Saturday, 28 January 2017

Contemporary Issue or Trend: Student Mobility and School Choice

Each year, parents around the world face a similar conundrum: Should their child attend the school around the corner or opt to travel away from home each day to a school outside of their local community?  As a parent, I too have had to make this decision. For some, the choice is limited by income or geography while for others the allure of top academic results, an all-conquering rugby team, or the proximity from poverty helps dictate the decision.  

Choosing a school is one of the key times when parents reflect on what is important to them in terms of their child's education.  While the Ministry of Education has now stopped the publishing of school decile ratings (established in the mid 1990s to facilitate more systematic and objective decisions about fair funding to all state schools), there is still a lot to consider: Public or private school, single sex or co-educational, full primary or separate intermediate/middle school, school zone regulations, school culture and reputation, quality teaching and learning programmes, subject choices (and how well they are resourced), class sizes, the provision of extra curricular activities,  access to technology, school fees/donations/uniform/stationary costs to name just a few.  

The factors that influence parental choice of school have been well documented.  I have found the following research papers helpful:
  • Karen Wespieser examines some of these priorities in her report: How do parents choose a school for their child after interviewing over 1,000 parents of students aged between 5-18.  
  • Caroline McEnvoy has also examined the factors that influence parental choice of school in her dissertation published in 2003, and I would argue that not many of these factors would have changed since then.
  • Peter Morey provides an Australian perspective in his Research titled School Choice: What parents choose 
  • Matt McFadden provides an alternative perspective and looks into the roll that marketing has on school choice 
As mentioned in my previous post, one of the big problems for many residents across West Auckland is education.  Few of the schools have an outstanding reputation and thousands of parents choose to send their children out of the area for schooling (Prasad, 2011).  This is supported by the Ministry of Education figures that highlight that over one third of our West Auckland students went outside the area for their education in 2010 to schools perceived to be successful or fashionable.  We are blessed that our school continues to be the school of choice for families in the wider West Auckland area (ERO, 2011), with almost 40% of our students coming from outside of our school zone, however we also have a large number of in-zone students who choose to attend schools outside of the area.

The OECD Trends Shaping Education 2016 Report acknowledges the mobility of students' and their families is driven by the search for a better life and increased opportunities.  Increasingly affordable and accessible methods of transportation are just one of a number of factors influencing this trend.  Toby Morris explores some of these issues in this confronting comic.

Waipareira Trust Chief Executive, John Tamihere, says it's natural for parents to send their children wherever they can get the best education, and those parents that can afford to offer their children better opportunities will endeavour to do so.  He acknowledges that west Auckland schools are limited by the area's socio-economic situation with many schools in our area being decile four or below.  He adds, sadly, "For the most part, Waitakere has a lot of hard working people who aren't necessarily making a lot of money and that socio-economic factor will take a long time to change." (Prasad, 2011)

The Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds Report predicts that between now and 2030 individual empowerment will accelerate substantially due to poverty reduction and a huge growth of the global middle class.  This is fundamentally important as for the first time, a majority of the world's population will not be impoverished.  While most new members of the middle class in 2030 will be at the lower end of the spectrum, the growth in the number of those living in the top half of the range of this new middle class will be substantial, rising from 330 million in 2010 to 679 million in 2030.  Much of the future global leadership is likely to come from this segment.

The increasing cultural and linguistic diversity that emerges out of these mobility trends, has a strong impact on our schools and classrooms, which need to prepare students for a global life.  Emphasing multiculturalism and implementing a responsive and rich curriculum for students of different backgrounds will continue to be a priority within school systems.  Lifelong learning is also an important component to keeping our societies abreast of the new challenges and opportunities that arise from an increasingly mobile world.

However, I feel it is also important to acknowledge that not all families will be able to take advantage of choice, whether because of family circumstances or limits on the capacity of schools to accept new students.  School policies are predicated on the assumption that parents have enough information to make informed decisions on where to send their children.  School choice policies also assume that students have the means to get to their desired school, however many families do not have the flexibility to drive children across the city, or schools do not provide a bus service.  Research also suggests that many parents prefer to send their children to their local school and that they would rather have higher-quality local schools than the option to send their children to high quality schools elsewhere.

Reflective Questions for Discussion:

  • Should parents be free to send their children to any school of their choice, regardless of where they live?
  • Do students who have been educated outside of their local community (or country) have a responsibility to return to work in their community (or country) in order to transfer that knowledge back to their peers?
  • How can schools better prepare for the inflow of students from various backgrounds, socio-economic classes and cultures?
  • What responsibility do schools have in communicating and teaching the values of society?

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A school’s culture: How it can be shaped by history, context and the people in it

Te: the; Atatū: dawn, originally called Ōrukuwai - Ō: place of; Rukuwai: an ancestor of Te Kawerau-a-Maki; coined its current name in the early twentieth century in recognition of the spectacular views of the sunrise.  Until the 1950's this area was largely rural, however the construction of the north-western motorway spurred its development, and during the 1960s and 1970s the area was covered in low-to medium-income houses (New Zealand History).  This increase in residential property prompted our school to open in 1968 to cater for Year 7 and 8 students.  

School culture is influenced by a school's external context, and can be shaped by it's history, context and the people within it.  Since its founding, our school has been recognised for its emphasis on achievement and high standards of academic and sporting excellence, and this is reflected in our school culture.  While learning is no longer based on the book of truth (the Bible), the school strives to instill Wisdom (to make good decisions) with Truth (honesty), and still holds some of its historical traditions quite tightly.  The development of the schools behavioural 'RISE' values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Endurance are embedded in school life and create a sense of connectedness and belonging for our culturally diverse school community. 

According to our school enrolment data, we have over 30 different Nationalities represented within our student population this year.  This includes 20.4% Maori, 21.4% Pasifika, 24.2% Asian, 31.1% European, and 2.7% MELAA.  Our teaching population is similarly diverse, however is very heavily female dominated. 

Few of the schools in West Auckland have an outstanding reputation and thousands of parents choose to send their children out of the area for their education (Prasad, 2011).   Our staff work hard and take security from knowing that our school is highly regarded within the community and "continues to be the school of choice for families in the wider West Auckland area" (ERO, 2011), with almost 40% of our students coming from outside of our school zone. 

Our school continues to be driven by a focus on improving teaching and learning, the development of a global learning community who are future ready, continuous professional development and close working relationships with parents and whanau.  We embrace our diverse social class populations and believe that our students benefit from the richness this diversity offers.

We have recently started to critically reflect on our schools vision, in acknowledging that while it has supported us well, it was developed at a time when the school community and priorities were quite different.  With a school steeped in such a strong and well respected history, this has been a bold move, but must happen to bring our school into alignment with current Educational Policies and to reflect the significant changes in leadership that have happened in the school over the last 24 months.  In joining the voices of staff, students and our community we have drafted Mahi Tahi: Working together, Ako Tahi: Learning Together, Tupu Tahi: Growing together as our new school vision, and feel this reflects the culture we would like to bring into the school much more accurately.

It could be argued that this vision is equally apt for our staff.  Staff acknowledge that over the years collegiality, the desire to take risks, and a willingness to support each other has faded, and I have observed little room for celebration and humour.  In striving for an adapted school culture that encourages these things, I believe even greater things will happen in our school, but Stoll (1998) notes that this change will be much more likely to happen when school leaders play a significant role in steering the shift.  That is not to say that teachers do not have an important role to play though!  Hongboontri and Keawkhong (2014) challenge teachers to consider what role they personally may have had in helping to shape their schools culture - and interesting thought to be left with ...

It is my hope that my influence on our schools' culture is positive.  One that embraces and celebrates diversity, promotes innovative thinking, encourages openness and collegiality and reignites peoples' passions.  I'd like to help bring our school into the future while continuing to build on the strong foundations of the past.

Stoll, 1998 notes that a schools' culture is influenced by the school's students and their social class background.  Our students, who are reaching adolescence, are trying to shape their identities, and certainly flavour our school in their own ways.  Interesting research continues to emerge examining the complexities and effect of socio-economic factors on student achievement, including the work of Hattie (2016) who has found that socio-economic factors, with an effect size of 0.54, are still an important area to examine.  While this is higher than an effect size of 0.4 which is regarded as average or typical, he argues that many other factors are more influential.  Others believe socio-economic factors have a much larger, and detrimental effect, and this is one of the deeply embedded concerns for many residents across West Auckland, where our school is located. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Communities of Practice: GEGNZ

Hoadley asserts that one of the most important concepts in social or situated learning theory is the notion of a Community of Practice (CoP).  CoP rely on situated theories of knowledge; consisting of groups of informally bound people, who share an interest or a passion, and who increase their knowledge in this area through discussion and shared experiences.  When working well, CoP create a body of shared expertise and promote best practices in the area of interest.

I belong to a landscape of professional communities including Virtual Learning Networks, Professional Learning Networks, and I am actively involved in our Community of Learning.  However, according to Wenger-Trayner (2011), three elements are crucial in distinguishing a Community of Practice from other groups and communities: 

I believe the Google Educator Group New Zealand (GEGNZ) undoubtedly meets these requirements. 

The Domain:  GEGNZ is an independently run community of over 1700 New Zealand Educators who are invited to participate and collaborate with the intention to learn, share, inspire and empower each other; Changing the world of technology and education in New Zealand.  GEGNZ members support each other’s learning in a variety of ways, but at its core, the group has emerged to provide a CoP where members can learn more about how technology can be best used within education to support student learning outcomes and increase engagement. 

The Community: Members are located throughout the country and hold different roles within their schools, but all have a common interest in teaching and learning.  As Bates (2014) has identified, CoP are not dependent on any particular medium, and GEGNZ members regularly meet and contribute online and kanohi kit e kanohi (face to face); joining discussions, sharing knowledge, contributing to meets and professional development opportunities that are held once a term and remotely through Google Hangouts.  They regularly offer feedback and help each other, supported by the multiple platforms the group has developed to enable the group to explore and create ideas, build meaningful relationships and share materials, resources and expertise.  

The Practice: GEGNZ members are actively engaged in the teaching profession, and have recently ranked at the top of the Google Educator Group Professional Development Leaderboard for the second concurrent year.   They work together to develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems as evident on their social networking sites (including the GEGNZ Google+ Group, and Google Apps NZ Primary Facebook Page).  Formed in May 2014, this CoP has been developed over time with sustained interaction, supporting members to transform their classrooms, work through their Google Certified Educator Qualifications; become Google Certified Trainers (who provide Professional Development and Training services on Google for Education tools; and also consists of Google Certified Innovators (who are acknowledged as outstanding educators committed to the innovative use of technology to transform classrooms).  Recently the community has also grown to include Reference Schools who have opted in to connect with other schools and educators interested in using Google products in their classrooms.

I joined this community in 2014 after attending #EdChatNZ’s first conference.  Being part of this group has transformed my teaching practice and enabled me to build professional relationships with some exceptional educators who I now consider it a privilege to call colleagues.  Their support and encouragement lead me to complete my Google Certified Educator qualifications, conduct a research trial in partnership HP and Cyclone Education into the potential impact of Digital Tools to support students with Special Education Needs, be a part of the first Google Education Group Student Summit, lead workshops at various GEGNZ events, and gave me the confidence to move into my current role as the Director of eLearning at a large Intermediate School.  Involvement in this CoP has also enabled me to support other teachers throughout the country, offering my skills, experience and resources to support them in their professional endeavours.  While my school does not use the Google Apps Suite, instead having chosen to use Office365, I continue to attend GEGNZ events and offer support via their online network as often as possible, maintaining and progressing my professional knowledge, and promoting the outstanding contribution this CoP makes to education in New Zealand.

My experience is supported by Bates (2014) who notes that CoP can be very effective in a digital world, especially as lifelong learning becomes increasingly self-directed, through collaborative learning, sharing of knowledge and experience, and crowd-sourcing new ideas and development. The evolution of the Internet, the social media tools now available, and the need for sharing of knowledge on a global scale, is driving the development of virtual CoP – and I am thankful for this beyond words!  CoPs are not the solution to everything though, and they do not replace teams and other professional networks.  Each has its own place in the ecology of the learning system, providing different types of social learning spaces that open up new opportunities for developing learning capability (Wenger-Trayner, 2015).  

Reflective Questions for Discussion:

  • How have/could your Community of Practice evolve with technology?
  • How might technology be used to support the continuation of your Community of Practice?
  • With the rise of social networking groups, what level of participation in an online community constitutes legitimate membership of an online Community of Practice?
  • Can you have a genuine Community of Practice if participation within the group is mandated or compulsory?
  • Bates (2014) suggests that most Communities of Practice have no formal design and tend to be self-organising systems.  He advises they have a natural life cycle, and come to an end when they no longer serve the needs of the community.  How can you help sustain and improve the effectiveness of your Community of Practice to overcome this challenge?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

What is the potential impact of immersive participatory simulation games on students and teachers in an educational context? A Literature Review

This literature review was written by Emily Bagrie and I as part of our Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning through The Mind Lab.

What is the potential impact of immersive participatory simulation games on students and teachers in an educational context?

Dewey (1938) suggests that the goal of education is not to prepare students for life, but for engagement with it.  This is increasingly challenging when the world is frequently being described with terms such as constantly changing, rapidly evolving and uncertain.  The primary goal for education continues to drive educators to nurture every student's potential to develop the knowledge, skills, and epistemologies necessary for dealing with the complexities of the 21st century (Toppo, 2016).  There are clear indications that the future will certainly differ dramatically from the past and our students will be expected to master different forms of knowledge than our schools have traditionally demanded, to grow as citizens and workers (Jenkins, 2007; Squire & Jan, 2007). It is becoming more widely accepted that teachers should teach not only curricular content but also competencies. The programmes should encourage and include the use of the learning material in a variety of situations that students will face in the real world, be problem-oriented, varied, interesting, sustainable and motivate students to learn (, 2015).  

Professionals with an inherent interest in education, including philosophers, psychologists and educators have endorsed educational games, involving elements of play, to promote learning for centuries (Vanek & Peterson, 2016).  However, this form of experiential learning is more commonly seen in programmes designed for younger students, subsiding to more traditional forms of academic learning as students’ progress through the education system.  The social nature of learning in this way has also been supported by social constructivists who argue that we all generate meaning from our experiences (Kolb, 1984; Andrés, Angeles & García Casas, 2011).

Immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) are a sophisticated progression of such games, and are in a relative state of infancy, however their rapid global adoption within the entertainment industry and subsequent fusion into the educational sector, warrants closer examination. This literature review defines the emerging pedagogy of IPSG and examines their potential impact on the development of student outcomes and skills within an educational context.  The potential implications IPSG have on teacher pedagogy are also examined and discussed.  Mātauranga Māori and Kaupapa Maori approaches are identified and situated within the conclusion which positions this review alongside suggested areas of future research within an educational context.

Immersive Participatory Simulation Games
Game-based learning initiatives have been suggested as a future-focused methodology that can support immersive and participatory pedagogy.  Immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) situate learners in complex thinking tasks, driven by authentic questions and real-world problems that require critical, creative and innovative thinking to solve in a collaborative context (Barab, Thomas, Dodge, Carteaux & Tuzum, 2005; Gee, 2004; Shaffer & Gee, 2005; Squire, 2005).  They present students with a series of challenges that ignite their natural drive to problem-solve within a given role and scenario.  IPSG are accessible to a wide range of background knowledge, experiences, ages, genders, skills, physical abilities and present a changing perspective of learning on the part of the students and educators; embracing divergent learning goals and involving learning contexts that are meaningful for students.  They provide challenging opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate determination and motivation while encouraging them to believe their abilities can be developed through effort and a positive belief in their capacity to learn (Ministry of Education, 2009).

Duke predicted the use of such games within education in 1974, however we now see that these types of games did not emerge as suddenly as he had envisaged (Duke, 1974).  Only recently have educators begun to see them as a future’s language, with great global impact, across numerous different educational contexts including Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education, as well as in public spaces such as Museums, Libraries and Conferences.

Immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) present educators with an opportunity to incorporate social constructivist theories within their programmes, with their focus on active rather than passive or receptive learning, and are becoming an emerging type of interdisciplinary curricula for supporting education (Barab & Dede, 2007). While initially designed for entertainment purposes, they are now being repurposed with an academic focus.  This literature review combines the findings from IPSG such as Escape Rooms, Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games, edu-LARP, Nordic-LARP and BreakoutEDU, all of which have grown in popularity rapidly in the last few years within educational contexts.  

BreakoutEDU, for example, was introduced to NZ through the EdTech Conference in 2016.  Having first reached the critical mass required to appear on Google Trends in 2006 before lying dormant until rising sharply towards the end of 2015.  It is now followed actively by over 15,000 teachers from around the world in their online Facebook community.  

What is the potential impact of immersive participatory simulation games on the development of student outcomes and skills in an educational context?

Student Motivation and Engagement
The most common theme to arise from the literature, was the impact immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) have on student motivation and engagement towards and within learning. They are identified as being a catalyst for improved student focus, drive, motivation, engagement and even improve interest in a subject or topic of study. (Vanek & Peterson, 2016; Bowman & Standiford, 2015; Sellar, 2012; Andrés et al., 2011; Ihsen, Schneider, Wallhoff & Blume, 2011; Lantada, Morgado, Munoz-guijosa, Otero, & Sanz, 2011; Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013). The primary reason for this is largely to do with the fun involved in gaming. (2015) observed that fun makes learning easier and students are more likely to take on challenges and less likely to become discouraged by falure. Andrés et al (2011) support this by reporting that fun promotes learning by generating joy, reiterated by the students studied who reported that they learnt and had fun through experiential learning. These observations were also reflected when students studied by Bowman and Standiford (2015) were observed to experience increased enjoyment and interest in science through participation in an Edu-Larp.  It is the challenge and the aspect of “hard thinking” which makes them so appealing and which causes the learning to become a by-product of the task, rather than the end goal (McDowall, 2015). The level of excitement experienced, compels students to continue discussing concepts and learning outside of the gaming experience (Jung and Levitin, 2002). It is important to note however, that in order to achieve these outcomes the motivation needs to be sustained through reflection, active involvement and feedback and is also highly dependent on the types of games the individual player finds enjoyable (Andrés et al, 2011).

IPSG have also been shown to have a significant effect on the motivation of students due to the component of immersive role-play. These experiences enable students to disconnect from the complex, trivial or boring nature of reality into something far more exciting, comprehensible and epic (Sellar, 2012;, 2015). Total immersion in IPSG can create something referred to as flow, a natural state of learning when motivation to complete tasks is at its peak, or defined as the “state of absolute immersion into an activity, when concentration is effortless due to the fact that the person is enjoying the activity” (Anglickeho et al, n.d, p. 23). In this state students can become less self-conscious (Wiemker, Elumir, & Clare, 2015),  feel safer to take risks in thinking, feeling or reasoning without any negative repercussions (, 2015) and are invited to become personally embodied in the game (Rosenbaum, Klopfer & Perry, 2007).

Although a lot was said around the positive impact of immersion and enjoyment using IPSG to increase motivation and engagement, Madigan (2010) warned that “not all games should strive to be immersive” (p. 10 ). It was observed that certain scenarios may evoke situations and emotions that bring up memories or experiences, wanted or not, or make participants uncomfortable or feel psychologically unsafe (Nicholson, 2015; Anglickeho et al, n.d.). Teachers need to be aware that these situations could be harmful to students Mana Atua, and can reveal some aspects of personality that students were not aware of, as identified by Anglickeho et al (n.d.), could also be perceived as both a negative and positive outcome depending on the aspect revealed.

Real-World Problem Solving
Experiences which have direct applications to real problems, by modeling aspects of real-world complex systems, can give students opportunity to engage and interact, explore and experiment within set parameters, learning how to manipulate these and observing outcomes (Rosenbaum, 2007). This Mana Aotūroa allows students to develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical and material worlds (Ministry of Education, 1996). IPSG help students to develop the ability to reflect more carefully and accurately on their experiences, enables them to visualise the complexity of real life processes and experiences and therefore, should be employed in teaching (Duplessie, 2013; Anglickeho et al, n.d.). They can provide a forum to explore multiple perspectives on a problem (Christopher, 1999), test ideas, make connections, measure outcomes (Rosenbaum, 2007 and Anglickeho et al, n.d.) and to effect changes as they see fit (Madigan, 2010). There is a contradictory perspective though, with some arguing that IPSG are not similar enough to real life and that participants behave more informally or that the situations are gross simplifications as they only include a few real-world factors (Christopher 1999; Anglickeho et al, n.d.). Others, doubt the benefit for all students, as some may gain more from the role they play than others (Jung and Levitin, 2002) or simply be passive or even unwilling to participate altogether (Anglickeho et al, n.d.).

When role-play is utilised within this context, students are no longer required to think and act like students but as investigators, thinking, arguing and producing evidence and counter-evidence as they participate in the world in new and interesting ways (Squire and Jan, 2007).  IPSG enable students to explore, gain and trial the skills and knowledge they need to achieve success which is the foundational principle of Ka Hikitia (Ministry of Education, 2009) and is reflective of their lives outside of the classroom.  Although IPSG can force students to imagine situations they have not previously experienced (Sellar, 2012), the contexts are not always required to be completely unknown. Squire and Jan (2007) also argue that playing a game in a familiar place encourages students to apply knowledge, as well as challenging them to consider how abstract concepts might play out. When meaningful problems are addressed and abstract content is placed in a concrete, practical context, students can develop a contextual understanding of facts and principles and these take on a tangible relevance (Barab and Dede, 2007;, 2015).

Collaboration, Communication and the Development of Soft Skills
In our information-based economy students require soft skills that traditional classroom practices do not teach adequately (Dewey, 1938) such as teamwork, conflict resolution, problem solving (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013), Mana Tangata, Mana Reo (Ministry of Education, 1996), time management, critical thinking, empathy, and one of the most important, accepting and learning from failure (Vanek & Peterson, 2016).
A valuable feature of immersive participatory simulation games is that they are usually centered around completing a task as a part of a collective. Emphasis is placed on cooperation as a way of winning (Andrés et al, 2011), resulting in the perception of what the goals are changing from knowledge-based to personal and team-based (Rosenbaum, 2007). This leads to the development of cooperative and creative skills and Mana Whenua (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013). The current generation of learners is growing up with exposure and immersion in technology which impacts on their preferred learning style, so much so that it is often argued that they now prefer active, collaborative learning, although it was stated in one study that students, regardless of generation, agreed on the value of using gaming in education (Bekebrede et al, 2010). It was also suggested that as the IPSG environment is fictitious, players behave differently than they would in a real collaborative situation, becoming less confrontational and being more flexible and responsive to each other (Christopher, 1999).

Through rich discussion and deliberation, students can experience the consequences of joint decisions in a low-risk environment (Jones, 1980) and learn from each other as they may benefit from the explanations of concepts, actions and decisions from their peers (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013). Duplessie (2013) states that we tend to retain 90% of what we say and do compared with only 50% of what we see and hear.

The engaging and interactive nature of IPSG means that students readily engage in discussion (Rosenbaum, 2007) and use language to turn their motivations into results (Sellar, 2012). The necessity to negotiate a shared view of reality (Christopher, 1999) and participate in the communicative process (Andrés et al, 2011) means that IPSG can also be an effective language tool both for foreign languages (Jung and Levitin 2002) or simply in the development of native oral language which is critical to later academic success (Gee, 2004; Squire and Jan, 2007; Ministry of Education, 2009).

Construction of Knowledge
Despite a growing emphasis on soft skills it is still important for students to be able to construct and manipulate knowledge. Through the use of Immersive Participatory Simulation Games (IPSG) students can develop understandings across a wide range of subjects (Vanek & Peterson, 2016) and explicitly unpack and explore concepts related to particular disciplines (Klopfer, Osterweil, & Salen, 2009; Groff, McColl, & Gilbert, 2016; Google Trends, 2016). There is a substantial body of research around the impact IPSG have on students ability to construct knowledge and how they can be valuable in skill development (Groff et al, 2016). IPSG encourage students to engage in deep thinking, more so than they might otherwise have done with more traditional methods of teaching (Squire and Jan, 2007 and MoE, 2016). Antonio Ferreira Randi (2013) notes that with greater student interaction comes better performance in their construction of knowledge, as students learn new pathways to consolidate what they know. They also serve as the ideal way to integrate new knowledge into a student’s previous network (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013) and meets students, regardless of ability, where they are at in their learning, serving as either an instructional experience or as a place to practise and reinforce concepts (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 1999; Groff et al, 2016). Furthermore, they provide an ideal environment in which to learn through trial and error, connecting content and skills (Andrés et al, 2011; McDowall, 2015).

Some concerns arise with the use of IPSG to teach however; students in one study were afraid of missing material or not learning effectively (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013) and Andrés et al (2011) advises that some students learn from games while others simply do not. Squire and Jan, (2007) observed that there is notable difference between the way younger and older students engage in IPSG in the way that they transfer their prior knowledge to solve problems.

Student literacy skills were notably referred to as being challenged through IPSG, with observable increases in comprehension (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013), children reading substantially above their level (Buckingham, 2003, Gee, 2003, Steinkuehler, 2005) and students engaging in higher order thinking skills and behaviours such as synthesizing, communicating, questioning and debating what they had read (Squire & Jan, 2007). This is crucial to note as Māori students in English medium schools continue to be more likely to have lower levels of achievement in literacy, numeracy and science than non-Māori students (Ministry of Education, 2009).

It would be easy to assume that IPSG would be beneficial to Māori, who traditionally learnt through active methods, based in a real-world context, or because Māori knowledge was historically formed, shaped, constructed and transmitted through an oral tradition, however, Te Mangaroa (2011) cautions against this type of convenient stereotyping, stating that it is simply not accurate and does not apply to all Māori students.  It is critical in the wake of Maori underachievement in education that Maori are engaged in programmes that reflect their unique identity, capabilities and skills, are engaging, challenges their thinking, accelerates their progress and supports them to select pedagogies that are most closely aligned to their needs and help in the construction of knowledge (Ministry of Education, 2009).

What are the implications of immersive participatory simulation games on teacher pedagogy?

Changing trends in education are fundamentally changing the way we think about learning, problem solving and personal development (Burke, 2014) and therefore, are also changing the way that teachers are presenting their learning programmes.  Student engagement in participatory games is just one of a number of forces that are reshaping the way learning programmes are being presented to students.  Interest in immersive, participatory simulation games (IPSG) is at an all-time high, with more educators choosing to incorporate a variety of games for learning in their classrooms (Groff et al, 2016; Google Trends, 2016), as the educational system is disrupted and primed for a transformational change (Burke, 2014).  This shift presents teachers with a challenge of developing tools that engage students and increase active participation and critical thinking rather than emphasising the memorisation of scientific concepts and facts (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013).

The Ministry of Education propose that the inclusion of games of this nature in educational programmes present an opportunity for teachers to think differently about learning, and about what students and teachers might be doing (Ministry of Education, 2016).  IPSG have developed a reputation with educationalists around the world, and are perceived as a potentially engaging form of supplementary learning that could enhance the educational process and has been used at all level of education including primary, secondary and tertiary education (Hainey, Connolly, Boyle, Wilson, & Razak, 2016), although Vanek and Peterson (2016) argue that this is simply a new name for a pedagogical technique which has been used throughout the world for centuries.

The best teaching methods change the teacher too (Sellar, 2012); when IPSG are used within the classroom programme, Andrés et al (2011) has found that the time devoted to the more traditional form of transmissive education and lecturing is reduced, and teachers are actually teaching less.  Groff et al (2016) propose that this is one of the reasons that the inclusion of games in the classroom is discouraged in some schools. Interestingly, even with the reduced teaching time, IPSG are still having a positive result on student outcomes (Andrés et al, 2011).  The teacher's role within this methodology changes but remains essential in guiding, facilitating and encouraging students to learn from the experience (Andrés et al, 2011).

The importance of the teacher’s influence on the success of this methodology is supported in the findings of Antonio Ferreira Randi (2013) and Anglickeho et al (n.d.) who assert that the cooperative learning experience is heavily impacted by the teacher’s discourse, beliefs and enthusiasm, finding that a teacher's positive attitude is vital. Antonio Ferreira Randi’s (2013) work has identified  that a large number of teachers continue to be orthodox and reluctant to change their teaching style and cautions that this resistance to new methodologies can constrain teacher participation and attitudes.  Groff et al (2016) suggests that this may be the result of a lack of teachers own experience and understanding of games for learning. Andrés et al also warns that these games can be time consuming (2011), and this can act as a barrier to a teacher's desire to include IPSG in their programme.  Simulations require considerable time and effort on the part of the teacher (Jung and Levitin, 2002) and teachers need to be very well prepared because students tend to ask more questions when actively participating than when passively listening (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013).  However, the benefit of this methodology is celebrated and continues to remain the main teaching tools in some nordic schools (Anglickeho et al, n.d.).  It is therefore important to ensure that the potential impacts of these games are shared with teachers, students, administrators, school leaders and parents who also need to understand the pedagogical impact of playing IPSG (SIIA, 2009).  This is particularly important for Maori, for whom whānau hold an integral role in the learning and development of children (Ministry of Education, 2009).  

IPSG can provide a powerful mechanism for capturing rich data on student learning (Phillips & Popovic 2012); however, there is still considerable work to be done to ensure more robust models of assessment-based games are designed and in examining how they might play out in an educational context (Groff et al, 2016). Andrés et al (2011) promotes the potential of these types of games in the acquisition and development of soft skills and suggests that teachers could use IPSG to assess student outcomes that reflect these skills alongside the content of the game.  Farber (2016) presents a more traditional perspective suggesting that teachers should look to assess the learning transfer that has been facilitated within the game experience back to the various content areas of the curriculum.  Royal (1993) argues both of these areas are of equal importance, and explains the traditional Maori conceptualisation of the mind (hinengaro) as having two parts: Te Puna Mahara and Te Puna Wananga in which both of these types of knowledge are reflected.

There are numerous varying perspectives of the role of assessment within this methodology, however it is commonly agreed by researchers and educationalists that teachers do need assurance that the experience prepared for their students involves quality learning outcomes and will provide them with meaningful information related to the effect they have on student performance.  Regardless of whether these experiences are used to support key curriculum concepts, or the acquisition of future skills required by our students, with IPSG still in a state of infancy, it is widely agreed that there is a lack of quantitative data and assessment feedback from these types of games (Groff et al, 2016).  It is hoped that as teachers are trained and gain more experience with IPSG, they will produce better results in terms of the students’ quantitative performance (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013; Anglickeho et al, n.d.).  

Conclusion and suggested areas for future research  
The introduction of immersive participatory simulation games is relatively new to the educational context, and as such research in this area is limited. While this literature review shows that IPSG have been found to be a powerful tool for education, it is also clear that more attention, awareness and study is needed. It would be beneficial for a wider body of IPSG to be studied and compared for its educational capabilities and to further examine how it compares to more traditional pedagogy.

Analysis of those IPSG that have been successful would be advantageous in determining how these games could be better included in teaching and learning programmes, and how they can be used to target and support learning outcomes and identified student needs.  In order to do this, educators need to establish parameters to determine a shared understanding of what constitutes a successful game experience.  The development and design of usability tests that measure the degree of improvement in students learning outcomes and the development of skills would also be beneficial, as evidence of effectiveness and improved student outcomes will become increasingly important as these games continue to increase in popularity and schools continue to seek assessments using evidence-centered methodologies.  

Much of the literature reviewed in this study has talked about the engaging aspects of IPSG and the positive impact this has had on student learning and experience.  Educators are likely to find further research examining the correlation between their level of engagement and enthusiasm for using IPSG, to the level of excitement transferred to students interesting. It would also be beneficial to examine how we can harness the engagement and motivation for learning experienced within IPSG into other contexts, and what this would look like.  However, in order for this to be widely adopted, work also needs to be done that addresses the needs and barriers of IPSG on educators, and their students.  This research then needs to be shared with the growing global community who already show an interest in this developing pedagogical approach, increasing opportunities to better share good practice, grow knowledge and increase evidence of their impact within an educational context.

Although the New Zealand Council for Educational Research has commenced research into the use of games for learning, there is no available research that examines the use of immersive participatory simulation games in a New Zealand educational context, and there is also no research that specifically addresses how the needs and academic outcomes of our Maori and Pasifika learners could be improved through such approaches. The open nature and ability to design IPSG to reflect the needs of all children provides an opportunity to connect Maori aspirations, philosophies, processes and pedagogies to political, social, economic and cultural wellbeing (Hemara, 2000; Ka'ai & Higgins, 2004; Ministry of Education, 1996, Ministry of Education, 2009).  This is particularly important as the primary and secondary education focus areas cover the largest number of Māori students in formal education.  The complexity of Maori pedagogy presents a multitude of possibilities for those that are willing and committed to bringing about positive change for Maori within education (Pihama, Smith, Taki & Lee, 2004).   As such, specific research into the potential impact IPSG has on our students with diverse cultural and educational needs would be beneficial and timely, as innovative approaches to education that are engaging, effective, enjoyable, rewarding and positive continue to be sought for students who are identified to be at risk of disengaging and falling behind academically (Ministry of Education, 2009).

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