At the Cottenham event last week there was a talk by Andrew Field who achieved the most amazing level of audience engagement I’ve seen in years. His philosophy is to trick students into learning by getting them to play online games, improving their minds in the process without even realising it’s happening.
Field certainly achieved this with an adult audience by having us answer multiple choice questions in teams. If you got the answer right you got the chance to try to score a goal in a flash animation against a goalie with the face of a famous figure such as Thatcher or Mandela.
Field thinks Moodle and VLEs are fundamentally boring. He’s right – they’re just tedious empty shells until interesting content and activities are included in them. One online activity his schoolkids love is to get an animation of the teacher to walk the plank by answering questions correctly. Every correct question means a walk further forward until the teacher falls into the sea – to the delight of the pupils.
He also showed a version of space invaders called “teacher invaders” where you have 30 seconds to try to get the question right and prove that the evil teachers who say you haven’t got any knowledge are wrong…
Infectiously enthusiastic though he is, Field acknowledges that this is really quite low-level learning. Getting the kids to create games themselves is more effective. The most useful aspect of what he was doing was a clever combination of Flash, SCORM and Moodle to track usage. The students think they’re trying to get maximum goals scored in a football animation. In the process their teacher gets to monitor their level of understanding via the mark they’ve got in the Moodle gradebook.
Field maintains a site called ReviseIT where many of these games can be found. What’s really clever is his authoring tools site, where you can adapt the games with your own content and save them as flash files for incorporation within your VLE.