The story was about how teachers across the country are beginning to use computer games in the classroom to develop creative writing skills. Primary teachers are great at digging around and doing a bit of homework on our kids: we find out what makes them tick and use that furiously to spark their interest and get them learning. In my view this does not seem to happen so much in high school, and it's a shame.
In my role as EAL (ESL) Teacher, talk is absolutely crucial to develop oracy, and when my kids want to talk I like to let them go for it. At every school I teach at (around 12 a week), my kids love to tell me the latest news on fads, fashions, sport - you name it I get it... One topic that keeps cropping up is Minecraft. Kids absolutely love it! Now, I don't see the attraction myself, but I've never been in to gaming, and let's face it, I'm not 11 anymore! For some reason the kids love the primitive graphics (this is not one of your fancy all singing all dancing glossy CGI computer games that looks so realistic it could be nominated for an Oscar...).
Using IT in the classroom is not new. Things have moved along so quickly since the first interactive whiteboards were introduced (a godsend!). Now, there are all sorts of initiatives in place geared up to using technology in the classroom - mobile phones, iPads, apps. For a long time we have used interactive software to inject excitement into our lessons and spark the interest of our kids. So why not latch onto something that the kids now and love and turn it to our advantage?
Recommendation 1: teach the basics first - and I don't mean terms like "a describing word" (what does it describe...?). Let's stop prettying it all up and get down to cold, hard facts and teach the proper terminology!
Recommendation 2: focus less on descriptive writing and more on writing that is fit for purpose and has a use in the real world.
I have two caveats:
- that English teachers do not revert to IT overkill in the same way as we had "death by worksheet" a few years ago.
- that Minecraft, or whatever game, app or anything else is used, is properly adapted to become an educational tool and not just an excuse for kids to waste their time playing games in school time.
Recommendation 3: use whatever resources you can tap into to engage your kids, but make sure that the learning experience is a meaningful one and not an excuse for the teacher to switch off and enjoy a sneaky cuppa in class time...
What do you think? Do you agree with the use of computer games as a teaching tool? Or do you think that the emphasis has shifted too far away from the basics of writing? I'd love to hear your comments.