Videogames are a highly popular and dynamic art form, featuring imaginative fictional 'worlds' in which stories unfold. When children play videogames they are developing digital literacies and learning to read complex multimodal narratives. When they make videogames they become digital artists and authors.

In this project teachers, school leaders and digital artists will work with Maker{Futures} and the National Videogame Museum on a programme of continued professional development and learning, to increase skills, knowledge, experience and confidence in using arts-based practices to teach digital literacies and 'Worldbuilding'.

We aspire for children to be empowered as videogame 'Worldbuilders'.

Why videogames?

Children are engaged by videogames and playing games can support their learning. Previous projects demonstrate that incorporating videogames in the curriculum helps children to draw on their existing knowledge and expertise and reconnect with education. However, children need to develop their understanding and to be makers as well as consumers of videogames. Although videogames are used to support some learning in schools, they are rarely focused on as contemporary art forms with rich visual and sound designs.

Teachers may lack familiarity with interesting new videogames or those that are popular with children. Making videogames in schools is also rare, and, although confidence in using software to create simple games is increasing, there is now a need to connect teaching coding, with coding as an arts practice. Through a process of engagement with artist practitioners and colleagues from The NVM, MakerFutures and the UoS, teachers and school leaders will develop expertise in incorporating videogames to create arts-based teaching and learning opportunities for primary school children. Working as part of a community of practice and focusing on the written, visual, audio and coded art of videogames, teachers will explore new ways for children to develop digital literacies and access opportunities within this growing industry.

This programme of collective CPDL will also support the integration of the computing curriculum into English. We will take a 'maker' approach to CPD and classroom practice; an effective approach that supports the learning of disadvantaged children.

How will arts-based content/processes relate to the curriculum?

The focus of this project will be on the development of digital literacies through the arts. In relation to the UK National Curriculum, the focus will therefore be on the primary English and Computing curriculum. Within the English curriculum we will focus particularly on developing the reading and making of digital stories. Playing and making videogames will be central to this aim. Our CPDL will enable teachers to support children to play (read, analyse, interpret, deconstruct) videogames and make (design, create, reflect and redesign) videogames.

We aim to enable teachers and artist practitioners to develop their repertoires of pedagogic approaches, in response to the possibilities opened up by digital media arts. Teachers will be encouraged to adopt new approaches to designing engaging learning experiences for children, informed by an understanding of the role of sound, music, moving image and design of videogames. We believe that it is valuable for children to understand the different processes associated with distinct art forms, but also to recognise the way these intersect in videogames. We will therefore be focusing on the arts-based processes involved in videogames design and relating these to the English and Computing curriculum:

We plan to use a particular pedagogic approach, maker-centred learning, which underpins the work of MakerFutures and is underpinned by robust international research. Maker-centred learning puts the learner at the centre of making. Deciding what to make, how to make it and why it needs making in the first place are key to establishing meaningful and authentic learning.

What areas of teachers’ knowledge and practice do we hope to develop?

We will ask teachers to adopt the role of makers and 'world builders' who will play, explore, experiment, tinker, hack and design, using digital materials. Through immersion in and analysis of videogames teachers (and subsequently children) will develop understanding and mastery over:

i. the visual (images of avatars, worlds and artefacts)

ii. the written (uses of language and font)

iii. the audio (sound design and music)

iv. the coded (algorithms and ludic elements)

The findings from the project will be shared via the Maker{Futures} website as the project progresses.

The WorldBuilders project is run in partnership with the National Videogame Museum and Northfield Junior School and funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation