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Post date: Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Opening the door to games at Hutt Central School

By Rachel Bolstad

What happens when four teachers in a senior primary syndicate launch confidently into a term-long inquiry process based around games?

Opening the door to games, a case study from Hutt Central School, shows us one example.  The metaphor  of "opening the door" to games came from a comment made by Adam, one of the four teachers. We asked him what advice he'd give to other teachers based on what he experienced.

"I think you’ve got to go into it committed to the idea. It is an idea that, with kids, picks up a lot of steam very quickly. What you do not want to do is open the door [to games] and then try to shut the door again. It may lead to some interesting places in terms of what you normally do ..." (Adam)

The decision to focus on games (and game design) in Term 2 proved to be so engaging and generative that it continued to “run in the background” for all four classes throughout the rest of the year, even when new inquiries and other planned school activities required time and attention. 

Taking games and game design in different directions

The teachers' approach was to weave the curriculum around games and vice versa. Rather than attaching games to particular learning areas, the focus was on building key competencies and capabilities such as collaboration and problem solving. The inquiry spiralled into a variety of learning opportunities, taking slightly different directions across the four classrooms according to the interests of each teacher and their students. These included:

  • collaborative tabletop game play,  as inspiration for students' collaborative game design
  • fortuitous playtesting of student games by exchange with students from another school
  • using Dungeons and Dragons to get students excited about reading and writing
  • using "hacks" to gamify various aspects of learning
  • a real-world game, sparking curious students to trying finding people  from a mysterious 1983 class photo.

Utilising networks outside the school to expand possibilities

As well as the teachers’ own drive and creativity, the Hutt Central School case study was influenced and supported by the teachers utilising a range of networks beyond the school. This included:

  • ideas, inspiration, and specific resources picked up from attending conferences and hearing from other game-using teachers
  • using social media to engage the wider community as part of a game based on real life
  • exchanging ideas, classroom practices, and game prototypes with teachers and students in other schools
  • inviting a game designer to come into the school to run a workshop with students.

Advice for other teachers

The teachers’ key advice for other teachers interested in bringing a game-based learning focus into their classrooms is:

  • give it a try, and do so with an open mind
  • focus on creating conditions that allow for planned and unanticipated learning opportunities to arise from “opening the door to games”
  • allow space for students’ ideas and interests to emerge and be followed through.

 Read the case study for more details about what they did and how they did it, including what their students had to say!

Our thanks to Steph, Hayley, Leanne,  Adam, and their students for sharing their experiences with us.

Games for learning

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