DEC Scan Journal : February 2011
Scan Vol 30 No 1 February 2011 45 suggested that when they realised there is no need for them to know the answer to the mystery before the students do, they adjust well to learning with the students. Some teachers reported that, having experienced MuM, they are now more skilled in the role as facilitator or guide, rather than as sage the on the stage or the keeper of knowledge. This facet of MuM was also documented during 2007 in some video footage of students and their teacher working on MuM. During classroom interaction with students, the teacher realised, on camera, that there was no need for him to know the answer to the mystery; he was working with the students as a team. The video is part of a series of resources designed to help teachers implement the game. They are available on the website at <www.microscope.edu.au/Public/Static /howtoplay.aspx>. Watch The investi- gation video at 6:00 to 6:51. The teacher exclaims, The free-floating fern just -- free-floating fern! Ah! Students also commented on the role of the teacher when they were all learning together. As one student put it: MuM is different to many other projects because our teachers didn't know the answers. Most teachers reported that, despite not having the answers up front, they could actually draw on their existing repertoire of teaching practices, such as class and group discussion, students presenting their findings, negotiating, and reaching consensus. ...I love that the kids need to access all kinds of information, listening visual and reading skills are all necessary... I am seeing such wonderful discussions and skills being used...learning so much about internet researching, skimming and scanning information and summarising facts. They each have an investigation file which includes a clues note page. It is so neat to see them all taking notes from each other and from the clues and then referring to them when they ask questions and present their ideas. They are like real life mini investi- gators. There is some really exciting learning happening in our room at the moment. Thanks again for providing such a fun and high quality educational experience. Amy (2010) It appears then that teachers can be ready adopters of games-based learning when: • the learning benefits and links to curriculum are clear • there is collegial support • teachers can draw upon their existing repertoire of teaching practices. These factors seem to work in tandem, piggy backing onto each other to enable the uptake of games-based learning. They are like the cogs in the same wheel, fitting and working together, a power house of energy and dynamism that manifests itself in the classroom. What do the students say? When students were asked to identify the benefits for their own learning, they typically listed: • improved skills for research • learning about animals and plants • learning how to solve problems • becoming more aware of the environment. Some students' comments allude to a heightened sense of critical awareness, I now look more closely into what people say and do, and the idea of cause and effect in ecosystems. When students were asked about what they enjoyed the most, the predomi- nant response was figuring out the mystery. The other features that students commented on were grouped into the following list. The list is not hierarchical. 1. interactive video and graphical interface 2. time-released clue drop via video episodes 3. characters based on everyday people 4. a strong episodic narrative 5. presentation of real world issues 6. conflicting evidence and information 7. opportunities for self-directed learning 8. team-based learning 9. 24/7 web presence 10. connection with real expert scien- tists to answer their questions. The list was not a surprise to the designers of MuM. In regard to features 1, 7 and 9, the MuM interface is deliberately highly visual and inter- active, with multiple forms of data and entry points, resonating well with contemporary mobile and video communication devices and the Net Generation's desire for experiential learning, working in teams and social software (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005, p. 1.4). To create the metaphor and drama of the murder reported in features 2 and 3, the website is programmed to roll out a series of timed and synchronised videos and messages, day by day and even hour by hour in the last stages of the game. This creates excitement and an anticipation to find out the answer to the mystery. The designers intended that the students use the website to access up-to-date reports in video format, and messages from the case coordinator, crime site investigator and forensic scientist. The student can access any of these data sources in the order and format of their choice. With regard to features 3 and 4, the characters, script, narrative and setting of MuM are typical of popular Australian, teenage television. The characters in the website exist in a virtual world and speak to one another, as well as to the students. The crime site investigator reports from the crime site and interviews other characters to help solve the case. These videos depict a drama unfolding at the crime site (Figure 3).