A groundswell of playfulness

Hamish Curry, Education Manager at the State Library of Victoria reflects on gaming and playfulness after recently taking part in conferences in Auckland and Melbourne.

Games and playful thinking have been popping up a lot for me recently, more so than usual.

There seems to be a shift in the discussion from the games people play to how games both reflect and add to the culture of our workplaces and public spaces. School libraries can potentially be a hub for this kind of discussion enabling the exploration of games and apps that contribute to our understanding of digital literacy, deep reading and game elements.

In digging deeper I headed along to the inaugural Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) from July 19-21. Here more than 40,000 gamers descended on the Melbourne Show grounds to indulge in games from all kinds of mediums: card games, board games, video games, and talks about games. The scale was overwhelming. It was a powerful physical reminder of just how ubiquitous and diverse games are, as well as how rich the networks and local game development scene are too. I spoke on a panel about The Playful Library exploring the ways in which library spaces can be designed and co-programmed to support games culture. If libraries are keen to engage with the community, then games become a powerful way to bring playfulness and partnerships into their spaces.

Speaking of spaces, I was New Zealand bound the following day to participate in the Auckland City Council’s Hui ‘New Rules of Engagement: Future Directions for Children’s and Youth Services at Auckland Libraries’. This two-day event explored the ‘serious business of being playful’ and brought about 180 staff together to discuss how library spaces can be revitalised, redesigned and reprogrammed to better support families and youth services. There was a strong sense of community driven perspectives coming through the sessions, which also included a workshop on building bridges with newspaper whilst being shot at with Nerf guns! Clearly the play potential of libraries was a key focus, and the energy of the room suggested that the tenacity and eagerness of staff was certainly there.

The themes of risk, innovation, and opportunity kept surfacing. Something that also surfaced during this Hui was an article I’d written for the Schools Catalogue Information Service on Games and learning. In it I explore the ways in which games complement and contrast with education, and how control is always shifting.

Being playful reminds us all that control is at once a state of mind and an opportunity to do things differently.

Image credit: Steam punk nerf guns at Auckland Libraries Hui – librarians vs children!

Splash: multimedia resources, games and online events from the ABC

Splash is a new educational initiative developed in partnership between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Education Services Australia. The site includes a large library of media clips, audio, games and activities for teachers and students mapped against the Australian Curriculum.

The multimedia library provides access to the ABC’s impressive archive, including age-appropriate notes and questions. There is also information for parents, including a brief guide to the Australian Curriculum. All resources are free and can be accessed from any device.

In addition to resources, Splash is also the hub for live national events facilitated through online conferencing, connecting students to experts and each other.

This brief introductory video provides background to the project and highlights key resources.

Help with gaming: ilearntechnology!

If you need help to find appropriate games and to embed them into the curriculum, you cannot go past Kelly Tenkely‘s excellent blog ilearntechnology.

Screen shot 2010-10-29 at 7.00.20 AM

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Kelly is a passionate and dedicated elementary (primary) teacher who has developed the most amazing collection of games and written about their educational applications. Check out her blog. You won’t be disappointed.

Gaming and Families

Recently the UK’s Futurelab organisation published a report about ‘the benefits and risks to children’s wellbeing and learning associated with playing computer games.’ As most of us either have children or relatives who are children who play computer games and/or are considering introducing or have introduced gaming into schools, this report will be of interest.

questions addressed included:

  • What role do computer games play in the social, leisure and informal learning activities of families (parents and their children)?
  • What are the attitudes and perceptions of family members towards the benefits and risks of playing computer games?
  • How can we support parents and their children to appreciate and understand the benefits and risks associated with playing computer games?

Three documents outlining the project and results are available.

One of the key findings was

Parents and young people, that is, those aged 5-15, perceived that there were benefits to playing video games as a family, with the main motivation being enjoyment.

The important aspect of this is communication and connectedness within the family for building and maintaining good relationships. This should be applicable to school as well.

K-12 2010 Horizon Report

The 2010 Horizon Report for schools K-12 has recently been released. Predicting the technologies that will be influential in teaching and learning over the next 5 years, the K-12 Horizon Report is a must read for all educators.

The top trends to watch are:

  • One year or less – Cloud Computing
  • One year or less – Collaborative Environments
  • Two to three years – Game-based learning
  • Two to three years – Mobiles
  • Four to five years – Augmented Reality
  • Four to five years – Flexible Displays


The Horizon Report explains:

The “cloud” refers to surplus computing resources available from specialized data centers, each often hosting thousands of servers, that power the world’s largest websites and web services.

Examples of this include:

  • Flickr
  • Google Docs
  • Wikis
  • Blogs
  • Twitter

Virtually anywhere were information is not stored on your own computer and accessing to it is via the internet.


Collaborative Environments are defined by the Horizon Report:

Collaborative environments are online spaces where the focus is on making it easy to collaborate and work in groups, no matter where the participants may be. As the typical educator’s network of contacts has grown to include colleagues who might live and work across the country, or indeed anywhere on the globe, it has become common for people who are not physically located near each other to collaborate on projects. In classrooms as well, joint projects with students at other schools or in other countries are more and more commonplace as strategies to expose learners to a variety of perspectives.

Examples include:

  • Ning (but for how much longer as it seems they will be charging for use in the near future)
  • Wikis
  • GoogleDocs
  • DropBox
  • Drop.io
  • Voicethread
  • Netvibes
  • Wikipedia


The Horizon Report explains more:

The interest in game-based learning has accelerated considerably in recent years, driven by clear successes in military and industrial training as well as by emerging research into the cognitive benefits of game play. Developers and researchers are working in every area of game-based learning, including games that are goal-oriented; social game environments; non-digital games that are easy to construct and play; games developed expressly for education; and commercial games that lend themselves to refining team and group skills. At the low end of game technology, there are literally thousands of ways games can be — and are already being — applied in learning contexts. More complex approaches like role-playing, collaborative problem solving, and other forms of simulated experiences have broad applicability across a wide range of disciplines, and are beginning to be explored in more classrooms

Examples that use consoles include:

  • Little Big Planet
  • Guitar Hero
  • My Word Coach

Examples that use PCs include:

  • Arcademic Skill Builders
  • National Geographic Kids


The Horizon Report gives more information:

The mobile market today has more than 4 billion subscribers, more than two-thirds of whom live in developing countries. The global network supporting mobile devices of all kinds now covers more territory than the electrical grid. A massive and increasing number of people all over the world own and use computers that fit in their hand and are able to connect to the network wirelessly from virtually anywhere. Tens of thousands of applications designed to support a wide variety of tasks on a host of mobile devices and platforms are readily available, with more entering the market all the time. These mobile computing tools have become accepted aids in daily life for everything from business to personal productivity to social networking. The range and number of educational applications for mobiles are growing at a rapid pace, yet their use in schools is limited — more often constrained by policy than by the capabilities of the devices they run on.

Examples include:

  • Smart phones such as iPhone and Android
  • iPod touch
  • iPad


The Horizon Report explains:

While the capability to deliver augmented reality experiences has been around for decades, it is only very recently that those experiences have become easy and portable. Advances in mobile devices as well as in the different technologies that combine the real world with virtual information have led to augmented reality applications that are as near to hand as any other application on a laptop or a smart phone. New uses for augmented reality are being explored and new experiments undertaken now that it is easy to do so. Emerging augmented reality tools to date have been mainly designed for marketing, social purposes, amusement, or location-based information, but new ones continue to appear as the technology becomes more popular. Augmented reality has become simple, and is now poised to enter the mainstream in the consumer sector.

Examples include:

  • Second Life
  • ARIS Mobile Media Learning Games
  • eTreasure

It is vital that we all start considering and using these tools to keep pace with the use of technology across all aspects of society so that our students are not disadvantaged or left behind.

Videos part of game plan for happy kids

This article appeared in yesterday’s Herald Sun. More and more academics are doing research in relation to the benefits of video games and the relationship between video games and learning.

By Greg Thom, From: Herald Sun, December 10, 2009 12:00AM 

Helping: Academics say video games can be good for kids. Daniel, 8, and Ashley, 10. Children.Picture: Ian Currie Source: Herald Sun

Helping: Academics say video games can be good for kids. Daniel, 8, and Ashley, 10. Children.Picture: Ian Currie Source: Herald Sun

PLAYING video games may help boost crucial social skills needed by pre-school children to help them succeed later in life.

 Childhood development experts suggest fun games, which encourage teamwork and friendship, can lay the groundwork for positive interaction between children, leading to better behaviour and academic results.

They say parents’ obsession with ensuring children can read, write and count before reaching primary school can lead to a lack of emphasis on developing social skills.

Children who are socially successful at school are more likely to enjoy it, have a positive outlook on learning, display higher self-esteem and develop good coping skills.

Melbourne University childhood development expert Prof Michael Bernard said social competence had to be taught at home. He said many parents falsely thought children would reach primary school equipped to meet social needs.

“Some children come from home backgrounds where they never learn (playing naturally), and what’s important in the early years is to help up-skill them in social skills,” he said.

Children who did not know how to engage with others while playing would suffer later.

“If they don’t come to school with those skills, they’re at a very big disadvantage in terms of their emotional wellbeing,” he said.

Video games fostering social skills should be encouraged.

A recent paper prepared for the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority by early childhood researchers Patricia and Don Edgar said video games could help children develop skills such as comprehension, decision making, collaboration and leadership. But parental involvement was crucial.

Examples of helpful games include Wonder Pets: Save the Animals, about three friends who rescue animals, and games based on the pre-school hit Dora the Explorer.


Sharendipity – create your own games

Sharendipity is a site that lets you create your own games and then upload them to the site, embed them into other websites or just use games that other people have developed.


Their website states:

Sharendipity is the fun and easy way to create fun, social games without programming that can be shared with your friends or embedded on your website. Or simply browse and play the creations of others, challenging your friends to beat your high score! Create a game in four easy steps or try the advanced game creator!

There is a wiki and a blog to assist if you need it as well as a forum to consult other Sharendipity members. Looks like fun for teachers and students alike.

Arcademic Skill Builders

Arcadamic Skill Builders (no typo – just a mashup or arcade (games) and academic I guess) bills itself as “The place for educational games.”

Academic skill builder

From the website comes the following information:

Arcademic Skill Builders are research-based and standards-aligned educational games that offer an innovative approach to teaching basic academic skills. We incorporate features of arcade games and educational practices into fun online games that will engage, motivate, and teach your students.

Play games for free right here on our site! We have multi-player and single player games.

With numerous games to select from and educational standards and research based evidence provided, this site is a must see for teachers.

Handheld Learning Conference 2009

If you are interested in gaming and handheld devices for learning, then you may be interested in the proceedings from the recent Handheld Learning Conference in London. Thank you to presenters and organisers for sharing both audio and video files from the numerous sessions.



Navigate to: Photographs | Video: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday | Discussions

  Photographs:Monday 5th October – The Handheld Learning Festival
Tuesday 6th October
Tuesday 6th October – The Handheld Learning Awards for Innovation & Best Practice
Wednesday 7th October  Audio & Video:Monday 5th October – The Handheld Learning Festival“Best Practice in Action” – 11:00 – 17:00 (online discussion)
Dawn Hallybone, Senior Teacher/ICT Co-ordinator, Oakdale Junior School, England – “Consoles in the classroom”
Philip Griffin, Y6 Teacher, Radstock Primary School, United Kingdom – “Technology v Pedagogy”
Paul Hodgkinson, Co-ordinating Officer, ITSS (Durham County Council), United Kingdom – “24/7 Learning with families”
Joyce Ness, Education Consultant, RM Education, United Kingdom – “One size doesn’t fit all”
Katrina Smith, School Improvement Facilitator for/Head of ICT, Priory School Business & Enterprise College and Leading Edge School, England – “Handheld devices to enhance learning and teaching”
Adam Blackwood, E-Advisor, JISC RSC SouthEast, England – “Transforming Engagement with Proximity Communication”
Richard Scullin, Founder, MobileEd.org, United States – “mLearning in the cloud: a drop(.io) in the bucket”
Shawn Gross, Project Director, Project K-Nect, United States – “Mobile Phones for Math and Science”
Gavin Cooney, CEO, Learnosity, Ireland – “Use of mobile phones for language learning”
Derrick Welsh, Artist – “Cellphone touch screens to bring drawing messages?”
Nick Short, Royal Veterinary College, London – “Androids for Africa”
Louise Duncan, Leading Teacher / eLearning Co-ordinator, Shepparton High School, Australia – “Essential ingredients for the successful implementation of mobile learning”MirandaMod11:00 – 13:00
HHECKL11:00 – 13:00
“Pecha Kucha for 21st Century Educators”14:00 – 16:30
The Nesta Challenge14:00 – 16:00

“Learners Y Factor” – 14:00 – 16:30 (online discussion)
Burnt Oak Junior School
Loughton School
Normanby Primary School
Oakdale Junior School
Packmoor Primary School
Scargill Junior School

The Handheld Learning Awards for Innovation & Best Practice

Tuesday 6th October

Conference Opening Session – “Reflections on Learning” – 09:30 – 13:00 (online discussion)
Industry Announcements
Graham Brown-Martin – Welcome & Introduction
Opening Address – Zenna Atkins, Chairman, Ofsted
Malcolm McLaren, agent provocateur & artist
Yvonne Roberts, Senior Associate, Young Foundation
James Paul Gee, Presidential Professor, Arizona State University

Conference Session Two – “Creativity & Innovation” – 14:30 – 17:30 (online discussion)
John Davitt, International Learning Advocate
Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, CEO and Co-Founder of Tinker.it
David Braben, Founder & Chairman, Frontier
Tim Rylands, Teacher & Innovator
Dr. Phyllis Hillwig, Chief Operating Officer, Words & Numbers, United States – “M-Learning: Challenges in the US Market”
Linda Hahner, President, Out of the blue design inc, United States – “Literacy Mobile Applications”
Dr Naomi Norman, Director of Learning, Epic, United Kingdom – “Be the best – mobile learning and the Army”
Tony Vincent, Independent Consultant, LearningInHand, United Kingdom

Breakouts 14:30 – 18:00:

Games for Learning
Social Media for Learning

Wednesday 7th October

Conference Session Three – “Inclusion” – 09:30 – 13:00 (online discussion)
Donald Clark, e-Learning Expert
Niel McLean, Executive Director, Becta
David Cavallo, Chief Learning Architect, MIT OLPC
Professor Elizabeth Hayes, Arizona State University
Sal Cooke, Director, TechDis
Sir Tim Brighouse, Former Commissioner for London Schools
Helen Milner, Managing Director, UK Online Centres
Learners Y Factor’s Winners Presentation

Conference Session Four – “Transformation” – 14:50 – 15:50 (online discussion)
Clare Woodward, Lecturer, The Open University & Mike Solly, Senior Lecturer, Open University, United Kingdom – “Mlearning in the developing world: not 3G but 4C”
Nabeel Ahmad, Mobile Learning Design Leader, IBM Learning, United States – “Mobile, Connected, Empowered, Transformed”

Closing Keynote – Ray Kurzweil (online discussion)

Breakouts 09:30 – 16:00:

Research Strand (part 1) – 09:30 – 13:00
Research Strand (part 2) – 14:30 – 16:00
Spotlight Scotland (part 1) – 09:30 – 13:00
Spotlight Scotland (part 2) – 09:30 – 13:00
Emerging Technologies and New Practices14:15 – 16:00
UK Policy Strand – It’s All In Hand09:30 – 11:00
UK Policy Strand – Leading Learning in Handheld Technology11:30 – 13:00
UK Policy Strand – The Impact of Mobile Learning14:00 – 15:15
UK Policy Strand – ICT Register Showcase Session15:15 – 16:00


Opening Conference Session – “Reflections on Learning”
Conference Session Two – “Creativity and Innovation”
Conference Session Three – “Digital Inclusion”
Conference Session Four – “Transformation”
Best Practice in Action Session
Learners Y Factor
Handheld Learning Awards for Innovation and Best Practice
Delegate Reflections
Blog Roll for Handheld Learning 2009

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 21 October 2009 17:50 )

Plenty here to keep you busy for weeks!