Sunday, October 15, 2017

Games for Learning Conference

Myself with Harko Brown and our manu that he showed me how to weave

It is quite special to attend an inaugural conference, but even more special to be part of the dialogue before the conference and also be asked to help facilitate a session.

The Games for Learning Conference held at Te Papa in September 2017 was the vision of Rachel Bolstad from NZCER. Rachel has been doing some research into this area for the past few years and in some ways, this was the accumulation of the many different relationships that Rachel made over that time. The focus of the conference was "equity for social impact".

Rachel was able to secure some pretty amazing keynote speakers, facilitators and participants to be part of this special occasion. Amy Freeden from the Cook Tribal Inlet Council that bravely invested the stories of her people into the game "Never Alone", Yasmin Kafai Professor from the University of Pennsylvania who had Seymour Papert as her mentor, Bron Stuckey a researcher, educator and consultant in the learning through games, and our very own Harko Brown who lives and breathes Ngā taonga tākaro (our cultural games). There were teachers, game designers, students, game players. Never before have I been at a conference with so much diversity.

As a teacher who already uses gameplay and game design in my practice the focus of the conference for me was to see other ways in which to do this. I was constantly reflecting on the question "how could I use this in my classroom?". This is also the stance I took while presenting my session on Game of Awesome with Aaron from Chrometoaster. I knew my audience; these teachers wanted something that they could do on Monday morning. We gave our participants permission to play, permission to be creative and adventurous and to try and use the GOA cards in different ways. I was really impressed at all of the new ideations of the game they came up with.
Much laughter and creativity in my GOA session

Some of my key thoughts/reflections/ideas from the keynotes and sessions I attended:

  • All you need is your imagination! Flying invisible kites is a game. Children are naturally playful and have great imaginations! (Harko Brown)
  • Learn knowledge or content through the game design process, the game at the end is just a bonus
  • A Cultural narrative in game design can be so powerful. Stories are powerful. Games are stories. (Amy Fredeen, Harko Brown)
  • Physical games are easy to change and modify as you just have to say the new rule out loud! (Ben Kenobi)
  • Situation and context help build a game, think about what this could look like e.g giant map/playing board, drama 
  • Games are systems thinking - simple or complex
  • There is a rich discourse when playing games. Listen!
  • Move over computational thinking - what we want to see and do is more computational participation. It is equitable, it is inclusive, it's integrated and it's fun! (Yasmin Kafai)
  • Gameplay can be drama, "teacher in role" and students living and breathing the context of a game
  • Games are life! They tell our stories, they are how we spend our time, they make us feel happy. (Harko Brown)
The group reflections at the end of the conference were incredible but it was a comment by Richard Durham (curriculum designer) that all my own reflections now come from (I wish I had written down exactly what he had said!) He mentioned that the conference itself had a different feel to it. It's true, over the 2 days we were connected to each other through common values. We all saw games as ways to connect to each other, to empathise, to care. I know that I left feeling inspired to continue using games and game design as ways to help my students explore ideas, have fun and learn from each other. 

Tihei mauri ora!

Flying our imaginary kites back at school