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IT, media and games in education integrates a necessary dimension of enjoyment in learning
By: Aslak Gottlieb, Independent educational consultant
29 March 2011

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This post is a discourse on how new technology is a key factor that induces enjoyment as an educational path to the skills of the 21st century.

Writing these lines I’m on my way back home to Denmark from the Microsoft European Partners in Learning Forum in Moscow (PiLEF). As a former teacher experienced in various media literacy activities, I was invited there as both a blogger and as a leader of an ongoing workshop on “media and news in the classroom”. To me the forum was three days of really hard work. And let me tell you this: What a pleasure it was!

PiLEF gathered teachers from countries all over Europe, each one of them presenting actual projects from their daily educational practice. They were in contest with each other having their project judged in different categories. The hall was a bustling marketplace crowded with enthusiastic end energetic teachers sharing experiences with each other whilst introducing their projects to the jury. The atmosphere in the room was almost electric from teachers working really hard on communicating to each other of what they professionally do at their very best. And they all told me this: What a pleasure it was!

Now, what am I trying to say here? Although education is a soft topic education in this context is about investment in human capital.That is actually the whole point of my enjoyment perspective. One of the jury members at PiLEF, Julien Llanas from France pointed it out during an interview for the Forum blog . “There are more fun and games than last year. The exhibition has a dimension of pleasure.”

Since fun and enjoyment are barely described as goals in any school curriculums, I found it was a theme worth exploring at the PiLEF. And Mr. Clonas was right. In the PiLEF projects, fun and enjoyment were integrated with that hard piece of work students usually do at school.

Now having explored as many of the PiLEF projects as possible during the forum, I conclude that not only the integration of games (which is obvious) facilitates enjoyment in education but IT used as a tool for communicative and collaborative goals in itself adds a most valuable dimension on all educational levels. This is my judgment as a former teacher. After attending PiLEF as an educational consultant I’m assured that the IT industry can approach the teachers with partnership proposals from this alternative (!) educational IT-perspective. 

Technology leads towards authentic methods of learning.

The evidence of the “enjoyment partnership potential” is the merging of educational activities and student’s social life facilitated by IT, games and multimedia. Whereas school activities to students always have appeared somewhat artificial, their social life indisputably represents authenticity. Without trying to prove what genetic code or existentialistic premise makes this observation true, I’ll claim that it’s handicapping the school in its finest task. The impact of teaching activities rises dramatically when students get the feel of authenticity. Multimedia, gaming and the web 2.0 dimensions are authentic to the students. Games and social networking services like MSN, YouTube and Facebook are directly related to the student’s leisure activities. In addition, audio-visual presentations such as PowerPoint slides and PhotoStories are indirectly related -due to the student’s media cultural habits. 

Most of the PiLEF projects contained at least one of these two dimensions:

  • Collaboration around games and multimedia productions

  • Communicative activities through social networking services

And by those two means enthusiastic and explorative teachers from all over Europe showed us an effective path to the competences of 21st century expressed by today’s educational buzzwords – collaboration, creative skills, problem solving etc. I know it’s controversial arguing that schools should invest in IT to add a dimension of enjoyment in their curriculums. Still, it’s a strong message to send to teachers (and students). With clever use of IT in education we have a historically sincere situation. Motivation, responsibility and ownership among the students are natural follows of learning that is enjoyable. The PiLEF proved this. I’d be unfair to the teachers trying to resume all 86 different projects on this blog. Each one of them deserves at least their own blog post. Yet not surprisingly I’d like to point out an important common indicator from what the project presentations demonstrated of the student’s reactions. Pictures, quotes, student’s products, films, etc. all told the same story: “What a pleasure it was working this hard with the projects”.

Aslak Gottlieb is a former teacher in Denmark, now working independently as an educational consultant on medias, journalism and education.

To find out more about my philanthropic approach to IT and education, get the feel of what the PiLEF was like on this blog from the forum.

Especially check out this page, where newspaper front pages about the projects are uploaded. The front pages are mainly produced by the teachers with the use of Publisher 2010 templates and as such they represent case stories on my discoursed views above.

Finally join this community (requires LiveID)on the Partners in Learning Network for in depth studies of all projects presented by the teachers as virtual class room tours. Video interviews with winners can be found here.

If these lines of thought around innovative education have caught your interest, key research is now available including Innovative Teaching and Learning (ITL) Research findings and the Partners in Learning Schools Research tool!

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