The lights are on
Power Member - Level 10
When we think of the tools we use to get through our
education, what comes to mind? Books, calculators, computers, paper, writing
utensils? The fundamentals of acquiring a standard education change
perpetually; what your parents needed to learn about the world should be
considerably different from what you needed. Fifty years ago, a computer in a
classroom would have been unheard of. Now, however, I don't think I've seen a
class presentation that didn't rely on a PowerPoint or some other computer
Most kids hopped on the Oregon Trail. I was always more of a Number
Munchers kind of guy.
Our tools change as our world changes. With video games
becoming a norm in our culture, why don't we see more joysticks in the
classroom? Why are there no classes where students are encouraged to use their
Game Boys rather than have them taken away? When will video games be integrated
into our pedagogy?
We already play games
In a sense, the fundamentals of video games are already
implemented in the classroom. We play
games to learn all the time. In fact, many lesson plans are constructed to
entertain students just as much as to inform them. There's an intelligent
reason for this practice; retention is better served through keeping people
interested and engaged rather than bored and asleep.
If you were getting most of your secondary education at the
turn of the century like I was, chances are you ran into a few different games while
you learned. Anytime your teacher was able to construct their course content
around the engaging fun of a game, that teacher took that opportunity (assuming
he or she was a good teacher.)
You've probably even ran into video games at school, too.
Most of us are aware that the dangers of the Oregon Trail and how awful the 19th
century must have been. These games, though they may have been presented as a
less-than-educational activity, did have a purpose in the classroom. Otherwise,
they would not have been allowed in schools at such high quantities. Think
about what you're really learning when you play Oregon Trail. Topics of history
are certainly prevalent. You're also honing in on your typing skills, and I'm
sure there's an educational value in learning how to avoid dysentery.
Using what students use
One of the most important aspects of modern education is
constructing a curriculum to be relevant to the student. The more relevant an
assignment is to a student's life, the more likely he or she will be able to
comprehend, apply, and enjoy the knowledge gained. On paper, it sounds like an
easy thing to do. Just make the topics connect to their world, right? However,
in practice, it's incredibly difficult to gauge an relatively unknown generation's culture
Perhaps some of you have translated Shakespeare into your
own language before. It's a common teaching strategy; have students absorb a
text that is far removed from their experiences and attempt to express meaning
and understanding through their own words. The tool of relevancy in this
example is that of language. Allowing students to use something they understand
(their own day-to-day language) to tackle a subject that isn't part of their
culture (Shakespeare) gets them far more engaged in the material.
Language is an important tool for breaching this gap of
understanding. Why stop there, though? Students use a ton of valuable
instruments in their daily lives, and the key to relevancy in a classroom is to
foster the use of these tools. You don't need to read any statistics or
articles to know that young people play a lot of video games. They understand
how to use a controller just as well as they do a pencil. Instead of seeing the
time people spend with video games a waste, educators should try to utilize this
background knowledge in their classrooms.
School isn't only a place for formal and traditional
learning. Important social skills are sharpened during primary and secondary
educational years. Many curriculums are constructed to foster student learning
through cooperation and group work. Learning how to work with others and
understanding the dynamics of groups is an important part of anyone's
The current generation of games has a strong emphasis on the
same idea; more often than ever, video games are tasking players to work with
other players to accomplish an objective. We've all had an engaging co-op moment in
a game. Think of the massive amount of effective communication that is required
to properly tackle cooperative gaming objectives. You're not just yelling at
your mic when you play Portal 2 with a friend. You're using complex language
skills to communicate with your partner.
I'm pretty sure I could write a hefty thesis paper on the educational
benefits of Portal 2, but that's another discussion for another time.
These skills are incredibly important for students to grasp
and utilize. They will be tasked with expressing thoughts and ideas to other
people through their entire lives. This aspect of education is so crucial that
in my home state of Virginia, the educational standards of almost every grade
level mention and place weight onto oral language objectives. Plenty of video
games force people to work together to solve problems. Including these games
into a lesson plan that wants students to take away the benefits of oral
communication would be engaging and educational for any student.
Process over medium
Many language arts classrooms are instructed through a canon
of works determined by the community in which that educational setting exists.
This essentially leads to most English classes relying on the scholarly
approved classical novels, plays, poems, and nonfiction works that have conducted
our classrooms for decades. I'm not challenging the use of our educational
canon; these are (for the most part) essential reading materials for any class. However, I am
suggesting that it is possible for education to branch out a bit when it comes to
the medium choice.
When a classic novel or play is being taught, it isn't
because it is art. You can't actually
teach art as it's subjective, making perception the key of validity. With that
in mind, it would be difficult to make a sound argument against including video
games into academia citing the ideal of high art (plus, the argument of games
as art is an old and tired one-particularly in our discourse-as art is not
exclusive to nor completely defined by medium.)
Often artistic expressions act as a vehicle for a larger
purpose in the classroom. Recalling and remembering events of a story are not
of the highest levels of learning and thinking. Though these steps are crucial
in acting as a foundation for higher acts of thought, students get far more out
of analyzing, interpreting, creating, and evaluating during their class time.
As such, I argue that the medium of the vehicle driving these modes of higher
thinking is not nearly as important as the processes themselves.
Satire and "The American Dream" are styles and themes that are consistently
covered in language arts classrooms. It would be difficult to play through GTA
IV and not gain an understanding of both of these ideas.
When you really break it down, gaming is just a new type of
literacy for students today. Students play games. I'm willing to bet a
considerable amount of educators even play games. Why avoid a potential tool
for learning because of a social stigma placed on the medium? The sooner
educators begin embracing the new rather than distancing themselves and their
students from it, the more diverse and relevant our classroom tools can become.
So what do you guys think? Do video games have a place in the classroom? Or is
our favored form of entertainment strictly that: entertainment?