Learning through games

In mid-May I visited the DEECD Innovation Showcase in Melbourne and attended a session entitled “Learning through games”.

When I visited the Tyrell College showcase I felt an immediate sense of deja vu. The way in which students and teachers were using The Lord of The Rings Online reminded me of a period in the 1980s when adventure games like Granny’s Garden were often used by teachers as thematic centrepieces for cross-curricular activity that turned whole classrooms into exciting places where witches, dragons and other fantastic creatures came to life. Children became enthusiastically engaged in reading, writing, numeracy, art and drama – all related to the world of the game.  And here at the DEECD Showcase in 2011 I was seeing an approach that was remarkably similar!  Today the reach of the technology is broader so that what were once cross-curricular off-computer pen and paper based activities are now mostly on-computer activities. There is also the entirely new element of social networking where students communicate with other students and gamers across the state and across globe.

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The Witch from the 1983 classic Granny’s Garden

It was good to see that an innovative approach pioneered in primary schools by teachers like Mike Matson almost thirty years ago is still alive today.  I hope more teachers try it.

An interview with Mike Matson from 2010 can be found here, where he discusses the genesis of his game Granny’s Garden, first released for the BBC microcomputer in 1983.

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The challenging Dragon Puzzle from Granny’s Garden

DISCLOSURE: I’m especially fond of Granny’s Garden as it was the first adventure game I programmed for my own software company Dataworks. 4Mation, the UK publishers, allowed me to produce the first Apple II and Macintosh versions of their best selling adventure games Granny’s Garden, Flowers of Crystal and Dragon World.

PS. If you’re tempted to try The Lord of the Rings Online, go here. It’s free.