Get Gaming And Get Smarter: Educational Value In Video Games
- April 6th, 2011
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But more and more researchers, teachers, and parents are recognizing the benefits of video games as learning tools. And we’re not talking about Lemonade Stand and Oregon Trail.
Can video games really impact student learning and not just take their attention away from homework? The President is among those who think so. Among the advantages, games offer an immersive learning environment that engages students in ways that text books don’t. In multiplayer games, students learn to work in teams to accomplish tasks — a skill that’s critical in the workplace for this so-called “entitled generation.” Gamers also build problem solving skills.
Adding video games to school curriculum is relatively cheap, but the development of games that meet educational standards is expensive. But there are games designed for entertainment purposes that have a place in the classroom, according to some teachers. “The Minecraft Teacher” has found a hit with his students laying out tasks for them to complete in the virtual world. The students pick up computer skills as they learn to navigate the world, and they learn social skills as competition heats up. That competition might be just what is missing to motivate student learning in traditional teaching.
An upcoming game designed by Jane McGonigal (author of Reality Is Broken for the New York Public Library shows how learning can be enhanced by augmented reality. Five hundred people will be invited to spend the night in the library’s main branch searching for artifacts in the library’s collection, and creating their own documents in response — such as their interpretation of the U.S. Constitution if it were written today.
McGonigal wants to see teens (and adults) increase their game play dramatically. This idea probably terrifies some parents who worry that their children already get more than enough screen time. She argues that video games give users constant feedback — +1 intelligence points!, +1 strength points! — in a way that real life and modern education doesn’t. Gamers also believe they can win. How many students believe they can win at school?
The challenge for video game proponents is bringing the optimism, feedback, and skills gamers develop in virtual worlds to the real world — a topic McGonigal will tackle at the upcoming Youth Mega Mashup conference from Ypulse and IIR this June. (Download the brochure to learn more about the conference. Friends of Ypulse can use the code YPULSE2011 for 25% off the best available registration rate.)
The key to productive game play is in directing it toward a purpose — not just to save the online world, but to become smarter, savvier problem solvers in the real world, too.