School’s Rockin At Gavinburn

This is the write up from the Scotsman on the games-based learning project that’s rockin Gavinburn primary in West Dumbrtonshire.

PRETENDING to be a rock star on a computer console is not how most parents imagine their children spend their time at school.

But at Gavinburn Primary in Old Kilpatrick, West Dunbartonshire, such a game has seen youngsters dramatically improve in subjects ranging from French to geography.

Headteacher Gillian Penny said: “All kids want to be rock stars but once you’re into it the game doesn’t have a huge impact apart from being the hook.”

It is an example of what is described as contextual hub learning, in other words, using something that interests children to sneak in some education – without them realising.

Mrs Penny added: “The learning that goes on after that is all very firmly based on literacy and numeracy, and ICT (information and communication technology].”

The project has been running at the primary for two years and this year all 40 primary sevens took part. Pupils were split into ten “bands” and had to use literacy skills to create alter-ego characters and a band history. They then had to use their music and technological skills to write and record a song, digitally, and make a video. After that they were “invited” on a tour and so had to research it, finding a venue in France and, finally, had to do a radio interview in French.

“They have to create the whole conversation in French, which is huge,” said Mrs Penny: “It’s probably one of the biggest results of the project – the improvement in their French – which is not what we expected.”

The project has been highlighted by the school inspectorate as excellent practice in promoting literacy and numeracy.

Additional topics, such as drugs awareness, are also taught by creating a storyline involving one of the band members.

Mrs Penny said: “There’s a huge amount of writing – they have to write a band profile, character, respond to letters, write news articles, lyrics, and speeches for our Gavin awards – our version of the Brits. And when going on tour, they have to work out flight connections, prices, currency conversions and, space for staging. There’s a huge amount.”

It is a programme which is now firmly on the school calendar. Mrs Penny added: “Because it finishes with this huge event at the end, which is a black-tie do, it’s something the rest of the school are very aware of so they are looking forward to it when they are in primary two.

“It’s become a rite of passage almost, it’s a very good fun topic but they also work very hard.”

Ollie Bray, a depute head of Musselburgh Grammar School, now seconded as a national adviser for emerging technologies in learning at Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) – the body responsible for the curriculum – was the first to innovate with Guitar Hero in the classroom.

He said Scotland is leading the way in the use of computer games in schools. He added: “Guitar Hero has now been used all over Scotland as a context for learning and social interaction.”

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