A game with a little dragon that wouldn’t come out of his box until you moved everything out of his way. A quaint little game that would entertain young students in the early primary years. A game that I sat playing for at least 15 minutes wondering what the heck was the purpose, and how much longer did I have to do this for?
But then the game started to make sense. I was doing algebra! I had actually been told this at the start when downloading it, but given the troubles I had in getting it up & running, had totally forgotten later once I was playing it.
And suddenly I understood the teacher’s purpose in asking to do this exercise. We were experiencing first hand, the power of hidden learning in games.
This subtle introduction to the scourge of the maths world had the ability to encourage children to actually like algebra, to participate without fear. Too many adults that I know get the most frightful looks when reminded of algebra, and the noises they make are even worse! This is a prime example of the maths anxiety that many people experience because of an unpleasant learning experience when they were younger.
But a delightful little game like this, could make all the difference. It’s the attitude we take early on that does the damage. Let children play, don’t tell them it’s algebra, heck, don’t even tell them it’s maths, and they’ll actually enjoy themselves!
Other fellow students have obviously had an interesting time of this too, such as Sharon, who discusses the idea of ‘learning without knowing’. It’s an interesting idea, and one that I had been working on for my artefact, with the issue of gaming in schools.
In doing my research on the issue of computer games for learning, I came across a very informative blog, one that I will continue to visit for inspiration for all things ICT. An English gentleman called Mr. Parkinson, brought up a very interesting concept that ties in perfectly with this theme of hidden learning, and learning without knowing.
Mr P’s ICT Blog, had a great post about ‘Camouflage Learning’, the idea of embedding learning within a game or fun task, so that the student did not even realise they were learning, especially for disengaged or difficult students. This was a way to remove the barriers that are often present in learning.
It certainly reinforces the idea of using ICT effectively and creatively to enhance learning opportunities. It’s also raised the bar, and given me a much higher level to aspire to as a teacher, in that I need to think outside of the box when it comes to creating learning experiences for my students.
But one question I have: is hidden learning really a good thing? What about metacognition? Do we learn better by understanding what we are learning and doing though? Do we need to cognitively recognise the task we’ve been set? I think yes, as we’ll be asked to do it again later – "what’s algebra? I don’t know how to do that! Oh you mean that game with the dragon in the box? Is that what it was?"
At the same time, we’ll avoid the initial repugnant response that most people have towards algebra, even if it's only by reputation, and not from personal experience. Instead of recoiling, we’ll respond with a memory of a fun experience we’ve had, and look forward to more fun experiences. Maybe it's just part of the process. Lead them gently at first with camouflage learning, then hit them up with reality after they've come to terms with it?
Once again, I guess it all comes down to the attitude that you put forward.
What else is there left to say? Game on!