education at the University of Bristol and Chair of the ‘Futures Group’, comments “There is a great deal of interest in the levels of engagement, and the complex learning, that take place when many young people play games. Early research has shown some powerful outcomes in the classroom, but we need to understand how, when and when not to use games to support education. The Teaching with Games project aims to shed some light on these questions in a way that will be of use to teachers and designers.”

Claus Due, Market Development Manager, EA Europe, commented “The Poll confirms what we have long believed at EA – that interactive computer games have the capacity to engage both teachers and learners. In a short space of time, Teaching with Games has already highlighted the importance of collaboration between industry and the education sector to show how learning can be enhanced through gaming”

Teachers at BETT 2006 will be able to take part in an abbreviated version of the survey to offer their views on teaching with computer games, by going to the NESTA Futurelab stand Y30 in the National Hall. For further information on Teaching with Games, go here