Designers vs Gamers

Screenshot from the BrainPOP Game Design page

Game Design BrainPOP

There are many different opinions  on computer gaming in schools. However, the ideas of students learning through games is not a new concept.  Teachers have been using a variety of games for years in the classroom especially in the areas of Maths and Spelling.  So why the fear of computer gaming?

From talking with teachers and following a variety of discussions there seems to be a few common threads that connect the gaming fear.

First, many teachers and parents still see computers and iPads as a toy and/or baby sitting tool. Perhaps this is because many parents themselves use devices as a pacifier.  Often you can see parents out for supper with their children who are on their iPads or phones the entire meal.  This leads to a quiet calm dinning experience for the parents. Also, children are often on devices while traveling and who can blame them. Typically, when I am on a long train or plane ride I am on a device to pass the time as well.

Second, there seems to be the idea that computer games are a mindless waste of time.  I agree, there are many games that do not have  any educational value eventhough many of them try to pass themselves off as educational games. The Mindshift article  How Games Can Influence Learning quotes,

“The fact is, many of the games out there suck,” said Ralph Vacca, a doctoral student at New York University’s Educational Communications and Technology Program. “They don’t tackle genuine learning needs as teachers see them, they don’t address practical limitations, as teachers see them, and they don’t live up to the hype around them, as teachers see them.”

Third, there is the fear of computer gaming addiction.  The idea that students will spend hours upon hours on a devices completely cutting themselves off from the rest of the world.

There does need to be diligence in trying to find games with a high education value.  That is why sites such as Common Sense Media’s Top Pick List can help dig through the online and app games to find ones that are worthwhile brining into the classroom.  ISTE’s new Digital Pathways is also a great way to curate the choices we have for digital media including games.

However, what about moving away from students consuming games to creating the games.  I have worked with a number of students who have used Scratch to create Maths games for their class mates.  They found the opportunity to create the game very rewarding and motivating as well as the fact that it was an excellent way for them to demonstrate how well their understood the Maths concept.

There are also sites such as Gamestar Mechanics that teach students about game design.  You start by playing a game to learn about the key elements needed to create a game. Next, you fix a broken game with easy to follow instructions that follow the same game design principles that were presented during the playing stage.

BrainPOP also offers material on game design.  They promote their program by focusing on the fact that design focuses on high order thinking skills such as understanding and applying systems, creativity, problem solving and story telling.

Brainpop Game Design

I think there now needs to be a new shift not necessary away from gaming but bringing game design more to the forefront.  Just as gaming and  computer programming often hooks certain students, we also need to work on hooking those that might not be geared toward coding but designing . Doing so would motive a much greater community of learners.

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3 Responses to Designers vs Gamers

  1. Brandon says:

    “Just as gaming and computer programming often hooks certain students, we also need to work on hooking those that might not be geared toward coding but designing . Doing so would motive a much greater community of learners.” – I love this idea. As an ex-designer myself, there are those that may want to create, but not necessarily get into Comp Sci or coding, specifically. And as we develop new worlds and experiences for virtual reality, it’s going to be highly cherished to have a wide-ranging imagination and the ability to foresee atmospheres, environments, and experiences.

    Reply
  2. Sitwat says:

    Hi Kim,
    The idea of letting students design their own game links well to all the 21st century skills. Recently our school participated in Global Codeathon and it was great to see every student busy designing their own game. It was amazing to see kids as young as of grade 2 not just gamers but designers of games.
    Minecraft has also started code building education edition and it has a training website for teachers. For more information, I am pasting the link below:- link to education.minecraft.net

    Reply

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