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major stumbling block
warren beatty
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Mobile Games For Science - The Current State Of Play
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Warren Beatty is quoted as saying: “You've achieved success in your field when you don't know whether what you're doing is work or play”.

Education technology has come a long way as software and hardware manufacturers continually strive for a competitive edge. The growth in sophistication within the PC gaming sector has been phenomenal. But how well has that phenomena crossed the barrier between Games and Education? Perhaps we can ask a better question. Is there a barrier between education and having fun?

Educators who live on Beatty’s fine line between education and fun are approaching a level of success which not only improves the quality of their lives but also the quality of life for their students. Simple games can impact on the quality of teaching. Not all teachers enjoy role plays, nor indeed do all students. However role play, combined with group problem solving, card games, thinking puzzles and origami memory aides can show students that there are fun ways of learning Science.

The push to integrate technology into the curriculum has been far less successful than it could have been. A tool which provides untold potential for gaming has all too often resulted in massive expenditure for little more than an electronic form of the old ‘chalk and talk’. Just because we now call it PowerPoint does not qualify it as a progressive pedagogy.

There has been another major stumbling block in the push for integration. Many ‘modern’ classrooms are equipped with a laptop, data projector and interactive whiteboard. These are wonderful examples of modern technology and it is a combination that can encourage a moderate level of interactivity in the hands of an enthusiastic, technology-aware teacher. Unfortunately it is more often is a limiting factor; one classroom, one student using the computer/IWB at a time.

What is needed is a tool which can be placed in the students’ hands.

  • A tool that every student can access and use to interact with the learning material and with other students.
  • A technology that can deliver information, seek information, share information and store information.
  • A tool which allows students to send and receive messages to and from other students in their class, school or around the world.
  • A technology that can merge real environments with virtual environments to create immersive experiences.

We already have this technology and the majority of students bring it with them to almost every lesson. It is called a mobile phone.

Yes, the mobile phone, the scourge of teachers.

But the cries of “put your mobile phones away, or turn them off’, could soon be "take out your mobile phones and download the following App".

Very soon, we could see the emergence of mobile games for Science.

There are three minor stumbling blocks which must be overcome. Firstly, mobile phones must be seen as an educational tool to enhance the learning process, not as a distraction from the learning process. Secondly, apps for mobile phones must be more engaging and pedagogically robust for their use to become more widespread. An app which contains the entire Periodic Table is informative, but hardly engagingly interactive for a majority of students. Thirdly, and most difficult of all, mobile phone platform misalignment must be overcome. Writing an app for a PC running a version of Windows Operating System provides a much greater potential for uptake than one written for a specific type of mobile phone and which must be modified for the myriad different operating systems currently available.

To increase the success of students and teachers in the Science classroom, we need to find more ways of blurring the lines between work and play, between education and fun. The mobile phone may just be the vehicle that takes us into this future. For more information, visit my website.

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