María Rubio Méndez
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Gamestar(t) – an ARSGAMES project

Capítulo del libro: "Student Usability in Educational Software and Games: Improving Experiences” (Pendiente de publicación - julio 2011).

GAMESTAR(T) – AN ARSGAMES PROJECT

María Rubio Méndez (ARSGAMES)
Eurídice Cabañes Martínez (ARSGAMES)

 

 

Introduction:

ARSGAMES is a Cultural Association composed of professionals, artists, researchers, students… that work on video game research in all of its facets (educational, cultural, economic, artistic, etc.). ARSGAMES organises events and develops projects related to the world of video games, such as OpenArsgames, PlayLab o

Gamestart. Even if our range of activities is quite wide, we are specially focused on education with the GAMESTAR(T) project.

 

GAMESTAR(T) is a project that explores the possibilities of video games as a resource for education, socialisation and entertainment. Its three main lines of action are:

 

GAMESTAR(T) Club. A video game club that meets weekly at Intermediae, whose aim is to define how to configure a new, collective space for video gaming that encourage associationism and self-management among its members.

 

GAMESTAR(T) Gameteca. Our “library” containing games, video games and other resources, located in the Cúpula de Estación Futuro at Intermediae.

 

GAMESTAR(T) School. Out-of-school workshops focused on learning with video games which deal with diverse topics such as history, gender questions, health or how to create video games. These workshops are developed in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

 

 

Metohdology: pedagogical principles

 

 

The Methodology designed for Gamestar(t) is a part of a mixed process between ludology and pedagogy which consists of stimulus, action, reflection and feedback, within a scheme that belongs to the world of video games.

 

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    Stimulus: We design an appealing program due to its activities and its content.

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    Action: We set truly participative activities out which need of interaction with the audience in order to work properly. Besides, we appropriate the video game language to facilitate the action.

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    Reflection: Our purpose is that all information and every activity belong to everybody, thanks to the necessary reflection and discussion on them. Other activities, like the modification of the available video games, are also conceived of to stimulate critical and creative thinking.

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    Feedback: An Archive is created as both a physical and a virtual document repository that is continually updated and is available for further a posteriori analysis and as an information resource for future research.

 

 

Our main approach is based on meaningful learning through video gaming. Video games belong to everyday life in our society, as a result they are inserted in the way children and adults confront the world to the point that they even codify it. Using video games as a learning tool implies stimulating the process of knowledge acquisition and involving its agents directly in it.

 

The goal of our methodology is to foster the critical thinking and the analytical skills of the participants so as they can extrapolate them to the world of video games and to the entirety of their experiences. Therewith we also intend to raise their awareness as responsible and critical consumers of video games and as potential professional or amateur video game developers in future as well. For this purpose, we arrange workshops where collaborative and active learning has fundamental importance so that the order and progress of events is guided by the interests, concerns, and necessities of the participants.

 

Below we present the pedagogical models GAMESTAR(T) is based on.

 

- “Existentialist” Pedagogical Model

 

 

In opposition to the traditional educational model where the acquisition and reproduction of knowledge alone were considered the ultimate objective of education, ARSGAMES follows an existentialist pedagogical model that does not put knowledge at the heart of education, but the student and the development of her individual characteristics, taking into account the different cognitive structures and each person's experiential framework, interests, abilities, flair and attitudes, as well as the diversity inherent in the groups we work with (children at risk of social exclusion pertaining to the Red Cross), whose origin lies in multiple factors such as economic, socio-cultural, geographic, ethnic and religious factors, just as in the intellectual, psychic or sensory capacities. Thus, the central role assigned to the student in education implies a transformation and adaptation of the educational environment to her and not the other way around.

 

In this type of pedagogy the teacher's function is closely related to the principle of pedagogical self-management, a key feature in the methodologies applied in Summerhill by A.S. Neill, in Freinet's techniques, in the pedagogical rationalism of Ferrer y Guardia or in the escolanovismo. All these tendencies concur that the teacher should be assigned the function of a mediator or facilitator of learning.

 

 

-Pedagogical principle of anti-authoritarianism

 

 

The principle of anti-authoritarianism constitutes an inseparable part of the education of responsible and free subjects. An individual condemned to submission is an irresponsible individual insofar as she delegates all responsibility on her tutor, that is, the person who dictates and rules she must comply to and the patterns of behaviour is expected to display. The political trends that have embraced anti-authoritarianism are manifold, from the bourgeois progressivism of Summerhill to the anarchist libertarianism of Paideia. The key question is how to introduce this system of free self-discipline within the classroom. However, posing this question implies a critical and anti-authoritarian reflection and the establishment of a system open to change. We leave this research line open, which we consider fundamental for educational practice as long as the management of discipline is a burning issue in the current pedagogical debates.

 

 

 

- Principle of pedagogical self-management

 

 

The principle of pedagogical self-management is developed within the framework of libertarian pedagogy through the self-regulation of learning on the part of the students. This methodology favours an education focused on individual responsibility and personal effort and merit. Accounting for these implications, Silvio Gallo has pointed that another kind of learning is at stake when it comes to pedagogical self-management, namely the socio-political learning of social self-management.

 

 

 

 

THE GAMESTAR(T) EXPERIENCE

 

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    CLUB

 

 

The aim of this club is to experiment, learn and explore different types of games, turning its members into little researchers that enjoy the different ludic possibilities that exist in our society (emphasizing the potential of gaming as a generator of discussion and reflection dynamics).

 

Series of events that deal with gaming are organised according to a certain structure: 1) Ludic activity, 2) Use of resources, 3) Subsequent reflection and critique, and 4) Ranking of the results.

 

Through the Game Club we try to stimulate associationism and a collaborative spirit among the club's children, who hold periodical meetings in which an assembly has been formed to discuss and elaborate the rules that regulate the club.

 

A number of different activities related to video games are organised within the Club, including the Thematic Courses.

 

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    Thematic Courses

 

 

With the Thematic Courses we try to bring the knowledge of video games home to the students as a gateway to formal education (history, arts, mathematics, etc.) and non-formal education (health, socialisation, etc.). Some of these courses are the following:

 

 

Health > Games for health. We present video games related to health care in a (in the traditional sense) non-educational context and outside of the hospital, in order to understand the process of becoming ill, being treated and recovering, acknowledging the importance of every agent involved in it (patient, health staff, family and friends, etc.).

 

 

Retro-Gaming > Retro Party. Video games have a history of their own, we study the origin of video games paying attention to different aspects such as aesthetics, hardware power and the evolution and relevance of different gameplay forms. Discerning the future through the present and past.

 

 

Gender > Boys and Girls. Are there really games specifically designed for boys and girls respectively? How is gender represented in games? We play with the purpose of showing that any type of game can be used independently of the player's gender and we try to uncover the discriminatory politics inherent in some video games and to propose solutions accordingly.

 

 

Little Big Planet > Creation of levels. The creation of levels is a very important part of some games. Many games have succeeded rather because of their capacity to provide the player with the possibility to construct her own stages than because of the game itself. With this activity we stimulate the participants' creativity and we generate a desire to modify and experiment with the tools provided by each game, transgressing their purportedly “normal”, self-evident use.

 

 

CONCLUSIONS

 

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    Evaluation of the experience

 

 

In the course of the sessions arranged for the Club and the Thematic courses, we have made great advances in making the attendees familiar with the world of video games as a cultural experience, and not merely as entertainment merchandise; we also have succeeded in fostering critical thinking in respect of the elements that build up the everyday life (being video games a part of it) which involves learning to analyse the ideas they propose and the values they incarnate.

 

We show children, teenagers, and adults the possibilities of video games as meaningful learning tools that involve the students actively in the process of knowledge. Moreover, we have made possible that a group of children be able to create and manage their own game club, feel it as something of their own and assume the responsibilities and active management of the Club.

 

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    Necessity for teacher education

 

 After several months of experience and having ascertained the positive results of the utilisation of video games in educational contexts, we consider of great importance (and this is the second aspect of GAMESTAR(T)) to train teachers for the use of video games in classroom.





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