NZCER Games for Learning Conference: Keynotes

Blog post by Tam Yuill Proctor

Chances are you have used games as part of your teaching and learning programs to try and engage students.  I'm not much of a gamer but I am very interested in gamification and curriculum design. If you are not sure what gamification is a quick Google of the term and Wikipedia pops up with:  "gamification of learning is an educational approach to motivate students to learn by using video game design and game elements in learning environments. The goal is to maximize enjoyment and engagement through capturing the interest of learners and inspiring them to continue learning". So, when the NZCER advertised their conference on ‘Games in Learning’ I knew this would be an interesting 2 days.

NZCER put together an incredible 2-day program with exceptional keynote speakers and a wide variety of breakouts. It is impossible to share all that I learnt in one blog post and I will share more in future posts. This post focuses on two of the keynote speakers: Yasmin Kafai on 'Connected Gaming' and Amy Fredeen on 'Exploring and Extending Culture through  Games'.  These were two very different  and interesting keynotes.

Yasmin Kafai:  Connected Gaming: What making video games can teach us about learning and literacy in the 21st Century

Yasmin speaks with great clarity and for me her keynote on day 2 addressed the two different perspectives:

Instructionist = Playing games for learning

Constructionist = Making games for learning

The instructionist approach is having students play games to learn such things as spelling words and capital cities. The constructionist approach is where students construct their own games. The learning taking place is centred more on the construction of the game than the playing of the game. This is illustrated below in two of Yasmin's slides from her presentation:


Yasmin explained that games can be used to “solve problems, design systems and understand human behaviour”. Gaming doesn’t have be on the screen and she encouraged the audience to think about how to use gaming off screen. She has even created some free resources teachers can access:

Both Instructionist and Constructionist are valuable ways to approach gaming in the classroom and each has their specific purpose. 

Further Reading:

Yasmin has co authored an article  on Constructionist Gaming: Understanding the Benefits of Making Games for learning.

Amy Fredeen: Exploring and extending culture through games

Never Alone Trailer

Official Trailer: Never Alone

Never Alone is an online game which was created as a way for the Inupiat, native to Alaska. It is a way to transfer the  historical knowledge of the Inupiat to the younger generation on a platform the younger generation are engaged with. It is an innovative creation which was a truly collaborative process between the Inupiat and E-line media. An interesting element of this game design is instead of unlocking badges the player unlocks traditional stories of the Inupiat. The game is also collaborative as the player needs to use both characters through-out the game.  It would be amazing to have something similar to this in NZ. Their story is best told by them in the following clips.

Behind the Scenes


Never Alone: Power of Video Games



Posted 04 Sep 2017