Forum Friday – Play Games in your Classroom? Help a Researcher!

Apr 13, 2007 by

Every Friday I pull a note-worthy post from the forum here on the site and share it with the wider community. Just last week a newcomer to the forum posted some interesting questions about the use of video games and other computer simulations in the classroom, otherwise known as edu-games. Tabu, a researcher in Denmark (yay, we have international participation on the site), wanted to get educators’ impressions about using educational games in the classroom.

tabu:
I am interested in knowing:
– Which country you are from
– What level you teach
– Which subject you used edu computer games for
– What your thoughts are of using this (as a part of other teaching materials).

Thanks a lot!!

Thus far there’s been a similar chorus in the responses, including an emphasis about the efficacy of open-ended simulations and tools.

falconphysics:
Often kids get just as involved with a good simulation as they would with a game. The key is to make sure they learn something along the way.

While many have found it difficult to work gaming into their teaching in a systematic way, most have posted examples of how they use computer games and simulations in a narrowly focused way, to help reach specific benchmarks and/or goals.

rick:
We have purchased only one school wide piece of software that was developed to go hand in hand with our math curriculum and the students do enjoy it. It is just meant to reinforce the lessons in the math books as opposed to “drill and practice”.

The most interesting part of this conversation are the different viewpoints that everyone brings to it. While educators like myself focus on particular pieces of software or online games, TMeeks has personal experience from the software publisher’s side of things, and informs us of the unfortunate commercial aspects of education games and software.

TMeeks:
One of the hurdles that educators have when seeking to find a publisher for their video games is that the publishers are biased toward games with scoring. In my own case, I developed two different open ended activities (“My Town“, an early simulation, and the Logo-like “Logic Blocks“) that tested very well in an educational setting as both interesting to children and educationally useful. They were picked up by a small, innovative publisher; but, when a larger publisher bought that company they deemed that it didn’t fit into their goal based educational game line-up.

I thought it might be a nice treat for Tabu to get a wider response to his questions. While there are some great replies already, which I strongly encourage everyone to go read, what are your feelings about edu-games and simulations in the classroom? To add my own question, do you feel that simulations and games on a computer or other electronic device add to the educational experience, or just provide more distraction from the real learning goals? And if they are a distraction, what could be done to improve upon educational games (besides the typically low production cost that makes them appear to be dated and/or obsolete the moment you install them)?

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2 Comments

  1. Gaming is the next big BIG topic on the horizon. I sense that if education does not learn how to effectively incorporate games and the gaming attitude into their bag of instructional tools, more students will be turned off by education than turned on. Yes I know the trick will be to get teachers to accept games as valid. I am certainly not a gaming person in the student arena but I do enjoy my tetris and spider solitair. How educational these are would be debatable, but mind engaging they can be for me of humble mind activity. While tetris is plain addicting, it also has some visual-spatial practice involved. Sure helps me think. (Or at least I tell myself at 2 in the morning when I just have to try one more game).

  2. Nice avatar in SL today. I agree with mathnut, gaming is on the event horizon. The challenge is getting our staff going. The Connecting & Collaborating Conference was wonderful, I was amazed at the variety of attendees. Unfortunately, they were a paltry minority of our school representatives. As a digital native, how do you respond to online gaming? Does Second Life provide enough opportunities to engage your 3rd graders & my 5th graders? It took tech savy adults in our workshop the better part of 60 minutes to create an avatar and wander. Aside from the “cool factor” would the virtual environment provide the opportunity to a learning experience or simply be more of a multi-media sensory blitz? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy hours of WOW daily, and participate in guild raids with my children & father (3 generations 50 years apart), but are kids willing to participate and be happy or is that “connectedness” of social networking taking it to the next level? The gaming with peers with a purpose makes more sense to me. My own kids had nearly forsaken their gameboys & playstation in favor of the online environment. Webkinz interest has waned in the six months online from my 3rd grader, but they’d jump through flaming hoops to play 20 minutes of WOW.

    Blogs, wikis, podcasts are all ways of “connecting” online. Now our challenge is to keep their interest and weave in the content. It pains me to say that, because there is something to be said for being engaged for the pure fact of enjoyment, but we have only 6 months until the next MEAP!

    There are lots of flash games out there, and other commercial apps like webkinz, club penguin, etc. What have you found that “pushes” kids to the next level? One game, albeit one that requires an ethics discussion is McVideogame. It certainly isn’t flattering to Ronald & the Fry Guys, but a rather interesting economics / social condition / ethics / marketing simulation indeed.

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