Now might be the time to critically rethink the current concepts and to search for possibilities to increase the learners’ intrinsic motivation by improving quality in education. Game-based learning is one of these approaches: it respects the potential of the ongoing digital revolution, with its interactivity and multimedia stimulation.
However, schools and educational organizations rarely take learning with new technologies - and in particular GBL - into consideration, although the use of ICT has become an integral part of European society. Although everyone has understood that ICT in classrooms is necessary today, the portfolio of usage strategies is by far too uncreative and often reproduces what was done without ICT. Therefore, there is a need to provide learning scenarios for ICT-enabled learning that use their full creative and networked potential.
In the NUAK project (2010), a researcher from the University of Lubljana, Slowenia, defined the new role of a teacher in the 21st century as a "planner, strategist, researcher, pedagogical diagnostician, work organizer, counselor, and tutor – with the requirement to concretize educational content and adapt it to the interests and abilities of learners." In this role model of a modern teacher, it is not only the necessary skills that are mentioned. In fact, the focus is on the target group: the learner.
Teachers need to be able to understand their target groups in order to motivate and guide them through their educational path. State-of-the-art learning methods and content like GBL have to be known and used by teachers. Both needs require continuous training and updates for teachers. This can be done in many ways, from formalized vocational education (e.g. TechnoFutur in Belgium).
However, not many teachers get formal training about GBL or the integration of technology in their initial schooling [Mahiri 2010]. Another possibility is informal peer learning in working groups (e.g. Quest to learn) – even together with pupils and other stakeholders such as internal policy makers or IT administrators.
In a recent study carried out by the Memorial University, Canada, and presented in 2010 during the EDEN conference, the authors found out that the extent to which computer technology impacts the way teachers do their work has the single largest effect upon students’ use of computer technology in support of their learning. In brief: only teachers who are already familiar with ICT are able to inspire their learners.
This has already been assumed, but "… it was not expected that the total effects of all distributed leadership factors in our model (the engagement of district and formal school administrators and teacher leaders) accounted for only 6% the variance of the impact of computer technology upon teacher’s work." And "… even more surprising is our finding that none of the distributed leadership factors had any measurable direct impact upon teachers’ use of technology in the classroom".
This result shows that changing teachers’ attitudes regarding the use of GBL is often not the only issue. Also of particular importance is guiding on the first steps of changing teaching behavior. Good practice examples play an important role in this process; they can encourage and inspire. During the ENGAGE project, such cases have been systematically identified and promoted within the ENGAGE Quality Excellence Award (call for proposals by mid-September; ceremony at Online Educa Berlin, 03 December 2010).
In parallel, the teachers have to be recognized in their efforts to adapt new learning methods by their organizational environment. During the ENGAGE workshops that have been carried out with teachers all over Europe, the support of the IT administrators in schools has often be named as a reason hindering the introduction of GBL in classes. This personal learning support for teachers can be described as an indirect influence for which policy makers and managers have responsibility. It is their task to facilitate the transformational process of adapting a school to the new needs of both pupils and teachers of the 21st century.
If one school can’t gather the needed capacities to drive such a change process in terms of technological infrastructure and skills, initiatives that provide inclusive leadership such as the London Grid for Learning, can be seen as a possible solution. In this initiative, different schools are grouped in regional networks to share a broadband connection, resources, and expertise.
The ENGAGE project is coordinated by the FH Johanneum, Austria.
Extracted from Reinhardt, R (2010): ENGAGE. Green paper on Game-based Learning (Draft). Brussels.
Interested in quality and innovation of school education by using Game-based Learning? EFQUEL recommends participating in the ENGAGE workshop on 08 September (free of charge) and as well in the Parallel Session on technology enhanced learning, which takes place within the EFQUEL Innovation Forum 2010.