Did you know that in Aotearoa only 4% of digital technology employees are Māori? and 27% are female? (New Zealand Digital Skills Forum, 2021) Perhaps you could have guessed that. We know digital content affects almost every aspect of 21st century life. Our future digital creators need to reflect our varied cultures and world views. Games-based learning might help bridge the gap.
As you reflect, while reading this blog post, see if the penny drops and you can uncover the hidden kīwaha.
CORE facilitator, Viv Hall, has many stories of deep engagement in learning when facilitating students creating and developing their own digital games. Games-based learning allowed the students to engage in new ways.
She recalls a group of girls coming up to her after a session and saying, “Miss, Miss, guess what we’ve discovered? Girl power. We can all do it, we can all code.” (CORE Education, 2020b)
She talks of a year 6 student who had struggled to engage with learning at school. “He stayed there coding and watching the videos and working away for an hour. He was in front of his computer, he was engaged, and he was creating … He displayed amazing resilience. It was magic totally!” (CORE Education, 2020a)
Games-based learning can lead to high engagement and could increase the diversity of those involved in digital technology.
As educators, we may have heard of or studied the zone of proximal development, the theory that scaffolding and working alongside more capable peers can strengthen the learning experience for ākonga. How does this change when ākonga are the designers and creators of games? Games can be transformative. Participants can create and play characters they are not in the physical world, and that reflect their cultures.
Marlborough secondary school kaiako, Duncan, took part in CORE’s games-based learning online programme. “It has changed my practice and others because we have used elements of games-based learning and have incorporated these into some of our new junior courses. For example in Ancients Alive, a year 9 and 10 social studies course, the students use the creativity element to help build a structure in Minecraft that reflects a cultural narrative.”
CORE’s unique games-based online programme design includes many games-based learning practices that help participants’ reflect on their own behaviour to gamification. Duncan says, “Reflecting on the elements, competition drove me and the side quests as someone who far prefers a narrative as opposed to problem solve and badges.”
A feature of games-based learning is the many elements that make it accessible and engaging for different students. It can provide plenty of agency. Games-based learning can allow for students to be successful as themselves as they take up different roles in game creation.
Te Mako Orzecki noted in a recent CORE blog post on engaging Māori students in design thinking, the “notable rise in Māori role models in tech and innovation industries”. With role models to follow, and the variety of elements available through games-based learning, it can allow a variety of ākonga to engage with their learning in different ways. For the ākonga who like to push the boundaries, they can find extra information or add in hidden side quests or touches of detail. Gamification gives the agency and space for them to be creative. Another example was a student with autism spectrum disorder in a class working on game development. They made a brilliant tester of a game because of their skills in looking for perfection.
Games-based learning in the classroom
Viv Hall worked with students in game creation within a schools’ local curriculum. She says part of their mahi was to retell some of the stories they’d learned about the local iwi. “We had the mahi they had already done, that was place-based learning and they had their context and that was the knowledge of what happened and tying it back to a modern day application which was something they were used to which was gaming.” (CORE Education, 2020c)
University of Auckland used games-based learning techniques to help engagement at tertiary level. During online learning, the principles of game design in design programme lessons proved to be engaging and motivating for their students. Attendance at the online classes had a 90% attendance, which previously face-to-face lectures never achieved. “We’re using the mechanics and principles of successful game design, to teach and motivate students,” former head of their Design Studies programme Associate Professor Deb Polson said. Deb is now Professor and Associate Deane at RMIT University, Australia. The lecturers also noticed that as students started to engage with this approach it fostered creativity and the social side of online learning – strong friendships started to form.
Games-based learning has exciting possibilities and can make for more equitable outcomes, particularly if everyone – students and teachers – collaboratively learn a game platform together.
Did you find the hidden kīwaha? How did knowing something was hidden, this element of gamification, affect your engagement with reading this blogpost?
CORE Education. (2020a). Engagement with Gamefroot by students who often struggle with other mahi. Games-based learning | CORE Education [Podcast]. Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://core-ed.org/research-and-innovation/podcasts/game-based-learning-channel/showPodcast/153
CORE Education. (2020b). How to embrace your coding fear with Gamefroot. Game-based learning | CORE Education [Podcast]. Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://core-ed.org/research-and-innovation/podcasts/game-based-learning-channel/showPodcast/152
CORE Education. (2020c). Place-based learning with Gamefroot. Games-based learning | CORE Education [Podcast]. Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://core-ed.org/research-and-innovation/podcasts/game-based-learning-channel/showPodcast/149
New Zealand Digital Skills Forum. (2021). Digital Skills For Our Digital Future [PDF]. New Zealand Digital Skills Forum. Retrieved 16 May 2021, from https://nztech.org.nz/wp-content/uploads/sites/8/2021/01/Digital-Skills-Aotearoa-Report-2021_online.pdf
Orzecki, T. (2021). Innovation is in our DNA: engaging Māori students in design thinking [Blog]. Retrieved 17 May 2021, from http://blog.core-ed.org/blog/2021/03/innovation-is-in-our-dna-engaging-maori-students-in-design-thinking.html
University of Auckland. (2020). How the principles of gaming are being used in the remote Design Programme classroom – The University of Auckland. Auckland.ac.nz. Retrieved 17 May 2021, from https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/news/2020/04/21/how-gaming-is-being-used-in-the-design-programme-classroom.html