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.
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.