At NFPS we are a school very focused on gaming in education (using digital games to teach).
Some of the games we have used include Civilisation and Sim City to teach term-long units on government etc. We have done entire term projects on game making (looking at programming skills plus narrative development etc) in the grade 3/4 area. We used programs such as Scratch, Atmospfir, Sploder, and Game Salad to do this.
We also use a lot of games on mobile devices in the Jnr levels to enhance the numeracy and literacy program.
This year we received a school’s specialization grant to investigate the use of gaming to teach and part of this has linked us into working with Deakin Uni and their researchers, investigating some of the things we are trying to achieve.
This term, in an attempt to teach a science-based unit looking at biospheres we are using the game Minecraft across all the grade 5/6 classes (140 students).
The premise is the world is coming to an end and all 140 of us have to move to a new planet. Decisions need to be made before leaving Earth and Arcs are getting designed in google sketch up and prototypes being built using a 3D printer.
Everything we need to establish our new planet is going to be taken with us so decided upon pre leaving. Then we all fly to our new planet.
The new planet, called Auroura 56 Z will be simulated in Minecraft.
I have built a Minecraft server for the school where all the work will be completed.
It is a very interesting project to observe. The way we set these things up is it is mostly student-driven with the teachers working as facilitators to the learning.
The kids have organised themselves into 5 districts (technology and industry, agriculture, discovery and education, recreation, city, and culture) and have started to build.
One thing of note observed so far in this project is the levels of bureaucracy the kids are bringing into the game – demanding the establishment of councils and committees. A lot of it has been driven by their existing knowledge of the game.
I regularly meet with a group of 10 kids who advise me on gameplay and how to adapt it to enable the efficient and smooth development of our planet. The project has raised a lot of questions regarding global warming – what causes it, how can we avoid it on our new planet – do we really need to mine everything, etc. Furthermore, the game based project has raised very interesting discussion about policing – people can obviously destroy other people’s work in the Minecraft environment – how do we control this amongst 140 players (these decisions are all controlled by the students)
All of the student’s work is being recorded in a wiki. This allows them to collaborate and plan across classrooms as well as reflect on their learning and cross-pollinate ideas. An example of a designed arc is below.