DEC Scan Journal : February 2011
Scan Vol 30 No 1 February 2011 44 differentiating between games for pure entertainment and other games that help people learn skills. MuM fits into this definition because it helps students to develop skills rather than being designed for entertainment only. The Horizon report: 2010 K--12 edition (Johnson, and others, 2010) offers some other parameters about games- based learning, into which MuM fits. The Report claims that educational games can be grouped into three main categories: • games that are not digital • games that are digital but not collaborative • collaborative digital games. The third category -- collaborative digital games -- includes open-ended, challenge-based and truly collabora- tive games, and often occur in Massively Multiplay Online (MMO) forms. This is the group into which MuM is aligned. Each team competes against other teams, while team members collaborate to advantage their team. The report claims that collaborative digital games lend themselves well to curricular content, as they require students to discover and construct knowledge in order to solve problems. Students are required to draw on skills for research, writing, collaboration, problem solving, leadership, digital literacy and media making. According to the Horizon report: 2010 K--12 edition, when games like these are embedded in the curriculum they enable the student to learn how to learn -- mastering and truly owning the subject matter. They are challenging to design well, but the results can be transformative. Johnson, and others (2010, p. 3) The report predicts that the use of this category of games will dramatically rise in the next two to three years. In their literature review on games in education, Ulicsak and Wright (2010) maintain that the major criterion for a teacher to use a game is its ability to make the life of the teacher easier. To make this judgement, teachers need to assess whether the game will enhance students' learning. Teachers need to be convinced that their students will learn more by completing the game than by other methods. Ulicsak and Wright highlight the discrepancy between the dramatically increased use of serious games for training within the business community and the seemingly slow uptake in the educational system. They propose several reasons: • Are they rarely used because they are not yet fit for purpose? • Isittodowiththemethodof teaching in schools ...quality of games and relationship to the curriculum? • Or the ability and knowledge of the teacher? So, why is MuM growing in popularity? If the current literature points to a reluctance of educational systems to use games, why then is MuM growing in popularity and usage? The interview and survey responses of the teachers indicate that the majority of teachers who use MuM in the classroom clearly see its learning benefits, and become steadfast adopters of it as part of their annual teaching program. The data on MuM, therefore, supports Ulicsak and Wright's proposition that teachers will use games when the learning benefits for students are clearly visible and relevant to the curriculum. How then do teachers make that judgement? It seems that the majority of teachers who have used MuM in their classroom decided to do so upon a recommendation from a teacher or principal. The survey and interview responses show that teachers who are supported by, and communicate with, other teachers using MuM are more likely to try it and to have a positive experience with it, especially the first time around. In fact, the data shows that the most common way a teacher comes into contact with MuM is through a colleague, supporting the view that MuM thrives in a collegial environment. This is reflected in the way in which most teachers find out about MuM. According to the survey responses over the four-year period, the majority of participants (51%) find out about MuM through a colleague. The other ways in which teachers become involved with it can be grouped into five main categories, ranked 1 to 5, with 1 being the most commonly cited. 1. participated previously 2. searching on the internet for innovative resources, competitions, Gifted and Talented programs 3. word of mouth 4. my child did it at her/his school 5. CLI website. Role of the teacher Most of the teachers surveyed said they enjoyed their classroom teaching while participating in MuM because it enabled their students to be actively involved in finding, selecting and using information. They reported that the students become self-directed. In fact, MuM is predicated on the teacher becoming a facilitator, because the teacher does not have the answers. The game is designed around a mystery to which no one knows the answer until the end of the game. The feedback from the interviews shows that teachers who are practised in the role of facilitator quickly become immersed in MuM. Others, who were not used to the role of facili- tator, reported that they learnt how to take on the role of facilitator and do MuM from their colleagues. They also ...it helps students to develop skills rather than being designed for entertainment only.