Educational developers at Nova Scotia’s Artech Academy  are often asked about teaching subjects like animation and video game design to children in the early grades. Teachers and parents want to know if children can really learn to make their own games and animations (we all know they can), and of course, what the Artech Next Generation Learning System is all about.The people at Artech believe that children are capable of much more than many adults give them credit for. Sometimes it is hard for adults to understand how children can learn skills and apply concepts that they as adults cannot. At Artech, their teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that by tapping into a child’s creativity – anything that can be imagined can be achieved.
Many of today’s young children are surrounded by digital gadgets and technology from the time they enter this world. In fact, I would contend that a significant number are exposed prenatally to medical technologies, video games and the many “noises and sounds” of our digital environment.
“…a significant number [of children] are exposed prenatally to … video games and the many “noises and sounds” of our digital environment,”
It is well known that unborn babies can hear and is receptive to mother’s emotions. The growing baby of a pregnant gamer would hear the many beeps and tunes and could learn to associate these with the different physical and audio responses of the mom-to-be, such as the sigh of defeat or the heightened adrenalin rush of success.
As I’ve noted many times before, both on this site and through social media discussions, and as Artech’s belief echoes, how we as adults communicate with young people is changing. How we “teach” young people must also evolve and change if we are to continue to communicate with them.
Artech’s Next Generation Learning Systems™ is an approach and strategy to teaching video game design (and other “creative technologies”)
- Teaching is about communicating. We communicate with the whole child, acknowledging their many and varied strengths.
- We listen and learn from the child and with the child. We strive to understand their world and language.
- Rather than map out the way, we open doors. We encourage exploration. We encourage taking risks.
In recent years there have been new educational initiatives that incorporate games-based learning in the classroom. As stated by Marc Prensky, CEO of the firm Games2Train, “video games come with a clear set of motivation tools, such as scores, moving to higher levels and reaping various rewards when a player performs well.”
Artech’s findings suggest that students become even more engaged and more motivated when they become the “authors” of their own games. A growing number of junior/senior high schools have added Game Design as an elective subject or more often as part of a Computer Technology course.
– Game design careers as something creditable and respectable to aspire to
– The teaching of video game design in the classroom.
That said, the approach generally has been, as stated in item one, to offer Video Game Design as part of a Technology class or to older “high” school students. Coupling video game design with technology classes reinforces the notion that it has a greater appeal to students who have an interest in subjects like Technology, Science and Mathematics.
The STEM Challenge, by its very name: Adventures in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics reinforces the notion that Video Game Design has a greater appeal to students who have an interest in subjects like Science & Engineering.
Artech believes that this is not the case. Video Game Design has a broad appeal and a much more diverse population of students can succeed at making their own games, and the instructors wonder how the education system would look if all students were taught to create video games and then given the option to complete school projects with essays, posters, PowerPoint presentations or video games? Video game design can become a means of expression, a way to communicate ideas.
We have found that students as young as five/six can successfully be taught how to create their own games. Just as 20th century artist, Joseph Beuys acknowledged creativity in everyday life and proclaimed the belief that “everyone (was) an artist”, we base our work on the premise that every child is a “game designer! ”
Video game design relies both on the ability to manipulate and use mathematical and logic based concepts and express oneself creatively through storytelling and/or drawing. Sometimes this is referred to as using both the left and right brain.
Traditional education has drawn a line separating the Mathematics & Sciences from Visual and Language Arts. Next Generation Learning Systems requires that this line be erased. Next Generation Learning Systems™ draws from different pedagogical models/philosophies and current social movements:
– Language Immersion Courses
– Social movements like “Games for Change”
Can Video Games address social issues such as climate change, diversity or world peace? They have, they can and some do. These can be serious and often sensitive issues. Should we be playing around with how we approach them, how we discuss them? Are video game environments suitable venues for student discussion?
The answer is yes! We, as adults, parents and teachers, can and must look at new forms of expressions for open dialogue with the new generation of students. When we talk about something that is real, this can mean different things to both students and teachers.
“Real” can at the most basic level translate to – the student is creating and designing a “real” or genuine game. This is an important aspect of what we teach. Real can also refer to the present “REALITY” we live in. More and more schools are tackling sensitive issues in the classroom: diversity; bullying; etc. Games can be an excellent medium to illustrate these and other issues and to demonstrate the dynamics of conflict.
Video Game Design in the classroom can take these important discussions one step further. Game Design can be a means of creative self-expression. Through the process of design students are determining the game play and taking responsibility for the outcomes. They are “Playing for Real!”
Artech Academy will be present in Stand SW33 at BETT 2012 Technology Education Tradeshow at the Olympia in London, UK this January 11-14th.