Sitting for a couple of hours in front of a computer game a great way to learn?

Sim City was one of the first simulation programmes. In the game you are the mayor and chief architect of a city you are responsible for building and manufacturing. You attract SIMs, simulated citizens who build houses, stores factories – generate a tax base that funds the cities finances and allows further development. Perhaps John Banks needs to play the game as he struggles with the problem of funding developments at Eden Park.

In learning terms the game is interactive and student centred using realistic contexts. Don’t forget that pilots play games as they learn the complexities of flying a large passenger plane, they use flight simulators. Chemists also play with simulation games at university as they design molecules with particular geometries and polarities. Sixth form chemists use pen and pencil to do the same thing in exams using theory that is over 30 years out of date. Listen to the designer of Sim City as he describes his latest game Spore. Hard to imagine learning about evolution without playing this game

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I didn’t attend this session but the question posed in the abstract is central to what happens next in new Zealand secondary education.

What happens to teachers’ practice and our learning settings when we truly consider what it means to be a robust and resilient learner – a learner who follows their interests, is deeply involved in curious exploration, takes delights in communicating their thoughts and feelings and is prepared to take responsibility for their own learning and others’ learning? The possibilities are full of surprise, in this kind of learning and teaching setting teachers and children engage in meaningful complex learning that is driven by passionate explorers who are willing to take risks, puzzle over, investigate and build working theories about their world”

The answers to this question and the part emerging technologies have to play will determine the effectiveness of our education system and whether students leave it as lifelong learners or not. The session was presented by Lorraine Sands & Melissa Osmond of Greerton Early Childhood Centre. Not for the first time during the conference did I discover that my colleagues in Primary and Early Childhood are ahead of us in developing strategies for the 21st century.

Primary and Early childhood are not constrained by the institutional structures of the secondary sector (disciplines, departments timetables) or the assessment driven learning of NCEA that predetermines learning outcomes and stifles creativity. We have to find ways of better engaging students in the learning process

The Ulearn Conference Auckland Wednesday 3d October to Friday 5th October

Ewan McIntosh is a Teacher and Social Media Specialist who is based in Edinburgh, Scotland. He speaks internationally leading student and teacher workshops and conferences.

As a new technologies research practitioner he has been involved with integrating blogging, podcasting, wikis gaming and other emerging technologies into classroom life from nursery to secondary within the East Lothian Council district of Scotland.

Ewan delivered the keynote speech at the Ulearn conference. The conference focused on integrating new technologies to empower learning and transform leadership in education.

Ewan recognises the power of play in learning. Ludic learning can happen in secondary science but students do a huge amount of unsupervised and unrecognised learning as they play computer games and access social networking sites such as Bebo and Facebook. He has recognised their potential in the classroom. In workshops he has discovered the effectiveness of games in expanding student horizons and imaginations when they are speaking and writing creatively or transactionally.

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He highlighted the example of Tim Rylands who uses the unsettling landscapes in Myth III during literacy exercises. Tim is a real performer in the classroom although his academic rigour while playing games is evident. He apparently uses a walking stick that he doesn’t require as a prop. It magically turns into a flute! Look at the engagement of his students.

He asks students to describe the rocks in the landscape at one point. Perhaps we need to rethink literacy issues in school and be less reliant on the book paradigm in science

The open day in term 3

The open day in term 3

A huge number of people had an opportunity to walk round the new science facilities at the school and watch demonstrations by students of science in action.

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