Ok, I admit it, I love RPGs (roleplaying games) and it is only with great difficulty that I have prevented myself hitherto from playing World of Warcraft. So in an attempt to stave of the evil day when I do succumb I am currently playing Neverwinter Nights.
The purpose of this post isn’t to wax lyrical about the game engine or how it plays or how great I am as a Wizard (level 3 – oh be fair I’ve only just started playing it!), it’s to draw your attention to this fantastic example of how positive an experience pure play can be.
Teachers at West Nottinghamshire College realised that they were never going to get anywhere with the basic literacy and numeracy skills of the students on their vocational courses. The students had realised that they didn’t have to pass in literacy or numeracy to get their qualifications so they didn’t bother showing up at the classes and there was no way to convince them how essential these skills are. So instead the teachers decided to teach by stealth and set about adapting the game Neverwinter Nights to deliver educational content. For example, the quests that the students undertook inside the game required literacy and numeracy skills eg having to calculate the area of a boat in order to get the right cargo load in it to keep them alive without sinking it. Apparently the kids would actually come knocking on the staff room door begging to be taught how to calculate area!
This is great on so many levels. The students learn through play and don’t even realise. The teachers have played with the game, created a play situation and played the students’ at their own game (literally). Pat Kane’s definition of play is “to take reality lightly” . I think this is a classic example of how positive it can be when you refuse to accept the established ways of doing things and employ a playful approach, subverting received wisdoms and norms for the benefit of others.
I would be really interested in learning of other examples like this. Do you know of any?