Livingstone’s bold vision for game-based learning

By his own standards, the past few years have been quiet for Ian Livingstone.

The man who founded Games Workshop, co-authored the Fighting Fantasy series and launched Tomb Raider, has spent the last five years transforming the UK games market.

He was instrumental in introducing the Games Tax Relief, and in 2011 he co-produced the Next Gen Skills Review, which led the Government into introducing Computer Science into the National Curriculum.

Since that time, Livingstone has been busying himself in trying to launch his own schools to support his education reforms. And as of today, he can proudly announce the formation of two new institutions in Tower Hamlets and Bournemouth, which will specialize in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Maths.

Children born into the internet will likely need to learn skills for jobs that do not yet exist, such is the speed of change in the digital age,” Livingstone told us today.

Five years after the publication of our Next Gen review, computing is now a mandatory subject in primary and secondary schools’ curricula to promote digital-making skills to build new technologies. Children need to be digital creators as well as digital consumers. But building the next must-have app or multi-million selling video game requires not only programming ability, but also creative flair.

An authentic education for the digital world is key, bringing the arts and sciences together to encourage innovation. It is essential that school is a place where creativity flourishes. Arts and sciences should no longer be a question of either or. STEM subjects are essential, but we must never underestimate the contribution that art, music, drama and design makes in promoting diverse thinking, self-expression and self-determination – the raw materials of the Creative Industries. Learning-by-doing is our mantra, and it’s my ambition to make the Livingstone Academies flagship schools for digital creativity.”

This isn’t Livingstone’s first attempt at launching his own academies, and it hasn’t been an easy road.

Two years ago we applied to open a free school in Hammersmith,” recalls Livingstone. There was capacity need for a new school in Hammersmith and it was also a place where we’d opened our first Games Workshop retail store back in 1978.

However, the application did not go quite according to plan. We couldn’t find suitable premises and at the same time we had some push back on our curriculum vision. But fast forward to today and we have sites in Tower Hamlets and Bournemouth, we have a vision and education plan that is understood and approved by the Department for Education, and the Livingstone Foundation has teamed up with the Aspirations Academies Trust to execute the plan.”

The first Livingstone Academy will open in September 2017, with the Bournemouth one set to launch either the same year or in 2018. And these schools will be offering a slightly different education experience, including using games to teach.

I want to bring the work place closer to the school place by having close ties with industry, especially mentoring by people working in the video games and creative industries,” says Livingstone.

Games resonate with children and are a contextual hub for play and learning. Playing a game requires problem-solving, decision making, intuitive learning, trial and error, logic, analysis, management, communication, risk-taking, planning, resource management and computational thinking. Games stimulate the imagination and encourage creativity, curiosity, concentration, teamwork, community, multi-tasking and even and-eye co-ordination. Games give the player continuous assessment and allow failure in a safe environment. Who wouldn’t want their children to learn these meta skills whilst having fun?

I’m not saying for one minute that children will be playing games all day in class, but we will use principles of games-based and project-based learning across the curriculum.”

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