Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Gaming in Education

I think, like all technology, there is definitely a place in the education field for games.  Games don't necessarily need to be "edutainment," but they must be applicable in a way.

I remember in elementary school playing Oregon Trail every week.  I hated that, though your family still has live members, you have to start all over next week.  I don't necessarily remember learning all that much from the game, except that everyone dies of Indian attacks, drowning in a river crossing, or dysentery (whatever that is...).  To an elementary school kid, it was just fun.  But we did learn from it.  We learned that choosing our supplies were important.  We learned to plan ahead how to cross those rivers.  Practicing shooting animals for food would later help us defend ourselves from the Indian attacks (maybe someone should make this game from the Native American perspective...talk about breeding prejudices).

I think a valuable opportunity that many schools are passing by is having older students create games for younger ones based on each curriculum area.  This was addressed in Prensky's article, but I think it would be most valuable for a school district to utilize their own students for workpower.  There's so many advantages for both sides- the creators and players.

Older students
  • become "experts" on the content
  • collaboration in teams
  • opportunity to differentiate learning- utilize students skills (art, computer, leadership, etc.)
Younger students
  • learning from the games (obviously)
  • build communication skills - rate the games as they're in progress and offer suggestions for improvement
For the older students, a grade could be based on the younger student reviews and the improvements made based on the younger students' feedback.

I think this could be easily integrated into the Science, Math, and Social Studies fields.  ELA and Foreign Language would be more difficult, but I'm sure still obtainable with dedication.  Most importantly, as Gee pointed out, the games should be reflective of "real-life" situations and problems (his example was making a biology game based on a scientist doing field-work).  

My reasoning for using older students to create for younger students is best exemplified by this quote from Prensky's article:

A student puts it much more simply:  'Don't try to use our technology,' she says, 'you'll only look stupid.'

Even if, as adults, we know more about the specific technologies available, students feel a sense of ownership over them- they know more than us in their minds.  Educators can use this to their advantage by having students create resources for other students.  And even if they do know more than the teacher, what a great opportunity this is for us to learn from them.

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