Pelillisyys, gameful and playful learning, designing
When we arrived to Österskov larp-school in Denmark, students had been served a good breakfast by students who were in duty of kitchen work. At the beginning we felt like being home. Österskov Efterskole is a boarding school for 10 th grade students who try to find out what they will do after the 9 th gr or they try to get better grades. Generally speaking they get a good for their lives. Our trip was an great experience for us. Here is few lines of it. Be my guest.
They have all kind of visitors during the year and that's the reason why it has become so natural to request visitors. Games and rpg in learning has become a remarkable tool for learning. Well, it will be any way. Schools, Universities and researchers want to learn how to educate in narrative framework. Is it possible to learn by playing, because that is what they are doing in Hobro’s Österskov Efterskole. Learning by live-action role-playing.
Subjects are embedded to the story of the game and they try to solve the problems as a team in a make-believed world. They solve problems in the world where they have clear connection to reality of world and the experiences of their own life. Students are as a role the protagonist of their own story in the game or actually in the play, because the larp is more like a play.
This week they were hunting aliens in the USA in some western City. The Aliens has landed to earth to spread worms witch were infected humans and changed them as the aliens. Luckily there were clear signs of habits and symptoms of revealing the mutants. They avoid touching by nervous way and drink water all the time. They also have too high specific gravity and the stride length. Luckily citizens have their way to calculate the revealing measurement of the suspicious townspeople. Teachers had helped them by giving hints of math, physics and chemistry. So they actually asked the way to calculate the sights of the human body. There were also some difficulties between the citizens because of the social classes. Townspeople belonged to different social classes and they have different relation to money. Single and married people had different motives to manage their lives. Students had to make clear their characters of their roles. Part of the knowledge was found from the walls of the crystal room (the new part of the school, room with the big wide windows). Wikipedia and the Khan-academy were used very diligently.
Game-master (teachers) shared rumors of the suspicious townspeople and gamers classified hints of rumors in the window of the crystal room. Everything was explained us by students in remarkable good English. They were able to analyze the dialectics of our English. For example I was a godfather of Österskov and I had to repeat all the time. “I have an offer, you can’t refuse.”
We founded out quite soon, we had become middle of the nerds and one of us felt to come middle of his own people. The rest of us tried to present us the becoming nerds and we got quite good applauses in the mail Ceremony of the school.
It might would had been quite crisis if the English teacher had come with automatic weapon (fake one of course) to the class and a cowboy hat on his head. In the larp school it is only natural and soon we forgot that it wasn’t the mother language lesson where the students presents the literature of United States. The level of their English was quite high. Some of the students suffered of tension but the engaging was so high that they really wanted to fight for their team and present their own part of the common presentation. Even their skills and scores in school subjects are quite average of the level of the whole Denmark, their English skills are far above the average of the rest of the Denmark.
The RPG-town citizens tried to find out who had got the infection. Luckily they had made their guns and had hints and rumors, their teacher had spread. They needed math, physics and chemistry skills to solve those nasty accusations. They calculated the length of the aliens steps via sin and cosine. They finded out the specific gravity and test their pupils. The engine of the learning was to learn useful knowledge and try to manage with aliens. We visited in the group study rooms. In one of those we met two boys. Another boy explained something to another. Peer-learning! There we saw one of the few books they used. They used books, but only when it is necessary. Another peer tried to build a robot in the corridor. The girl wrote down topics and knowledge by hand. The handwriting showed that she was a nerd. Well, they needed the computer to find the knowledge of e-solutions, mechanic and other solution they needed to build the robot. Later we heard, that in the previous years some students had sold their robot innovation to the some company. ??????
At this time that peer wanted to study in the corridor, where they had tables which can be lowered down from the wall. They wanted to stay middle in the action.
What would you answer if you were asked question : “4?” This is the metaphor of the twisted thoughts of the teacher in the Österskov. They want the students to use their head and they think that studying should be engaging at the same time. Everything has bounded to the learning context, narration where students work together and try to solve common dilemma. They are talking about the engine. When they are plannin, they choice the game genre, subjects and the engine. At this week the engine was the Alien hunting. Next week it will be some dilemma inside of the decades in the 20th century.
In the week, they studied math, physics, chemistry and English of course. At the same time another teacher group planned the next week where topic subjects was more humanistic subjects. History, philosophy, geography and so on. This kind of division of labor is the rescue for teachers and for specially their families. At the beginning of the story of the larp school they almost killed them selves working 24/7.
The assessment of the learning was quite flexible process. Debriefing, stories, news in the newspaper of the game world, hint and notes of the aliens in the windows and calculations of the measures and problems, Notes of the physics and chemistry, diaries and so on and so on. Huge numbers of writing and talking. They have tests too. The results as I mentioned are at quite average level. That’s only the one side of the coin.
We met some students who arrived to spend weekend at Österskov (??) They want to come to enjoy weekends’ game and the atmosphere they love. We had interesting discussion with one of those visitors. At first he asked us save the students from normal schools to game-based school, when he head, we will found the one in the Finland. He will have soon his graduating from local trade school and he is going to start his own business.
He told of his first experiences of the trade school. He wandered the knowledge of the society of his class mates. The democracy is clear in his mind. The others doesn't have it.
He had explanation for that. For example the game, were they situated at the history of the USA, he learned it because “he had been there”. His mates in the trade school has used to study by force and knowledge by heart. In the Österskov they live through it.
Then we remembered the social classes of the role in the town where aliens landed to the West part of the USA. The roles belonged to the specific social groups and they paid taxes in different ways. They really had been there!
When we interviewed the principal, he told us that there were three views unofficially embedded in the planning work. Integration of the subject and the knowledge , communication and language, the technical knowing . Teachers must be actors, novelists, dramaturges, designers and directors and they have to know several subjects.
“Well, anything more?”
Is there any challenges in the Österskov? Well, they have their supporters, students? Yet, there are always students, who have different learning styles, interests, health, mental health and so on. Teachers can’t watch out everybody and they should not watch. Yet there is always need to support better the students who have special needs. It is the challenge that we all have In our schools. Another challenge is the supporting the work of the teachers systematically.
These ones in the Österskov have their way to work, but what about when they will get old. Perhaps the students will grow up and get the teacher graduationg. I think that’s the only way, because those teachers in the Österskov need one bravery medal in every independent days.
The way they learn in the Hobro, is amazing and I would like to find out something what would create the same flame of spirit in our working team in Otava. Thank you Jarkko and Leppä of good company in our trip. We will do it!
Thank you Mads Lunau and heroic Co! We will invite you soon!