‘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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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

Quantitative Methods

Since receiving very detailed and verbose feedback from the team at Press Start, I have been beavering away and ‘learning’ – well, copying examples from webpages, books, software, etc – about statistics particular to student testing. I’ve been covering mean values, produced bar charts in Excel with box plots and error bars, I’ve been using independent and dependent paired-t tests. Time to append to my ongoing ‘Professional Update’ activities.

I am far from being an expert, but I at least have the materials and exemplars with which to work if I have the need to do so again.

I have also discovered an interesting programming language – R – suited to data analysis, or more wondrously titled ;data mining’. I plan to put it through its paces with my current S2 class which has just begun its Mars mission.  I am becoming more interested in the use of the pronouns, ‘I’ and ‘We’ in association with collaborative learning with or without the use of a digital game. I will, as always, use Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT) as the analytic lens.

More to follow.

Literacy and the Visual Image

I am continuing to undertake research into Game-based Learning, and single-gender teaching in particular. I’m reading a PhD on the classification of audio within digital games and their contributions to immersion.

But meanwhile…

I have been reading the following paper:

Rowsell, Jennifer; Kendrick, Maureen. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy.Apr2013, Vol. 56 Issue 7, p587-599.

It discusses the benefits of visual cues – student- generated or chosen from a third-party source – in assisting students producing richer narratives. (This accords with an other recent paper on Dyslexia, which accompanies a specially-designed font, and also notes the need for the use of visual cues.)

Of course, the subjects of the papers are young males.

Three modalities and three sites of meaning are defined.

Modalities are: technological, compositional & social. The three sites of meaning are: site of production, the bonded unit of the image, and the site of viewing. The theory of ‘site’ takes account of the social practices of the context in which the image was produced, what it ‘contains’ and where and when it is viewed: from one to three different locations. And henceforth, this has effects on the production and reception of the resulting narrative.

All of which accords with Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), Cole, Engstrom, et al., the socio-cultural analysis tool which I have been using as part of my observations of group work, formally and informally. Kendrick and Rowsell go on to suggest:

“An ecological approach to language learning emphasizes emergent language development; “learning and cognition as explained not only in terms of processes inside the head, but also in terms of interaction with the environment; and learners’ perceptual and social activity as, in a fundamental way, their learning” (vanLier, 2000, cited in Hornberger, 2002, p. 35). An ecological approach allows us to look more closely at the performance of multimodal text construction and to consider students’ experience across time and within a variety of contexts” (Roswell & Kendrick, p.590, 2013).

So we English teachers should acknowledge the power of the visual image to support narrative production, tapping “into students’ motivations, interests and convictions” – especially boys – and ‘recruit’ what “students bring to learning” (The New London Group, 1996 in Roswell & Kendrick, 2013).



I have been trawling the web – catching the mere fragrance of a Wi-Fi signal from poolside – for a complete set of tools to aid my Masters Research. And when I find a glimmer of hope, it turns out to be a Mac-based solution/workflow.

I know.  Switch off and relax, I hear you say.

I already use Scrivener for document management of both my academic reading resources and my own writings; Evernote will be pressed into service as my sole data collection tool; Mendeley is my academic reference manager of choice.  I also have Atlas.ti to assist with coding, and it is proving quite intimidating – and that’s only from reading the mini manual.  More on ‘coding’ in a future posting.

So: Scrivener, Evernote, Mendeley, Atlas.ti. 

I’m hoping that Scrivener will allow for an external folder to be mapped to its project structure so that it and the desktop version of Evernote can both utilise its content, which will use the ‘MSc Digital Education’ notebook I have created and organised into folders that mimic that of my Research Dissertation.

I have a skeleton prepared within Scrivener, and the metaphor used is very similar to Microsoft Explorer where you can nest folders within each other as well as documents.  From my web readings many students note that the benefit of this feature is that it actually assists the thinking of the research workflow as well as the structure of the eventual discussion that your piece of work is intending to convey.

Fine-grained?  One can actually reduce a section or page into a number if separate text documents which are then included (or excluded) when the project is compiled into the final target document. Notes/annotations can be added as meta-data and which can be viewed via the corkboard overview feature. 

(I think this would benefit pupils who struggle to paragraph and others who would benefit from having a permanently displayed scaffold for their writing).

I hope as the conclusion of thing that I am not the proverbial ‘bad workman’.


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?