Derek began his teaching career in Dundee in 1994. During his time in class he witnessed two boys, who were in his lower ability maths group, engaging with a complex problem-solving environment on the Super Nintendo console. He was astonished at how they engaged with the problems, how they were challenged by them and how they used their own, independently developed, suite of strategies to solve the problems in order to be successful at the game. Derek noted that this behaviour did not happen in the traditional maths setting and it made him reflect on the context of the game and why it facilitated such impressive abilities in children who had not shown it in the world of learning that they were expected to engage with in class.
This chance observation gave birth to Derek’s interest and passion for games based learning. Two years as an ICT staff tutor in Dundee City Council was followed by a position as a lecturer on the B.Ed(P) and PGDE(P) courses at the University of Dundee. This position allowed him to establish games based learning as a topic of study for his teaching students and then to his successful application to lead games based learning initiatives for Learning and Teaching Scotland via their National Centre for Games and Learning: The Consolarium.
Derek is now partnering local authorities and teachers throughout Scotland to explore the impact of computer games in the classroom. One of his recent projects saw a randomised controlled intervention using Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for the Nintendo DS into Primary classes across 16 schools in Scotland. Could what is ostensibly seen as an entertainment device impact on children’s mental maths ability? Well it seems so, and this, as well as many others of Derek’s projects is contributing to the growing body of work that is helping to change the discourse about the position of, and practical application of, games based learning in classrooms.
Saturday 1 November 2008, 1.30pm Café
The Battle for Intelligence
"I was astonished by the interest and by the fact that so many thoughtful and intelligent people were willing to give up a huge part of their weekends to listen to and discuss ideas."
Ruth Gledhill, religion correspondent, The Times