You have probably noticed the rise in discussions about the importance of play and games to support children's learning. While many in the educational space see this as revolutionary, play-based learning has been the foundation of our understanding of how children learn for a long time now. Consider the Montessori Method, Reggion Emilia and the impact they have had over many decades on the education of young children. It is exciting to see these approaches expanded beyond the early years. But, as play and games extend into digital spaces and we consider what this means and what aspects really work to support learning, we need ongoing research and to better understand the digital game space when it comes to learning.
GameDesk are one organisation where this is happening, and you can check them out if you want to see what and how they are going about researching games and education. Rather than purely academic, they feel like a advocacy research model, which is fine as they are open about this and it leads to other ideas like their latest project: Educade.
Educade is a game-based education curation space. It offers the ability for a community of educators to curate learning tools, and then to link their own lesson plans or learning activities to these tools which are curated. As with all similar spaces it offers various ways to categorise, rate and search for different resources depending on a number of variables related to learning and education environments.
Educade is not alone in this space. Others like Commonsense Media and Kindertown are looking at similar offerings, but what sets Educade apart is the breadth in relation to not just curating the digital objects, but offering a space to share how they are used with actual lesson plans and activities.
This is important because one of the challenges facing advocates for this type of learning is the need to build teacher's skills and understanding of how to use digital games to engage students and provide tangible learning outcomes. It is not enough to say, "these digital games are good and students learn from them?" Students don't often learn directly from a game, they learn from an experience that involves a game, some activity around that, some critical thinking and engagement or questioning from a teacher. Just as students don't learn directly from a textbook - the textbook is a tool that supports a teacher to facilitate learning. Digital gaming does the same thing. A perfect example is teachers who use Angry Birds to teach basic physics concept. Now, playing Angry Birds doesn't mean you will learn any Newtonian laws, but in the hands of a teacher with a good lesson plan, students can engage with Angry Birds and use it to consolidate learning and as an example of the physics concepts a teacher wants students to learn.
The same goes for Minecraft or Portal 2 or any other digital game you can imagine. The real educational benefit comes with resources that sit around the game and support the teacher to use games in ways that are meaningful and allow students to play and learn with purpose. This is what the Educade site is looking to achieve.
As with all online spaces, the issue for Educade will be how to attract and foster a community that contribute as well as consume. The initial offering is fantastic and it deserves to be a success.