Feature wiki – gaming4learning @ PGSC

Preston Girls’ Secondary College teacher librarian Judith Way was recently one teacher selected by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development‘s KnowledgeBank: Next Generation branch to trial gaming in schools. Judith explains:

In term 2, 2009 (April-June) selected schools in the Australian state of Victoria are trialling videogames as learning tools. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s Knowledge Bank: Next Generation team are currently leading action research with selected teachers in Victoria to identify potential technologies that may support learning and teaching. This project is supported by The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, The Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development (Multimedia Victoria) and The Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy.

In term 2, 2009, these technologies include gaming consoles such as Nintendo DS, Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360 are being trialled in approximately twenty schools. Being a DEECD project, there are strict guidelines and record keeping so all research can be validated. This is a major step for the government’s Department of Education and Early Childhood Development in acknowledging the educational potential of gaming and backing up ideas with action research. The DEECD will be formulating department policy in regards to gaming once the research has been completed. Schools were emailed in March 2009 to indicate their interest in the project and apply to become part of the trial. The DEECD were offering grants of A$4000 per school to cover the costs of replacement teachers, consoles and software.

Fortunately, I was one of the teachers selected to participate in the trial.

Students in the trial are in either year 8 or year 9.

* My gaming research question is:

Is it possible that games such as My Word Coach on Nintendo DS can improve literacy skills?

What is the curriculum focus of your teaching for this action research?

  • (Identify VELS domains and levels or VCE/VCAL/VET subject areas)

• develop an understanding of their strengths and potential
• develop skills of goal setting and time and resource management
• increasingly manage their own learning and growth by monitoring their
learning, and setting and reflecting on their learning goals
• recognise and enact learning principles within and beyond the school
• prepare for lifelong learning.

• understanding that design, creativity and technology leads to innovation

develop new thinking and learning skills that produce creative and
innovative insights
• develop more productive ways of working and solving problems individually
and collaboratively
• express themselves in contemporary and socially relevant ways
• communicate locally and globally to solve problems and to share
• understand the implications of the use of ICT and their social and ethical
responsibilities as users of ICT.

It is also expected that the project will address the National Literacy Standards.

  • Which PoLT principles will you use to support your pedagogical practices? (please list only those relevant to your research question)

1.4 ensures each student experiences success through structured support, the valuing of effort, and recognition of their work.
2.1 encourages and supports students to take responsibility for their learning
2.2 uses strategies that build skills of productive collaboration.
3.1 uses strategies that are flexible and responsive to the values, needs and interests of individual students
3.2 uses a range of strategies that support the different ways of thinking and learning
3.3 builds on students’ prior experiences, knowledge and skills
3.4 capitalises on students’ experience of a technology rich world.
4.1 plans sequences to promote sustained learning that builds over time and emphasises connections between ideas
4.5 uses strategies to develop investigating and problem solving skills
4.6 uses strategies to foster imagination and creativity.
5.1 designs assessment practices that reflect the full range of learning program objectives
5.2 ensures that students receive frequent constructive feedback that supports further learning
5.3 makes assessment criteria explicit
5.4 uses assessment practices that encourage reflection and self assessment
5.5 uses evidence from assessment to inform planning and teaching.
6.1 supports students to engage with contemporary knowledge and practice
6.3 uses technologies in ways that reflect professional and community practices.
5. How will you evaluate and document your action research?

The students selected to participate that are in the Literacy program will be given the TORC test before the program begins. The group will be given the TORC test again at the end of the program to ascertain results.

Students will also be asked about their engagement and attitudes to literacy now that gaming is used as a learning tool.

Documentation could take the form of a report or blog posts. Debriefing sessions could be held in Elluminate. 



A ‘Decoding’ Literacy group was selected to participate in the trial. Out of the five students in the group, four are in year 8, one in year 9. TORC test results at the end of 2008 place these students at either grade 2 or grade 3 level for literacy.

Before the trial began, students were surveyed about their attitude and understanding of gaming.

  1. 60% played video games at home while 40% did not. (The 40% who did not said they didn’t enjoy/not interested in playing video games.)
  2. 80% of students owned a console.
  • 80% of these owned a Nintendo DS
  • 60% owned a Playstation 3
  • 20% owned an XBoX
  1. All students agreed that they did sometimes play video games; 20% played daily, 40% played a few times a week while the remaining 40% played a few times a year.
  2. Students playing video games said they felt:
  • Happy (20%)
  • Full of fun (40%)
  • Challenged (60%)
  • Focused (40%)
  • Relaxed (40%)
  • Learning (20%)

while students said they did not feel ‘stressed’ or ‘unahppy’ while playing video games.

5. Students mostly agreed that they played video games with others.

  • 40% played with siblings
  • 40% played with parents
  • 40% played with friends
  • 20% played online with friends
  • 20% played alone
  • Students said did not play online with stranger

6. All students thought that video games could be used in schools for both learning and fun. However when quizzed on this, students could not think what they could actually learn, apart from how to use the game.

7. 80% of students thought they would like to use video games at school to learn and 20% (1 student) did not.


This trial was extremely worthwhile. Although each and every student did not increase their TORC test result, there were other gains to be had. The students felt that they learned a lot of new words during the term.

Both Anne Clark (teacher aide), the students and I agreed that the students formed quite a powerful bond with each other during the term that hadn’t been there before. This increased their connectedness to school. They said that they felt closer to each other and they believed it was because of the trial. They felt quite special to have been chosen to participate in the trial. I noticed an improvement in their relationship with me as their teacher librarian. Each student was particularly pleasant and polite and would go out of their way to speak to me in the library or in the quadrangle.

Each student mentioned that the trial was fun and that they enjoyed learning in a different way. Attendance and punctuality improved as well.

Anne Clark noted that students were very engaged and proud of their success when their ‘Expression Potential’ went up a range. Students were very happy during the lessons and were sad at the end of the term to know that they would be going back to the ‘regular’ Literacy classes.

One student ran to the class every day, so excited about using the DS as a learning tool!

At the end of the trial, students were surveyed again, this time about what their favourite part of the trial, gaming and how they felt about school.

  1. 80% of students thought their favourite part of the trial was ‘fun’. 80% said ‘exciting’, 40% said ‘different’, 100% thought is was ‘learning in a different way’, 60% ‘felt privileged’ as no other group had use of the DS and 40% said love of video games.
  2. 100% of students said they learned new words, 80% said they learned more words, 60% said they learned how to spell and 60% said they learned interesting words.
  3. All students said they made more of an effort to come to school during the trial.
  4. All students said they made more of an effort to be on time to school/Literacy class during the trial.
  5. 75% of students said they feel more connected to school now.
  6. All students said that they feel more connected to their Literacy group now.

This response from students is very encouraging in relation to their connectedness to school and each other.

I believe that the four things I set out to investigate have been proven to be effective:

  1. Overall students’ Literacy achievement increased.
  2. Students all agreed that they were more engaged in their Literacy tasks during the trial.
  3. Overall students’ attendance was better and students said they made more of an effort to come to school during the trial.
  • Students’ punctuality improved as the term progressed.
  • Results

     You can see on the results page how students improved academic achievement, punctuality and attendance. Students also said that they were much more engaged than in regular Literacy classes.

    This was an interesting project that really engaged the students when learning. 

    Active Video Games A Good Alternative To Moderate Exercise For Kids, Study Suggests

    ScienceDaily reports on a study that games such as Wii Sports are good for health:

    ScienceDaily (July 17, 2009) — Scientists at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center have found that playing active video games can be as effective for children as moderate exercise. The findings appear this week in the journal Pediatrics from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    While OU pediatricians don’t recommend children stop playing outside or exercising, the research shows that active video games offer a great alternative to moderate exercise for many children of today’s generation who are sedentary and at high risk for obesity and diabetes.

    “These exer-games are no substitute for ‘real’ sports activities, but if kids play them as designed and stay engaged, they can burn several calories per hour above their sedentary level. We view any increase in energy expenditure (calories burned) as a good thing, especially in our overly-sedentary society,” said Kevin Short, Ph.D., principal investigator on the project.

    To test the idea, researchers measured the heart rate, energy expenditure and self-reported exertion in children between ages 10-13 while they watched television, played active video games and walked on the treadmill at three different speeds.

    Compared to watching television, the calories burned while gaming or walking increased 2- to 3-fold. Similarly, high rates of energy expenditure, heart rate and perceived exertion were elicited from playing Wii boxing, Dance Dance Revolution Level 2 or walking at 3.5 mph.

    Wii bowling and beginner level DDR elicited a 2-fold increase in energy expenditure compared to television watching.

    Overall, the energy expenditure during active video game play was comparable to moderate-intensity walking. Thus, for children who spend considerable time playing electronic screen games for entertainment, OU researchers found that substituting that time with physically active games can be a safe, fun and valuable means of promoting energy expenditure.

    The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Children’s Medical Research Institute.

    Journal reference:

    1. Graf, Diana L., Pratt, Lauren V., Hester, Casey N., Short, Kevin R. Playing Active Video Games Increases Energy Expenditure in Children. Pediatrics, 2009 0: peds.2008-2851 DOI: 10.1542/10.1542/peds.2008-2851

    Adapted from materials provided by University of Oklahoma.

    Games for learning wiki

    Victorian Northern Metropolitan Region Ultranet Coach Anesti Anestis has provided Bright Ideas with information about a Games for Learning wiki.


    Anesti explains, ‘It is a site to find, make and play games.  Teachers involved in gaming can share their experiences and findings in applying games in the classroom.’

    Getting started
    Getting started

    With information on

  • Free stuff
  • Gamemaking software
  • Gaming sites
  • Getting Started
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo Edu Titles
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Presentation and Resources
  • XBOX
  • XNA Game creators
  • there is plenty of support for schools that are considering introducing gaming for learning.

    Free Realms

    For any teacher or parent interested in gaming for learning, Free Realms is a free gaming site designed for families.

    The Free Realms for Parents page explains more about the site:

    What is Free Realms?
    Welcome to FreeRealms.com! Free Realmsis a fun, whimsical virtual world filled with dynamic gameplay and compelling content for everyone, especially families.

    Do what you want to do, when you want to do it, in a 3D world of lush landscapes and fun wildlife. Teach your pet new tricks, explore a lush new world, earn great items through quests or play fun mini-games. If adventuring is more your style, become a wizard and search for lost treasure or fight monsters in a mix of real-world experiences and fantasy adventure. With regular content updates and special events scheduled, it’s time to discover the delights of Free Realms!

    Developed by Sony, you can be assured that the site is a good one. With parent controls, restricted chat and forums, schools and families are well catered for.

    An attractive and engaging site that enables families to play together.

    Media Learning Week – August 24 – 28

    A number of free professional learning sessions are being offered by SYN and the State Library of Victoria during Media Learning Week, August 24-28, 2009.

    Some of the sessions include:

    • gaming and learning
    • video workshop
    • media careers and planning pathways

    Please be aware that even though the events are free, bookings are essential. The attached program outlines more details.

    Who wants to be a MillionHeir?

    For anyone who is still unsure about the educational worth of videogames, here is a personal example of just some of the things I learned in a few days from a ‘G’ rated Nintendo DS game called Mystery Case Files: MillionHeir  (showing in a Wordle word cloud).

    This is not an advertisement for the game (Bright Ideasdoes not accept sponsorship or products), I purchased it with my own hard-earned dollars (approx. A$35 from JB HiFi). However, it is a lesson in how children (and adults) can be engaged in their favourite pass time and still learn many things that we would normally teach them in a more traditional manor. It is also a great activity to share with the family.

    This game also has the ability for up to four players to either compete against each other or work cooperatively by using one Nintendo DS each, but only one copy of the game is needed. You can set time limits for tasks, set the number of hints for each player and the number of locations used in the game. In a nutshell, you can set the game to whatever level suits you or your students.

    Using Case Files: MillionHeir in an English class, students could study the crime genre by writing back stories for the characters in MillionHeir, watching classic movies, read crime fiction, write their own crime stories, explain features of the genre, developed plans of the MillionHeir’s house, etc.

    Games ‘valuable learning tool’

    A very interesting article has been published in today’s edition of The Age Green Guide entitled Games ‘valuable learning tool’.  Written by Jason Hill, the article says, ‘Education experts say computer games boost a range of skills in children’.

    April 9, 2009

    Education experts say computer games boost a range of skills in children, writes Jason Hill.

    Computer games can be a positive learning tool for children as young as three, according to Australian education experts.

    Patricia and Don Edgar, authorities on children’s media, education and social trends, recently wrote a paper for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority in which they argue that there is growing evidence that games are effective and valuable learning tools.

    Skills developed from games include comprehension, decision making, multitasking, collaboration, concentration, leadership and communication.

    Dr Patricia Edgar says it is not surprising some parents fear the impact of games on their kids, because many “fear the unknown” or are concerned about violence.

    “Anyone with children knows how absorbed and passionate about games kids can become,” Dr Edgar says. “Parents worry about something that takes over their kids’ lives as games do – games which they can’t see much point to.”

    Dr Edgar, whose latest book is titled The New Child: in search of smarter grown-ups, encourages parents to “sit with kids, let them explore and learn”.

    “Parents have to put in the time. Then they will know the content of the games, and their involvement will help the kids to learn.”

    Dr Edgar believes games can also have an important role in the classroom, although more research and investment is needed to produce educational games that enable kids to learn at their own pace and collaborate with others. The games also need to be fun, she argues.

    “Kids always learn best when they are entertained. Entertainment should not preclude education, but somehow we have this notion that if something is educational it has to be serious and can’t be fun.”

    Dr Edgar says some educators have had their distrust of new media vindicated over the past decade as “the entertainment industry has commercialised childhood and turned kids into consumers producing material for its merchandising potential”.

    “(But) I think we are about ready for a change in these values, which could lead to some healthy, profitable, educational entertainment to bridge the divide.”

    She believes it is a positive step that libraries are now offering computer games, both for their learning potential and for attracting children to the institutions.

    Lalor Library in north-eastern Melbourne has enjoyed success through introducing consoles such as the Xbox and Wii into the library, as well as networked PC games. Branch manager Felicity Macchion says her priority in introducing gaming three years ago was to offer disadvantaged community members access to new technology, and she has been thrilled with the results. “Implementing video-gaming into the library environment has increased memberships, borrowings and has created an enjoyable atmosphere for all ages.”

    Earlier this week, the State Library of Victoria hosted an event enabling gaming newcomers to get hands-on with the latest releases and discuss how the games can be used positively in public institutions such as libraries and schools.

    For several years the library’s Experimedia section has featured locally developed games.

    For the latest gaming news, visit www.blogs.theage.com.au/screenplay

    As per previous Bright Ideas posts on the State Library’s Press Play initiative, Getting video games on the school agenda and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development’s video games trial games are well worth investigating as part of a total pedagogy that caters for today’s children and encourages engagement and attendance.

    Press play review

    On Tuesday 7 April, the State Library of Victoria hosted “Press Play: a get into video games” event. It gave attendees access to award winning games like Little Big Planet as well as Guitar Hero, Wii fit and Brain Training. Offering a range of consoles such as Wii, Playstation 3 and Nintendo DS, there was something for every one.

    A further event is planned for later in the year, so if you are curious about how gaming can be used in schools and libraries, please consider attending. It is highly recommended for taking games for a test drive and thinking about how they could be used in educational contexts as well as having a chat with experts in their fields. 

    On the topic of gaming and libraries, Christine Mackenzie, the CEO of Yarra Plenty Regional Library wrote this on her blog on 6 April.

    Installing screens, games and tvs is our way of showing that education, learning, recreation and culture can come in all different kinds of media and are all equally appropriate in a public library. We hope you agree!

    Christine has outlined the idea that learning can encompass many formats and many educators agree with her, yet so many still violently disagree with the idea that learning should progress as society has.

    If you think about the changes to society, industry and communications over the past 200 years, why is there such a resistance by some people for education to keep pace with these changes? It is true that there are some very violent and inappropriate games on the market that may make some people shy away from this particular media as a learning tool. But as teachers, we would no more consider using such games as we would showing inappropriate films to our students. 

    Congratulations to the State Library of Victoria and Hamish Curry and his team for a fun and interesting evening.

    Getting video games on the school agenda

    For anyone who showed an interest in using video games for educational learning, there seems to be a plethora of information around about libraries, schools and gaming. You may have to refer to one or more of these sites to get gaming on your school agenda. Here is a selection of those sites.

     The American Library Association has a website named ‘The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming’, which is ‘an online toolkit for building gaming @ your library. There is a lot of information on the site which includes ‘tools and resources’, ‘best practice’ and ‘evaluation’.

    American Library Association Gaming Toolkit

    American Library Association Gaming Toolkit

     Helen Boelens recently let IASL members know about some more video game research that was being carried out. She says, “The research is being carried out by a researcher at the CLU (Centrum Leermiddelen Studie Utrecht – Centre for educational tools Utrecht), together with Kennisnet, which is a Dutch national foundation which supports the use of ICT in education in the Netherlands. The CLU is affiliated with the University of Utrecht, a university which has a strong faculty of education. The study which is being carried is about the effect of serious gaming on young people of upper secondary school age (16 years of age and older) and how these games can be used as educational tools, as part of their education. This research is presently taking place. A final report will be published when the research has been completed.”

     Some other discussions about using computer games in schools include Computer games explore social issuesby Kara Platoni. “Students have to win PeaceMaker, a simulation of the Middle East peace process, twice — once while playing as the Israeli prime minister and once as the Palestinian president.”

    Patricia Edgar (the founding Director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation) and Don Edgar have written a paper on the topic of Television, Digital Media and Children’s Learning for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority which promotes the use of all types of media in learning and teaching.

    School change and video gamesby Mark Wagner, Ph.D. looks at school change through video games.

    Learning to game and gaming to learn: videogames in education is a wiki with a lot of links to research that has focused on the relationship between video games and school learning.

     Videogames as learning enginesby David Warlick is another presentation that looks at the correlation between video games and learning.

     And don’t forget the State Library of Victoria is offering a chance to find out what gaming is all about at an evening of interactive play and mini-tournaments. Discover a range of video games and consoles, and meet game experts from Dissecta. It will be held on Tuesday 7 April (school holidays for Victoria) from 6-7.30pm at the State Library, in Experimedia. The session is free, but bookings are required. Please click this link to book in.