‘Super Motherload’ by Roxley Games

It has been quite some time since I have last blogged…But since coming to my new school in August 2017, there have been many exciting developments!

From October 2017, we have built a thriving number of groups who are enjoying role-playing games, board games as well as card/deck-building games (there is even one large group of senior pupils who carry their DnD 5th exploits beyond school – and beyond the working week!)

Advanced Squad Leader, Dungeons and Dragons (5th edition) and Traveller have been the mainstay titles for the first few months, however now that we have secured a steady cohort of pupils we are now reviewing newer games.  So what can these games provide pupils?

Recently I listened to the Games in Schools and Libraries podcast in which the hosts and guests discussed Leadership as one of the skills that can be nurtured, developed through board- and rpg-gaming.  Opportunities to lead. A chance to open up and talk – be creative – amongst their peers.

A new gaming experience stripped of CGI and re-enforced with an extra helping of human contact.

Games allow teachers to support the affective domains of the child – their emotional well-being, their affinity with peers, school – a sense of belonging

3d_box_cover2-0So, ‘Super Mother Load‘ by Roxley games. Those wonderful and very generous people provided us with three copies (one has been ‘checked in’ at the library as we see boardgames becoming an artefact as powerful as a novel or a text book) and we have just finished our first session (John won, by the way). It took us three weeks: lunchtimes are limited to circa forty five minutes.

So how did it fare? Very well, actually. I was really impressed.

At its most primitive, mechanical level, this game is effective at providing support for the teaching of Numeracy: using your drilling cards you dig for resources under the Martian crust, with each recovered resource providing the recipient with a dollar value, which then allows them to purchase more powerful cards…  I could envisage this game being used in a Business Studies context (I know – it is set on Mars), whereby pupils are rewarded for their ability to strategise and to discuss their re-investment options in future operational activities based on resource availability.

cameringo_20171119_102555-1The components are durable. The artwork is fantastic. The user manual is very well laid out, with each section is clearly represented and accompanied by symbols where required.  The game board is small enough to be located behind a cupboard door until the next outing; since multiple boards are used for each level these can also be stacked carefully.

The pupils worked fairly co-cooperatively – my two ‘opponents’ were also learning the game; but even as the action rose and the climax was reached,  over-competitiveness did not not rear its head and instead we all continued to discuss each other’s opportunities.

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POS Tagging of the BAS Booklet

POSWThanks to the web, I managed to cobble together R code which identified and sent to a text file the Parts of Speech used in the school’s, ‘Becoming a Scientist’ booklet.

As you can see (for the first 20 words of 1522):


I’m interested in correlations between the science content and verb/personal pronoun gravity. For example, the choice of verbs, ‘you’, ‘I’ and ‘we’ – does this affect retention/recall? And what about during after gameplay?

This code will also benefit deep analysis of pupils’ texts produced: pronoun/verb dispersion; lexical sophistication relating to game narrative recall.

And much more.

From Corpus to Classroom


Exploring the links between corpus linguistics and language teaching

Small, specialised corpora associate with MCC game use and Science E&Os

Chapter 8 –  Relational Language
– hedging: pedagogical re analysing pupil articulation during recall / knowledge construction

Chapter 7 – Listenership and response
– engagement tokens

Chapter 5 – Grammar and Lexis and Patterns

Chapter 9 – Language and Creativity
Quantative and qualitative methods required

A Visitation

The clock has started…

I received a visit from my MSc Supervisor last Tuesday, and he had kindly come from Edinburgh to speak about Literary, Science and games-based learning.

A delightful buffet, ice-breaker conversation that included two distinguished colleagues and them we were underway.

Data. Limits.  What exactly am I looking to analyse?

Well I’ve recently become less fearful in modifying my original Research Question, including the key points it hoped to explore: this is key because one of the suggestions was scope, the corollary being the volume and management of the generated data.

Gantt Charts are useful (but sometimes they are all consuming) and I have two, a ‘micro’ and a ‘macro’.  The meta level planning – academic reading, literature review, questionnaires, observations, data collation,  analysis, write up and submission …

The micro identifies the daily (and lesson plan) ‘action research’ activities across the 5 weeks between 6th January and the first week of February.  The first two weeks are aimed at providing pupils with the backstory to their imagined Mars landing, as well as allowing them time to acclimatise to the GUI, their team (of 4).

Being the kernel to the focus if analytical lens of Activity Theory (CHAT) , we then have three weeks of learning where pupils adopt the tool of Mars Colony Challenger and I observe m activities that I hope are transformative in knitting together ‘seeded’ Science curricular knowledge, in-game immersion and literacies.  (Amazon provided two cheap but capable tripods for the department Flip cameras to deliver this rich qualitative data set.)

Pupil journals, observations of group discussion, records of reading occurrences of multiple media forms (even F1 Help provides a ‘text’) and weekly triangulation with my ‘Science Guy’ to assess the progress of pupils’ competence against a set of ‘SCN-‘ Es & Os.

An ‘exit questionnaire’ or report task will provide us with a testing instrument against which will be applied pre-questionnaire knowledge.

A number of ‘ENG-‘ outcomes have been defined,  but the majority are Literacy focused and cover Reading, Writing, Listening(Watching) and Talking.  In conjunction with activity system diagrams, activity narratives and the application of the aforementioned Es & Os I will look at additional ‘codes’ that present themselves through MCC use and ‘curious play’.

Common ground? Literacy.  And how will the addition of a multi-user simulation software application immerse and engage pupils in applying their learning within a collaborative virtual environment? 


Masters Proposal – First Draft


It has been a long time since I have posted; I aim to address this by using this space to explore my thoughts, concerns, fears, anxieties – every facet concerning the MSc. in Digital Education, which will be undertaken (part-time) at the University of Edinburgh.

Many thanks to The Scottish Government for facilitating the completion of this Masters-level study. (And special “thanks” to those wonderful people at Edinburgh!)

What began as an MEd. proposal through the University of West of Scotland and The Chartered Teacher Pathway Programme, has now been augmented with elements of the ‘digital games-based learning’ module that featured as part of the  ‘E-learning’ Postgraduate Programme I was undertaking in parallel at University of Edinburgh.

mmorning1The main context of the research is the evaluation of the introduction of a multi-user software simulation – Mars Colony Challenger – to a number of English and Science lessons, placing users as part of an expedition team tasked with the formation of a colony on Mars, in order that reflective practice, analysis, and evaluation – all essential high-level skills in the 21st Century – can be developed through increasing motivation and engagement with learning that is personally relevant.

Providing pupils with the necessary back-story, supporting materials and ‘communities of practice’, they will have the opportunity to engage in real-life science and logic problems that will allow them to adopt the virtual personas of scientists and engineers and therefore transform and synthesise these experiences into narratives an other artefacts that evince a similar (or deeper) understanding of a scientific topic previously delivered through the passive delivery of science content, aided by the increased use of literacy skills.


Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) will be used as the theoretical lens to analyse and facilitate collaborative efforts, focusing on the tensions between: learning a scientific topic and increasing the use of literacy; and the reduction of teacher-led instruction, with an increased focus on the activities of communities in supporting the learning. 16_copy

This research activity aims to increase the opportunities for both the effective use and assessment of literacy, and possibilities for the spread and coordination of lessons beyond normal classroom timeframes and boundaries; the possibility that science content be distributed electronically and across the competencies of the learners themselves; for pupils to “act as a community of scientists…and use the languages and practices of scientists” (Royle, 2008) through a simulated mission to Mars, and carrying out a variety of tasks, demonstrate the key principles of a Science through discussion and imaginative and other genres of writing.

Currently, students are evaluating the software application and providing feedback, which I then use in discussions with the US-based developer. Skype is the obvious choice.

So, Summer 2013 looks to be one of much academic reading and preparation.