Schools and education chiefs need to up their game…

…says Emmanual Tsekleves, senior lecturer in design interactions at Lancaster University’s ImaginationLancaster research centre

Our education system is facing some game-changing moments as tablets and smartphones become ever-more valued teaching tools. For instance, classroom curriculums may need to be altered to incorporate computer games as a major part of school learning.

The government needs to take the role that games can play in the education system much more seriously, with a national policy and guidelines for their development and use in schools.

There is no doubt that multi-media systems, such as computer games, are playing an increasingly central part in classroom learning.

And that means government and education leaders must not underestimate the role this technology will play in future education.

A quarter of a billion pounds a year is already being spent on computers in schools, according to the latest figures from Besa, the educational suppliers’ organisation.

However, there is a need to avoid introducing technology for the sake of it and more work needs to be carried out to ensure that future games meet the needs of students and teachers and are used appropriately.

Despite all the growing evidence that games and games-based learning can help in the classroom as a teaching tool, there is no policy for their incorporation in education.

The government urgently needs to draw up guidelines for both teachers and computer games developers.

Serious games have grown in popularity in the last decade, with a considerable amount of research articles and review papers having been published.

However, the fact there is no policy and little work on guideline recommendations on the implementation and use of games in education is an oversight that is becoming increasingly worrying.

A common policy should be established for the adoption and use of games in education and their design and development.

A key part of this work should be to ensure the games enable and encourage both online and collaborative learning.

I’d also like to see a content rating system created similar to PEGI (Pan-European Game Information), which gives people film-style ratings to decide if a game is suitable for them and their family.

PEGI rating is an easy-to-read graphical system that rates video games for age appropriate content all across Europe. Each game has a base-age category rating, as well as up to six ‘Content Descriptors’.

A similar system would benefit UK schools and colleges and help them choose the right games to support their work.

I also believe governments and research councils across the globe should allocate more funding for pilots and research studies on the effectiveness of serious games across all fields, subjects and levels of education.

There is no doubt that computer games have an increasing role to play in education across all sectors and in a range of different subjects, but what is needed now is a co-ordinated approach to this to ensure that students and teaching staff get the best use out of the technology.

More work is needed to discuss how games should be employed and how they would align to the curriculum, based on the tangible educational benefits they will bring to instruction.

Educators should approach this matter with an open mind. As if the educational value they bring is found to be considerable, the curriculum might have to be significantly modified to effectively incorporate serious games.

ImaginationLancaster is an open and exploratory design-led research centre at the university. It conducts applied and theoretical research into people, products, places and their interactions. The centre works with a variety of organisations to provide fresh perspectives on real-world issues and facilitate innovation.

Dr Tsekleves has conducted research in the area of serious games in health and education.


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