Thursday, October 19, 2006

Not playing around: Scientists say video games can reshape education -

Here's a CNN article on a recommendation by the Federation of American Scientists for the government to fund more research into the use of video games in education.

I'm torn here. The problem, in my eyes, is that everyone wants to compete with the entertainment industry games for students' attention and I don't think that is going to be possible (ever?). However, on the other hand, if we can hook students on games in school, it may carry over into their home life.

I think that this is a great idea, but I worry that it will throw more money to researchers and result in nothing else besides vague, theoretical recommendations for teachers to "change the way they teach."


Ioana said...

This article is very interesting and brings up a really revolutionary idea: including games in the regular curriculum as means of teaching and learning. Transforming a fun activity into an educational one is pretty valuable and I agree that reserach should focus mainly on "which features of games are most important for learning -- and how to test students on the skills they learn in games". On the other hand, I can see how this idea can bring up hudge issues-some of them are ennunciated in the article: the costs of the research, convincing universities and schools that a particular game is useful for its educational purpose and the one that would regard also myself as a future teacher in this country, what is the training that the use of such games would involve for teachers? I see how this could give place to controversies, because many teachers are not so much into technology and don't think they need to use it so extensively in their class, or at least this particular type of technology which are the video games.

Dan said...

Hi Ioana,

No doubt this is a great idea. Unfortunately, it's been a great idea for well over 20 years. Teachers have tried to integrate computer (video) games since their creation.

I can remember playing the first version of Oregon Trail in the 4th or 5th grade (around 1984). It was a lot of fun, but I don't think that it was particularly educational. It definately tried to be, but I think that goal was secondary to the fun-factor.

Most games are still like this, if they have any educational focus at all. The fact is that there isn't enough money for educational gaming companies to really compete with the new playstation games. And these games are largely like resources you'll find on the Web. They have been created to fill a small niche, a solitary learning goal. Unlike resources on the Web, though, there isn't the selection necessary to string together significant learning interventions.

However, this may not be the case forever. Gaming "engines" are making it easier and faster to develop good-quality games. Before long, these might be easy enough that average teachers (or their students) can design a game for their own class. This would then result in a great number and variety of games available to teachers to use with their classes. At this point, I see games being accepted in mainstream programs and by average teachers.

Until then, we are pretty much limited to modifying entertainment-focused games for use with our students.


Lindsey Matthias said...

Dan- I think that video games could be useful in education. You are right, it will cost and take years. I wonder what will education will look and be like in 20 years. Will we be using video games to teach children how to read?

Dan said...

Games are already being used for that purpse to an extent. I believe Reading Blaster (same company as Math Blaster) is the name of one popular software that integrates games into the approach. I've seen other such games here and there, but I've never really looked into them (not really my target group).

TV shows have served the same purpose for years. An entertaining approach to learning (Sesame St. & Electric Company are a couple that come to mind). However, like the TV shows, the video games used right now really need a third party to help learners use these skills and to expand on them.


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