“I am a child.
I come to you, a teacher.
I bring a whisper
Can you hear the poem in it?
Will you tell me what to think,
Or show me how?
Will you teach me answers,
Or the symmetry of a question well composed?”
– Carol Ann Tomlinson, I am child.
Welcome back to my review of the 2016 iteration of the FutureSchools conference, where we are now on the final day. If you missed the previous article, you can find it here. The opening speaker for day three of the ClassTech conference stream at FutureSchools was Peggy Sheehy (@PeggySheehy) speaking under the title The Game Plan, and which I gathered from the agenda was a talk focusing on Gamification and game-based learning in education, a topic which I think has some interesting potential within the education sphere, but which is not on my radar at the present moment. I do need to make it clear from the outset that I did not know Peggy at all, and that I did have a number of takeaways from her presentation, but the fact that she disregarded her two-minute warning, and ended up finishing fifteen minutes overtime engendered a lot of anger and frustration in the room towards her. That said, I do feel that she had some significant things to say.
Peggy opened with a snippet of a poem from Carol Tomlinson, which I have sourced online and included above. Peggy reminded us there are many children who enter our classroom feeling, for a variety of reasons, as though they are less than their peers and that she finds it odd that there are so many education conferences, with big-name keynote speakers, yet with so little representation from the core of the industry, the students. This is not a universal truth, yet it does hold a lot of weight, and this video below is the result of students creating a keynote address for the Net Generation Education Project.
The video went viral very quickly, and Alan November (@globalearner) apparently told the group that if they shortened it to three minutes from the original length of just under six minutes, then he would viralise it world wide. The students eventual response was apparently that “….teachers expect us to sit through six hours of school, they can sit through a six-minute film.” This triggered a memory for me, of the time I recorded one of my teaching sessions, a forty-five minute session with a class of Stage Two students and how horrified I was when I realised how much talking I had done. We do, often, talk far too much as teachers.
Peggy made the point that students, outside of school, are playing Minecraft, Assassin’s Creed, Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and a multitude of other high-quality games, yet we, as teachers, often get excited by something as low-tech as Classroom Jeopardy. This goes back to Stephen Lethbridge’s point that so much of what ends up in educational contexts, as a result of being popular in mainstream society, is a watered down version of the original concept that our students do not engage with in the same way that they would a high quality game.
Peggy brought up the point that smart phones these days are more powerful computers than those which sent man to the moon, yet we tell students to leave them in their bags, depriving them and us of a potentially powerful learning tool, a point which I heard Richard Byrnes make in his keynote at FutureSchools last year. Peggy reminded us that the now common four-colour pen and calculators both used to be items which were commonly prohibited in classrooms.
Switching concepts, Peggy stated that we “…need to stop the corporate handover of public schools…” and allow teachers to teach, a sentiment that I suspect Gary Stager (@GaryStager), with his frustration with educational corporations such as Pearson, would agree.
Peggy continued by saying that educational game designers need to forget everything they know about school, and that when designing games, they need to know the content just as well as they know the gaming structure, with the only company whose educational games she had confidence in was Filament Games (@FilamentGames). She quoted John Paul Gee as having said that we need to “…stop asking if games belong in schools, but which games belong in schools.”
It was at this point that we were beyond the time for Peggy’s presentation, and she continued to speak, giving us a Marc Prensky quote (“…don’t bother me now mum, I’m learning”) and invoking Seymour Papert, who apparently called computers “…the children’s machine.” The next quote, from John Seely Brown was an intriguing one for me, as someone whose wife was a long time player of the World of Warcraft game, he has apparently been quoted as saying “I’d rather hire a high-end World of Warcraft raid leader than a Harvard graduate; the raid-leader has the skills I need them to have.” The next statement was something I certainly agreed with, and I managed to get a quick picture of the slide.
Peggy next spoke about responses she had from teachers to the question “what do educational game designers need to know?” There were a number of insightful and thought-provoking responses, but this particular response was the one which generated the most discussion at my table afterwards.
Peggy reminded us that game designers are the modern-day bards and storytellers and that we need to demand more from them. Her final point was that the Jenkins Report found that while youth video game was significantly up, youth violence rates were down. I have been unable to find this report online to link to. If you find it, please send me the link via the comments section or via a Tweet.
Peggy finished up here, fifteen minutes overtime, with a discontented murmur running through the crowd and with the next speaker anxiously waiting to begin his presentation. While I was frustrated at the talk being overtime despite having been given a two-minute warning, finding it rude and disrespectful to the subsequent speaker (who had to rush through his presentation as quickly as he could), I did find Peggy’s talk to be interesting and it generated some food for thought.
I will cover the following talk in tomorrow’s article. As always, thank you for reading, and please leave any comments, questions or concerns in the comments or contact me via Twitter.