Dr. Kawashima, Schools and Media

Having chatted with Derek Robertson recently, thought I would update on some Consolarium news.

Byron Report, Media coverage of games issues, and classroom use of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training and Nintendogs all below…

Derek was busy with media interviews after the Byron Report – as noted in this Futurelab interview. As noted here previously, Derek says of the media coverage of the Byron Report:

“It was focusing on the negative – what’s bad with games and not about how we can use them to good effect,” he said. “It seemed like another excuse to roll out the old chestnuts about obesity, de-sensitisation of violence, and there doesn’t seem to be any counter-balance.

In contrast, when talking to teachers about how games can become useful tools in the classroom to engage learners he notes:

“When I go to speak to teachers and the education community here in Scotland I very rarely get cynicism or resistance to working with games. Schools can’t get enough of it up here. I think the reason it’s been a success is that everything I do is packaged up for effective teaching and learning that can make sense in classrooms.”

And his work on building up case-studies continues. The previous small study on the classroom use of Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training is being followed up by a larger scale study. Funding was available for equipment for 16 classrooms, and so 16 classes using Brain Training are taking part and data will also be collected from 16 matching classes without Brain Training.

Despite the evidence that this works, and despite the fact that this is just one classroom activity – not a replacement for teachers – the usual filtering effect occurs in mainstream media:

A Games Console as a Teacher? A dubious addition

The author doesn’t appear to have paid too much attention to the details of the study:

In those days, it was the inspirational power of a teacher that could make or break your educational experience. Of course, there are are good teachers and not-so-good teachers, but I’m sure they would share a common disappointment if they were to be usurped by Dr Kawashima.

The obvious error here is that Brain Training was used in the trial for the sum total of 20 minutes a day – hardly replacing the teacher. What was also missed was the result that the weakest students in arithmetic no longer trailed way behind the rest of class after the trial. And the claim is made without asking teachers whether or not they would “share a common disappointment” to have Brain Training in the classroom. We’ll know soon enough.

Another example on the Consolarium blog, on the use of Nintendogs in class, demonstrates how using console games in the class effectively in fact relies very strongly on the teacher planning and arranging a range of activities to leverage the engagement. In the Nintendogs example, the Primary 2 children wrote stories, made stop-motion animations, drew pictures, made wall displays, met a real-life dog warden, taught each other, read books about dogs, …

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