A full on day, at Howes Primary School, Coventry, bringing together heads and their ‘teacher enthusiasts’ from schools across the cluster, to look at technology and all it can do. Using technology creatively and developing a strategic vision and approach is a key element of this project.
We finished on a fast paced journey, alongside staff from Howes Primary school and additional staff from the other schools represented, and explored the plethora of free online tools that can be used to inspire learners.
A huge thank you to Carol Brammer, Head Teacher Howes Primary School, for organising our visit today. Carol has been head at the school for four years and during that time has been able to put technology to a whole host of creative uses for learning. She also have a son of 19 who is at Derby University doing a 3D game and animation degree. He has been a keen game/mod developer since the age of 12.
In our planning for today, and discussions with Carol, we made a link with the work of Ali Carr-Chellman, and her TEDxPSU talk Gaming to re-engage boys in learning
Ali pinpoints three reasons boys are tuning out of school in droves, and lays out her bold plan to re-engage them: bringing their culture into the classroom, with new rules that let boys be boys, and video games that teach as well as entertain. Ali is a former third-grade teacher instructional designer and author who studies the most effective ways to teach and to make changes at school. Her recent research projects include “Bring Back the Boys,” looking at ways gaming can be used to re-engage boys in their elementary education.
Ali discusses the fact that we have a problem with boys, “and it’s a serious problem with boys. Their culture isn’t working in schools. Not all boys exist within the rigid boundaries of what we think of as boys and girls, and not all girls exist within those rigid boundaries of what we think of as girls. But, in fact, most boys tend to be a certain way, and most girls tend to be a certain way. And the point is that, for boys, the way that they exist and the culture that they embrace isn’t working well in schools now.
So what do we do? We need to meet them where they are. We need to put ourselves into boy culture. We need to change the mindset of acceptance in boys in elementary schools. More specifically, we can do some very specific things. We can design better games. Most of the educational games that are out there today are really flashcards. They’re glorified drill and practice. They don’t have the depth, the rich narrative that really engaging video games have, that the boys are really interested in.
So we need to design better games. We need to talk to teachers and parents and school board members and politicians. We need to make sure that people see that we need more men in the classroom. We need to look carefully at our zero tolerance policies. Do they make sense? We need to think about how to uncompress this curriculum if we can, trying to bring boys back into a space that is comfortable for them. All of those conversations need to be happening.
Ali says “We need to find more money for game design. Because good games, really good games, cost money, and World of Warcraft has quite a budget. Most of the educational games do not. Where we started: my colleagues — Mike Petner, Shawn Vashaw, myself — we started by trying to look at the teachers’ attitudes and find out how do they really feel about gaming, what do they say about it. And we discovered that they talk about the kids in their school, who talk about gaming, in pretty demeaning ways. They say, “Oh, yeah. They’re always talking about that stuff. They’re talking about their little action figures and their little achievements or merit badges, or whatever it is that they get. And they’re always talking about this stuff.” And they say these things as if it’s okay. But if it were your culture, think of how that might feel. It’s very uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of that kind of language. They’re nervous about anything that has anything to do with violence because of the zero tolerance policies. They are sure that parents and administrators will never accept anything”.
We really need to think about looking at teacher attitudes and finding ways to change the attitudes so that teachers are much more open and accepting of boy cultures in their classrooms. Because, ultimately, if we don’t, then we’re going to have boys who leave elementary school saying, “Well I guess that was just a place for girls. It wasn’t for me. So I’ve got to do gaming, or I’ve got to do sports.” If we change these things, if we pay attention to these things, and we re-engage boys in their learning, they will leave schools saying, “I’m smart.”
Category: 1) Events and Training days