As ACMI launches its new program Game Lessons, there is a growing awareness of the potential of videogames to activate learning through creative and collaborative play, problem-solving, critical and design thinking.
Game Lessons is a program of free lesson plans and professional development tools designed to help schools use videogames in the classroom. It helps teachers expand their teaching and learning repertoire using the tools many students are already passionate about and familiar with – videogames.
Understanding that lack of confidence and knowledge of suitable videogames was inhibiting teachers from using them in the classroom for educational outcomes, ACMI resolved to create a free lesson resource supported by professional learning and peer support to help demystify these important learning tools. The Game Lessons library – a dynamic and growing resource – has just launched with 25 units comprising 75 lessons that span the curriculum from dance, design, science, geography, history, literacy and numeracy, to more complex coding in programming languages like Python. It covers learning for both primary and secondary levels and includes a range of videogames, from free browser-based games to those requiring consoles or a more involved tech understanding.
This free online resource has been developed in close consultation with teachers and industry professionals, who identified obstacles, came up with solutions, and of course, played a lot of videogames! It addresses many of the perceived barriers to using games in the classroom and does a lot of the hard thinking and research for teachers while giving them the confidence to try something new. Developed with teachers, for teachers, it provides the tools necessary to learn how to use videogames for innovative, fun and engaging learning across year levels and curriculum areas with easy, low-tech, low-investment classroom ideas.
Teachers who have trialled Game Lessons in their classrooms have applauded its ability to actively engage students with all kinds of interests, skills and learning abilities. Megan Pusey, science communicator and secondary science teacher, noticed that students who were otherwise quiet in her class suddenly came to life when they played the creative sandbox game Minecraft to solidify the physics, maths and science concepts they had been learning. She also had students who were averaging a C grade, but when it came to working in Minecraft, their confidence was boosted and they became more engaged thanks to their prior experience playing the game at home. Even students who don’t have a lot of experience with videogames can find it surprisingly fun and interesting, as VCE Media teacher Dean Ashton observed. He found that for his students, the experience of using videogames in class and being active players in a game meant they had a stronger sense of agency and therefore a way to connect more deeply to the content.
Game Lessons are not only a great resource for curriculum-based learning, but also aid the development of relationship-building, teamwork, social and interpersonal skills. Megan found that students often knew more about Minecraft than her because they played it all the time. She tapped into this and got students to teach their skills to her and to the class, which led to those students feeling really proud of their knowledge and engaging in peer learning activities. When VCAL Literacy teacher Braden Dawson introduced the graphic adventure game The Walking Dead into his classroom, he had one student who was unwell but so invested and committed to the project that they wanted to stream through Microsoft Teams so they could keep influencing the story decisions and chatting with their group.
In terms of accessibility and ease of use, educators who trialled Game Lessons found that having a library of lessons that you can call on at whim has been critical for teachers who are often pushed for time. The resource goes a long way – spelling out processes, technological requirements, opportunities and key focus areas, which takes out much of the planning and preparation work and allows teachers to focus on delivering the lesson. Having all of this information in one single location is an invaluable asset.
Game Lessons is made up of three main strands: the first is a set of teaching and learning resources hosted on the ACMI website. These practical and relevant resources are searchable by curriculum terms and year level as well as keywords. The second is a teacher professional learning program, with sessions available for both regional and metro participants. The third element is an online professional learning community designed to offer support in the implementation of videogames within classroom practice. By taking part in a brief Game Lessons induction session, teachers can easily join this community, engage in peer learning and support, and stay updated on Game Lessons activities via Slack.
Game Lessons is a living resource – it is yours, designed to build and evolve as new videogames emerge and teaching ideas evolve in your classrooms and learning spaces. While the program provides support, guidance and resources, each lesson plan is also flexible and allows you to make it your own, depending on your students needs, abilities and learning styles and of course your own teaching style.
You don’t need to be a ‘gamer' to engage with videogames in the classroom. Game Lessons fosters a cross-curriculum learning community and builds teachers capacities to create, access and share practical lesson plans. ACMI recognises the challenges teachers face in getting videogames into their classrooms and continues to adapt the program to create multiple diverse entry points, delivery methods and programming to support teachers.
Game Lessons formally launched during Melbourne International Games Week as part of the Games for Change Asia Pacific festival. It is a celebration of the positive power of videogames in education and society. If you’re interested in learning more about Game Lessons, and how you can incorporate videogames in your classroom, join our free, 15-minute online Game Lessons induction on 20 October.
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Photo by Niamh Donohue