I spent the last couple of days in West Lafayette, Indiana at Purdue University. I spoke about my use of games in my classroom at the Ackerman Colloquium and even though the Colloquium is still in progress (until Thursday) I returned home to spend some time with my girls.
I presented on Tuesday with Sarah Grafman from Muzzy Lane Software. We spoke about Making History. Sarah shared from her perspective as a writer and education developer for the company and I shared my experiences as a teacher using the game in my class. I have done this same type of presentation many times over the last few years and it has always been well recieved by post secondary educators and I believe that is was yesterday as well. One thought that came up during the question and answer portion of our presentation and was somewhat of a constant theme is what kind of data do you have to support the idea of games are successful in the classroom.
After considerable thought about this topic here are my basic feelings. First, games are nothing more than a tool for teachers to use. Much the same as a textbook, a video, an overhead projector, or even the chalk or white board. The same game or text in the hands of a teacher who is digitally talented will be great but in the hands of a teacher who is less talented will not be great. The variable of the teacher is huge. Making History is a game that is well designed, fun to play, and captivating for most students. However, not every teacher can pick up the game and use it successfully. I would surmise that some have tried and not had the best of luck with it. So I would suggest that the success of a game has less to do with its digital content and more to do with the effective presence of a teacher who can use it successfully. The digital content is an important component of the entire picture. However, in my opinion the teacher is more vital that the digital content of a game. Of course I am a teacher so what would you expect;-)
I have more thoughts to share and I will also post my slides here which will also be posted on the Ackerman site.