I haven’t managed to make it to a Games:Edu event till now (the events previously had a tendency to clash with my vacations, and I sometimes get tired of travelling during the course of the year). I greatly enjoyed today’s (well yesterdays – posting this just after midnight) event however – and was happy to see that there was actually a lot of agreement between industry representatives and academics during the course of the day. In particular, a number of speakers (myself included) emphasised the need for group projects that help develop team work skills, and open-ended projects which give room for the best students to excel. How we do this while also supporting students who are not excelling was one issue that was discussed – without a definitive answer.
I’ll post my own presentation soon – my keynote was on the challenges facing games education in universities in the UK – most of which are actually challenges facing the whole sector in the UK. I even got to include my “University of Somewhere” org chart – featuring the Dept. of Innovation Prevention. This particular slide had a very good response, and discussion during tea breaks confirmed previous reports that such a department seems to exist in most universities.
The programme was nicely balanced, with some discussion on teaching game development in schools and FE (courtesy of David Brockbank), alongside a number of university and industry speakers.
A late addition to the programme, Mike Reddy discussed paizogogy – the pedagogy of making games. This builds on Papert’s constructionism, and in an engaging talk (sat next to Mike, I was impressed as he developed his game-art homage graphics immediately prior to his presentation) Mike challenged us to spend more time creating games ourselves – using cards, paper, boards or possibly even computers. Can’t say I’m not tempted.
Saint John-Walker from Skillset encouraged universities to apply for accreditation – and to initiate discussion with Skillset if they are interested. Don’t let fear of failure hold you back was his message. This talk was nicely balanced by a presentation from Michael Powell (De Montfort University) who gave an engaging talk on the challenges of applying for (and obtaining) Skillset accreditation. This brought back some memories and really emphasised one of the challenges I identified – the paper mountain facing lecturers and course leaders.
Carol Clark outlined the RealTimeWorlds approach to mentoring new graduate employees. The emphasis here was on learning by doing and becoming a member of the team. This idea of teaching game developers by placing them into effective communities of practice (to put an academic spin on it) seemed to be one of the main themes of the day – as these ideas recurred in several talks. Including Grant Clarke’s. Grant leads the Abertay Master of Professional Practice course – in which students work as members of their own game development teams in a studio setting.
Finally, Maria Stukoff of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe outlined the current PlayStation Edu schemes and opportunities – most exciting of which is that universities can now apply for the same PS3 DevKits as used in industry – no longer any need to rely on PS3 Linux (with its many limitations) for courses wanting to explore developing for the Cell processor and PS3 hardware. Included in this is the cross-platform Phyre engine and access to the PS Dev network. The costs are such that I wouldn’t expect many places to establish a full lab of 20 PS3 DevKits, but with shared access it should be possible to integrate into console development modules with just a few machines. Fingers crossed we can free up some money from our budgets to get a few of these soon…