Day 2 of the VITTA conference was another inspiring mix of practical and thought provoking presentations that have me eager to get back into the classroom to try out new ideas and share some gems with my colleagues. As well as presentations from educators, there were lively and interesting keynotes from Mark Pesce and Suelette Dreyfus, contemplating digital citizenship, what it means and how it continues to evolve as the technology and our society do. However I’m mentally worn out after 2 days of intense contemplation and am going to keep this brief(ish!). Instead of the ‘running commentary’ I gave about Day 1, today I want to share a couple of highlights.
One of the sessions I attended was on games-based learning, the result of a DEECD initiative to support innovative practice in schools.
- Meredith and Boneo Primary Schools presented on creating digital games using Gamemaker and the rich literacy practices that this supported. Encouraging students to build their back story, focusing on the verbs and nouns of game play, developing characters and providing structure through a design brief all take students beyond just ‘playing’ into a more critical approach that helps develop their skills as active digital citizens. Powerful stuff.
- Fitzroy North Primary School presented on using SimCity as part of a civics unit. The aim of this was to provide Grade 5/6 students with a more meaningful experience and understanding of decisions and consequences when building civic infrastructure and planning for the needs of present and future citizens. Hearing about this, I could instantly imagine the excitement of students in such an environment, being given opportunities to not just learn about adult concepts but test, re-test and succeed at them, all in a supported yet challenging environment.
- Pentland Primary School presented on Lure of the Labyrinth – this blog post summarises it much better than I could and gives yet more examples of engaged and motivated students being inspired and challenged with technology.
- Balwyn Primary School presented on Quest Atlantis – an online, multi-user game where students can explore, extend and build collaborative skills with other ‘Questers’ from around the world.
I hope I haven’t missed anyone on the list – all presentations were packed with sound reasons that games are a great way to engage students and don’t have to be an ‘add-on’ to learning. Games are learning! I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this topic in future posts – it’s something I’ve been trying to incorporate effectively into the ICT lab for a while and, thanks to the presenters today, I’m hoping to be able to enthuse others at my school to extend that into classrooms.
My other highlight was meeting up with fellow educators who I have been talking to, sharing with and, most importantly, learning from for ages. The difference is, this is the first time I’ve met most of them in person. Fostering a PLN through twitter has made a huge difference to my development as a teacher and has made what can be a very lonely and isolated journey feel a lot more supported and encouraged. Catching up with like-minded people today was, therefore, definitely a bonus of such an event and was the icing on the cake.
Thanks again to the organisers, presenters and attendees who all added to the buzz of such a vibrant event. Now to get back into the classroom and see if I can take that buzz with me…