Blog Post

Ecobugs teachers workshop


Well, we had our first big teachers workshop for Ecobugs last week, and it went down really well.  

The teachers were very enthusiastic about the project and thought that it would link really well a lot of objectives that they were working on in the classroom.  I've got a lot more detailed notes from the session but for now I thought I would just highlight the big reflections. 

The 2 big stand out points from the day for me were:

  • that teachers are really creative when it comes to tying activities (like playing the game) to diverse curriculum objectives
  • rather than worry too much about having students learn directly through the game play of Ecobugs, what we should be focussing on avenues for teachers to extend the learning from the game into other areas. 


So while the teachers all agreed that the science behind the game has to be realistic and have a reasonable level of fidelity, what they were more interested in how they could use the game as a stimulus for learning in other areas of the curriculum.  For example, taking the data from the children's bug hunt and using that to teach creating bar charts / pie charts etc in a maths, or the students writing a story about the bugs they caught to support literacy development.  Using the game as a stimulus was seen by the teachers to offer the children more 'authentic' material to work with.  

Also we thought that perhaps that individual teacher's might play the game once or twice a year to introduce or support learning about a science related topic and that would be it.  But the teachers were saying that they'd be equally interested in using the game as an ongoing resource and playing several times over a year.  This would give the students to opportunity to compare the results of the games over the year, compare their class results with those from other classes, and crucially use it accross different subject area, including maths and even Physical Education (as part of orienteering). 

This has really tightened our focus on how we are offering teachers the opportunity to get raw information out of the game when the dust has settled from the game play.  For example stats about how the bugs were caught, or the science relating to the different types of bugs we have created.  We're currently finalising the wireframes for the web site and this is featuring as a core part of this process. 

This workshop has also made me reflect on the digital games for learning genre as a whole.  Frequently I see 'serious games' striving really hard to have a high level of fidelity, and trying to teach students everything through the game play.  This is expensive and makes the game complex.  But really what these teachers were saying is that they don't want the students to learn everything through the game.  The game was seen as a tool to support teaching, and teachers were more interested in the adaptability of the game and how it could be used to support different lessons, rather than the specificity of the learning to a particular subject area.    Does this mean that educational games devoted to teaching particular areas are doomed to failure? ;)

Lastly the workshop reminded me of one of the reasons why I enjoyed teaching in primaries more than secondary, and that's freedom.  The primary curriculum in England is much less tied down than the curriculum for older students. This means that the teachers can use more creativity in their planning, but also have more freedom to work in a way that is flexible for students.  So if they want to take half a day off timetable to pursue a cross curricular educational activity they can. As always, this makes way more sense to me than expecting students to respond to sitting in a room for 50 minutes to learn a specific thing about English every Tuesday morning at 9am.  









Ecobugs, you are knocking it out of the park! I'll circulate your blog posts to the DML Competition winners because this is fantastic content. Did you have an infrastructure in place to do these kinds of focus groups? I think many of the Game Changers will benefit from the kinds of feedback your teachers shared, as will anyone interested in games for learning. Thanks so much for your blogging efforts. This is exactly the kind of detail we hope will start conversations among your cohort (and in the HASTAC community).


Hi Kieron,

That was a truly insightful entry. Your comments on rethinking "digital games for learning genre as a whole" particularly resonated with me. This idea of multiple curricular touchpoints within a digital learning game is intriguiging. Of course I wonder then if the "game" really becomes a platform? And if this is the case, how does one go about approaching this from a business standpoint?

A quick question: You've clearly benefitted from this teacher workshop. Can you think of any other ways you could go about acquiring additional insight?

Thanks again,






Hey I am really sorry about the delayed response to these!  I thought I had posted a response but it never made it up!  

As my original reply is about 2 months old now i've updated it below 

Thanks very much for your comments.  Jason I think you've raised a really interesting point which I think also resonates with the notion of learning through games, rather than games being self contained learning tools focussed on a particular education aims.   Also around the question about whether they are seen by teachers as tools to practise skills or acquiring content knowledge.

This project has really reminded me that sometimes we forget that what teachers really excel at is taking a stimulus, turning it into a lesson and linking it to learning outcomes.  What they need is the accessible and engaging context for that to happen in.  Even down to the extent of the lesson outlines we've created and the teacher's pack for the game.  The big steer alll along is just offering a rough frame and then teachers can develop their own learning narrative depending on their style and preferred tools. 

This has freed us up a bit I think as it means we don't have to worry so much about right and wrong when looking at teaching concepts in the game, but rather let it be a sandbox for the students to experiment in.  So long as the process is visible to teachers, then they can draw this out for their own lessons.  Of course, making the students learning process visible is another thing entirely! But then with all the data capture that digital games can provide us with there so many more opportunities than before....

As for how to get hold of teachers thoughts, I think the only way is to be there working with them to co develop it!