Hey, Teachers! Leave The Kids Alone!

I just read this article “Explore, Create, Survive: ‘Minecraft’ is a versatile and fun game with broad appeal” in School library Journal.

minecraftfreedownloadz.com


“The breadth of things educators are doing with Minecraft is staggering and the potential is there to do even more.”

Minecraft is extremely popular and a group of educators is working on an educational version of the game: MinecraftEdu, to make the game more affordable and accessible to the classroom.

Well…
It is a good game that allows to create fantasy worlds alone or share adventures with friends, but I am not convinced about its educational potential.

I bought the game for my thirteen year old son and I belong to the crowd of parents who get annoyed of having to monitor their kid’s gaming time because:
– when he is playing alone, he builds awesome worlds, yes, but forgets time, meals and sense of reality.
– when he is playing with his friend (using Skype) they go on and on and I can’t help thinking that they should visit each other more often and enjoy life outside the house instead.
– when I play with him I get dizzy pretty fast which make me think that the whole stuff is not healthy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not planning to ban Minecraft from my home but I am concerned that if educators are starting to use it (and other popular games) for educational purpose, it will get more and more difficult for us, parents, to set boundaries between “time to work and time to play”.

Speaking about games and since I am in the “mother mode” tonight, let me tell you what just happened.
I left my sofa and my computer to make sure that my son was doing homework.
He was playing a game he found on Purposegame.com … to memorize Japanese prefectures for his social study test. Clever boy!

As a matter of fact, there is gaming and gaming and some of them are great to accomplish specific tasks:
– Memorize (like in my example)
– Simulation of complex situations as in business or economy. For examples, check Jim Murphy’s blog or recall how you learned capitalism playing Monopoly.
As Tina Barseghian also stresses in her blog post How Games Can Influence Learning,

“Games encourage interactions, Games can help struggling students and are highly personalized”. But they are sometimes difficult to integrate to the curriculum because they require too much preparation to work as a class.”

Games are like any other tools, I guess. As teachers, we need to set our goal first and see if a game enhance learning or not. But I am afraid that an extensive use of games in class can get boring or, worse, bring children to confuse competition and achievement.
I also wonder if teachers are not trespassing on childrens’ and teens’ private sphere when they use their “cool” stuff in the classroom.
Games are, per essence, recreational, and should stay that way, because children need time to play without adult guidance and educational goal to try new rules and debate about them, to fight and imagine strategies, to share and to grow at their own pace.

Since we all agree that there is a part of learning in any game, why not giving our students more time and more space to play with friends during recess, during after school clubs and at home ?

Pink Floyd’s song “Hey, Teachers! Leave the kids alone”!

YouTube Preview Image

Bibliography:
Alvey-Henderson, LukeBoard Games You’ve Never Played: Unplugged from Technology. Moore Memorial Library, Texas City, Texas May 2, 2012. School Library Journal, May 2012.
Marantz Henig, Robin. Taking Play Seriously. New York Time. February 17, 2008
Barseghian, Tina. How Games Can Influence Learning Mind Shift. How We Learn. October 14, 2011
Daly, Erin. Explore, Create, Survive: ‘Minecraft’ is a versatile and fun game with broad appeal. School library Journal. May 1, 2012

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7 Responses to Hey, Teachers! Leave The Kids Alone!

  1. I think you summed it up well, Anne-Marie, with this comment: “Games are like any other tools, I guess. As teachers, we need to set our goal first and see if a game enhances learning or not.” That’s true with any technology, don’t you agree? While the tool can enhance, enrich, engage… it’s not the tool, but the quality of the learning experience that defines good education. I worry, sometimes, too, that there is the potential for students to “tune-out” the real world. Sometimes this is a good thing, but, I believe, too much could be detrimental. Online interaction is human interaction, but it is very different from being face to face. I believe that a very important part of education is learning how to interact effectively with other humans in different types of situations, including the physical world. This Frontline documentary offers some interesting perspectives from both points of view. (link to pbs.org)
    There’s a section on multi-tasking, which I found especially interesting. Are some of our kids interacting too much? We are so connected in today’s society and are constantly compelled to check our mobiles, etc. I’m not convinced that students can effectively do more than one thing at a time. Distraction is another issue. As technology continues to change and shape our worlds, I think it’s important to consider the pros and cons and try and find a balance that works. Whatever that may be. ☺ Thanks for sharing Anne-Marie.

    • Susan M. says:

      Hi all,

      I agree that maintaining a balance is the key to everything we do, but as a librarian with a policy to let kids play online games at lunchtime and after school, I know parents aren’t always happy to see these activities played during kids’ leisure time because they see their kids absorbed in them at home. And often, these games have set start and end times at home. So many parents feel that school leisure time should be used for outdoor recreation, exercise and social interaction.

      I used a 3D interactive website a few years ago with Grade 2 students from the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust. I think this is a very worthwhile tool for them to learn about interior & exterior design.

      I’d advocate for online activities like these, because I think they complement units about housing & living spaces.
      link to architectstudio3d.org.

  2. Thanks for your post on games. I was interested to read your thoughts as you represent both an educator and a parent. It sounds as if you are reaching a balance between beneficial games and games that are only recreational. As the trend is for increased use of games (link to sciencedaily.com) because they can be effective. I wonder how you would balance online games with traditional teaching so that, as you say, education stays distinct from a student’s recreational world.

  3. Jamie Raskin says:

    Interesting! I read with particular interest the part where you said:

    “I also wonder if teachers are not trespassing on childrens’ and teens’ private sphere when they use their “cool” stuff in the classroom.
    Games are, per essence, recreational, and should stay that way, because children need time to play without adult guidance and educational goal to try new rules and debate about them, to fight and imagine strategies, to share and to grow at their own pace.”

    I get where you’re going with it, but it makes me smile to imagine that something, by virtue of being “cool”, has no place in the classroom. I’m sure that’s arguable. And I guess it’s that line between recreational and academic activities that’s up for debate. Who drew the line? Where and why? The number of times I see my students hesitant to go out for recess because they’re so involved in whatever it is they’re doing, is near (though not quite equal I guess) to the number of times I’ve seen them be hesitant to come in because it’s interrupting some element of their recreation. It’s an interesting notion as a dichotomy though, but I’m just not sure I believe it.
    Thanks for the post!

  4. Kim Cofino says:

    I have to echo Jamie’s comment above. Just because something is fun and engaging for students doesn’t mean it should be something left out of the classroom experience – in fact, I think that’s a very valid argument for bringing it into the classroom context. In fact, I think leaving all the “fun” outside of the classroom makes school feel even less relevant than it already does. And for all the challenges you face as a parent with a child that likes to play games, wouldn’t learning all of those skills be a great use of their time at school too?

  5. Adam says:

    Hi Anne-Marie, I am in disbelief that course 5 begins in just a day or so but enjoying reconnecting with the course content by visiting a few blogs. I really appreciated the tension you so clearly identified in this post. On the one hand, we can see potential in almost any game for learning. As a counselor working with middle school boys, I find I spend a somewhat considerable amount of my time learning about games and authentically appreciating their strengths. This said, I am not a gamer and never will be. My deal is that I want to live in the world I can feel with my own two hands. In this world I occasionally fall down and get hurt. I occasionally succeed and do something meaningful. In this world my failures and my victories don’t go away by restarting the game.

    I am with you, though, on supporting your son so he can learn what he can from gaming and also learn what he values. In time, I’d be the pendulum will swing back the other way and he will know what they offer and what they cost and manage them effectively. As an added bonus, your relationship with him will still be intact. See you soon – Adam

  6. Thank you very much for your encouraging comment! This subject (gaming) might have been the most challenging for me because I got caught between my feelings as parent and my thoughts as teacher. I got quite a lot of comments on this post and they all help me think deeper. Your reassures me… As much as I think that my son spends too much time on gaming, I have to acknowledge that he plays with friends he also meets in real life and gaming is just on part of what they live together.
    Have a nice week,
    Anne-Marie

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