Gaming Consoles in Education

I wonder if commercial Gaming Consoles are the next learning opportunity to be leveraged whole scale by teachers? We know our students learn to play games, but can they learn curriculum from/through games? Games Based Learning was identified by the 2011 Horizon Report as 2 years to adoption and Future Labs is leading classroom focused research into games based leading and some specific research into the impact of consoles in education. It is no longer a question of when but the more important question of how will we use them for teaching and learning?

So what can we do with consoles in education?

  • Out of the box learning and assessment where the game content is directly aligned to learning outcomes. Some examples could include; Fitness games for Health & Physical Education, racing games for road safety and Games built on currency for Financial Mathematics.
  • Games as Stimulus for learning where the games narrative (the unrecognised text type) is used as a stimulus to engage and motivate learners. Some examples could include; students play a game to a level then continue the narrative as a creative writing task; a game is played and in-game challenges are augmented with curriculum mathematic challenges or a medieval game is interwoven with history curriculum.
  • A blend of out of the box learning and games as stimulus for Project Based Learning. This is an extension of an yr 6 to 7 transition idea from  @deangroom adapted for year 9: students form a band, students learn to play Guitar Hero and explore how it relates to theoretical music theory, students explore Dance Central for dance moves and compose a performance, students create t-shirt’s and posters in art based on their bands design brief, students create a character, keeping a journal of their bands tour (journey), students create a marketing plan in commerce and  others and event manage a concert in entertainment.
  • Exploring games as a text type to incorporate gaming tropes in other narrative types. Salmon Rushdie talks in this video how his exposure to video games has changed his traditional linear narrative in his latest book.
  • Creating games for consoles, something NSW Board of Studies is finally including in future curricula.
  • Creating software for the Human Interface Device controllers from consoles.

What are the Console options for education?

Read this review for a general comparison of the three consoles

1st Place XBox 360

Kinect is a must for Dance, Health & Physical Education (be aware some of the heath theory is questionable but easily replaced). Dance central is the perfect ‘wet weather’ option that is engaging, relevant and purposeful, a school has blog about this very idea. Because it tracks the whole body, it requires significant physical inputs, although its accessibility is still under development.

xBox also has an extensive array of games that has the potential to touch every Key Learning Area. This research from Future Labs Games like Knights of Honour, The Sims 2 & Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 have proven foundations in a range of curriculum areas.

The XNA development platform is the only legal game development framework that is accessible to students and free. Students can create a game for the Xbox, PC or mobile device using the game peripherals.

Kinect as a HID peripheral has had some really exciting innovation after only a few weeks on the market.

2nd Place Nintendo Wii
The Nintendo Wii is a ‘safe’ option for educators wanting to take a first step into consoles in education. Whilst not being on the cutting edge with the Xbox & Kinect it does have the widest variety of ‘G’ rated games, cheap and a ‘family friendly’ brand association. It does need a lot of peripherals but they integrate easily and smoothly. It is the most accessibility friendly console and easily adapted for accessibility. However, this can disadvantage it for general populations as it’s easy to cheat games by just flicking your wrist. Like the xBox be aware some of the heath theory is questionable but easily replaced.

Students can create games and applications that can be controlled by the Wii peripherals, this book explains how.

3rd Place: Sony Playstation 3 & Move

The Sony PS3 has the least opportunities for educators, but it does have some very good niches. ps3 is the preferred platform for racing games, many of these are excellent for exploring road safety. Move is essentially the same as the Wii, without the fit or easy peripheral integration. The other clear winner is Little Big Planet a very unique game in which the player can create a world and fill it with games many high mathematically cognitive, this blog post explains Little Big Planet in the classroom in more detail.

Things to think about:

  • Engage parents and community in the process, as many have ill-informed preconceived ideas about gaming and games.
  • Consider the policy implications, this policy recommendations report from Future Labs is a good starting point
  • Purchasing, several faculties can share the cost of the consoles and purchase games/peripherals independently or the Guitar Hero Concert could raise the funds?