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Art and Play

pens and pencils

One of the projects I’m working on at the moment is a website that will help primary school children (5-11s) with their art work.

The audience for the resource is quite complicated because teachers are likely to be the standard bearers for it – they’ll be the ones that direct children to it (at least in the first instance).  So the site has to be teacher and classroom (i.e. interactive whiteboard) – friendly as well appealing to the under 11s.  The task is further complicated by the double-edged sword of being a ‘fun’ subject – anecdotally, we’ve heard that teaching can suffer both from unimaginative lessons (“it’s already engaging what else do we need to do?”) and from the cacophony of opinions about creative expression.

Our expectation and aim is for the site to help teachers integrate and delivery ‘good’ art education into the classroom and produce a vehicle for children to structure their projects.

A device we’re exploring to promote participation is a scoring mechanism: a simple mechanic that rewards effort.  I’m not going to argue with Huizinga (or indeed my post on game definitions) when he says such activity is not a game but we’re hoping that the playful rewards will add value to each child’s involvement.  Not only will the scoring recognise effort, it will create an internal system of value to the resource – harder activities will carry greater recompense.  For example, identifying more features of a ‘great work’ will score more points, writing a note on what you’d do differently next time will receive a bonus, and uploading an image of your work will give you a badge of achievement.

The rewards won’t be as sophisticated or varied as Call of Duty but we recognise that they will have to have a meaningful currency if the points are to be perceived as worth acquiring.  If the rewards are too easy, they become cheap and unattractive, too sparse and there’s insufficient wage for effort.  Likewise, what exactly does acquiring the points mean? Can users brag? Compete? Unlock? Level up?  If a dollar or a pound is theoretically worth that amount of gold, what’s out precious metal?  It’s an issue to address.

One of the other interesting aspects we’ll be testing during development is whether such incentives actually promote learning or simply drive the children to ‘play the game better.’

I’ll let you know how we get on, but I’d be interested in hearing of similar activities if you have them…

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