Digital games based learning (GBL) in schools raises many interesting questions. A paper published in January 2013 entitled, “Acceptance of game-based learning by secondary school teachers” (Bourgonjon et al., 2013), provides insight from a study of 505 teachers. The average age was 40, with a male/female split of 42.7/57.3% respectively.
Teachers were surveyed on a range of issues such as personal innovation, behavioural intention (to use video games), critical mass, experience (with video games), learning opportunities, usefulness, social norm and complexity. A lot of number crunching went on to create some interesting looking tables, but the insights gained revealed bigger issues about tech in schools than just the use of games based learning approaches.
The study revealed that teachers “are not really convinced that video games are very useful for enhancing their job performance. On the other hand they believe that video games provide opportunities for learning in a similar way that teachers perceive the merits of ICT in the classroom”. They don’t think GBL is a waste of time, but they don’t see it improving their job performance.
Let’s pause on that for a moment. If you’re not really that convinced that GBL enhances your job performance, but you consider GBL as having the same merit as other ICT in the classroom, it might be fair to deduce that the overall perception of ICT may also not improve job performance. Similarly, ICT in the classroom is not a waste of time, but not an improver of job performance. If that’s a fair comparison, then it’s quite a blow given the amount of money spent on computers for the purposes of enhancing educational outcomes.
I’m not trying to pour cold water on the issue of computers in schools. I’m a tech evangelist and a strong believer that computers in education are valuable, but only when they are used effectively. The researchers in this study concluded that further research into the social factors affecting adoption of technology were required in order to fully appreciate teacher perceptions of technology in the classroom. Relevance was also found to be an issue that affected adoption. The authors suggest that increased exposure to games based learning in teacher training may help to increase awareness, and presumably the relevance for GBL amongst teachers.
I’d like to suggest we take another step back still. The authors note the relevance of personal innovation in the study. They even surveyed it, and suggest it is important to study in tech adoption models because of the constant boundaries being pushed in hardware and software. I’m suggesting that we need to include the study of innovation itself into pre service teacher training. Often is the case, as with disruptive innovations, that the innovations take us by surprise and we realise we’ve left things too long. Understanding them then becomes that much harder as the gap has widened.
The call for more research into social factors is also interesting given one of the introductory assumptions made by the researchers…
“Many top down attempts to integrate technology into education have failed to impose long term effects on teaching and learning, in part because they ignored the perceptions of teachers. Albrini (2006) concurs, stating that technology implementation plans are focused too much on the technology aspect and its effect on student achievement. This can be considered a flaw because teachers are in many areas the true change agents of schools in terms of modes of education.”
If teachers are the change agents, more consideration needs to be given to their perceptions of how tech can improve their performance, as well as that of the students.
Bourgonjon, J., De Grove, F., De Smet, C., Van Looy, J., Soetaert, R., & Valcke, M. (2013). Acceptance of game-based learning by secondary school teachers. Computers & Education, 21-35. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2013.02.010