Monday, November 14, 2005

What video games can teach us

Exploring new ways to encourage students to learn

Good video games are long, complex, and difficult. They have to be. If they were dumbed down, no one would want to play. So why is it that many children can't sit still long enough to finish their homework and yet will spend hours playing games on the computer? Can strategies used by game designers work in the classroom. The Harvard Education Letter examines this issue.

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Jaimie said... students love video games. I just don't get it. I do have a computer game for my daughter. It's an educational video game though. I don't think I would like her sitting in front of the t.v. playing video games. I would prefer books, or even board games.

Shirazi said...

Very thought provoking article that is all applicable in our context too.

Brea said...

We never had a video game system in our home when I was growing up. I'm thankful and my children will experience the same childhood filled with quality family time, board games, climbing trees, art projects, ect.

Shirazi said...

I remeber Dig Dug; and the cheeries. That very sound of the digger moving is etched in my mind.

Malik said...

I think there's an angle to the educational video game debate that the article doesn't touch on. The gender gap in literacy and education. The kinds of things that boys like--scatalogical humor, action, technology--are often considered immature and non-educational. John Scieszka believes that a big part of the reason that boys don't read as well as girls is because the things they are eager to read, like comic books, computer magazines, car magazines, etc. are considered non-literary. He argues that on the whole, reading education is geared towards girls. I think there's some merit in that argument, and I think you could make the same argument concerning video games. There is all kinds of learning taking place in video games, but because they're built around the things that boys like, they're not considered "educational". Maybe that kind of thinking is part of the reason that overall, boys don't perform as well as girls in school.

Deb Sistrunk said...

Jaimie, Shirazi, Brea, Malik: All of you make very good points.

I have to say, however, that in research that I have uncoverd, plus from my experience as a parent, I think Malik hits on some very critical issues. I am not convinced that public schools in general have fully explored some of the dynamics that Malik references.

At one time, I was a parent volunteer tutor in elementary school. The teachers always gave me the 5th and 6th grade boys - the ones with failing grades and who would act out in class. I would work with these boys one-on-one.

Time and time again, I found that these boys could read, and they read well. That didn't surprise me. I had two sons of my own, so I understood boys.

After a session or two of reading the class textbook, I allowed the students to bring in whatever they wanted to read. Oftentimes, it was comic books. The boys didn't need tutoring. They needed another approach to learning.

Their classroom performance in reading increased substantially. I am sure the one-on-one attention helped. The most important thing is that these kids once again learned the joy of reading. I think it was worth it.

Now, about video games: I allowed my sons and daughter to play video games and computer games. I just made sure that they didn't spend an inordinate amount of time with the games. In other words, there was balance. They continued to read books and newspapers. They continued to play board games.

What I noticed with the video games is that my kids learned to strategize really well. They anticipated situations. The video games really helped to enhance their critical thinking skills. And, of course, they developed technology skills that superceded Mom's!

Each of my kids were my computer consultants by age 10. They still are. They still play video games.

My adult son is a college graduate, and he now uses his technology skills in an education setting. He also troubleshoots ALL of my software and hardware issues on my computer. That's if his little sister doesn't figure out the problem first.

In fact, little sister, who is in high school, is inheriting big brother's PlayStation because he's buying the Xbox 360! Both of them play online games, and both of them have done well academically.

My kids remain voracious readers. To be honest, I think they are better read than I am. And I have stopped trying to beat them at board games. They out-strategize me every time!

Sometimes I think we as parents and educators need to think more creatively when it comes to teaching kids. Acknowledging and adapting to different learning styles is certainly a step in the right direction. As Malik points out, there is quite a bit of field research that supports this.

Again, I think the gender issue that Malik brings up is a very valid one.

If any other educators or parents want to weigh in on this issue, I'd be interested in what you have to say.

Ms. Vickie said...

DCS- A great article and I must say your comment is one I agree with just from observations I have made, not having kids gives me limited experience but I listen and read. As always thanks

Deb Sistrunk said...

Thanks, Ms. Vickie. Without question, I have learned a lot from kids. And, like you, I continue reading. It has helped me in advocating for my own children. I feel that my youngest child and I have both earned Ph.D.'s for some of the situations we have had to navigate!

I took a great interest in education when I was in college. Even though I was a good student as a youngster, I hated school because classroom techniques seemed so rigid. See my response to Fahd under "Ask the kids" to see how I recall one classroom experience.