Game on! Now Educators Can Translate Their Students' Love of Video Games into the Use of a Valuable, Multifaceted Learning Tool

By Deubel, Patricia | T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education), January 2006 | Go to article overview

Game on! Now Educators Can Translate Their Students' Love of Video Games into the Use of a Valuable, Multifaceted Learning Tool


Deubel, Patricia, T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)


SCHOOL ISN'T ALL FUN AND GAMES, but it's starting to move in that direction. As computer and online gaming has dominated youth culture, it was inevitable that the technology would penetrate the educational system.

But what if you can't stand the thought of allowing games into your classroom? No problem: Educational gaming enthusiasts are prepared to convert you. Marc Prensky, writing in Digital Game-Based Learning (McGraw-Hill, 2000), makes it clear that gaming is now a way of life: "Today's schoolchildren, elementary through college, travel with their own personal Game Boys, Handicams, cell phones, portable CD and MP3 players, pagers, laptops, and Internet connections."

Yet if the introduction of computer games into schools was an unavoidable development, it was also an auspicious one. Digital game-based learning (DGBL), the uniting of educational content with computer or online games, holds the potential for a wealth of educational applications, if managed properly. Simply put: It motivates by virtue of being fun. It's versatile, can be used to teach almost any subject or skill, and, when used correctly, is extremely effective. What's more, its use is supported by constructivist theory, which calls for active engagement and experiential learning.

In Prensky's view, DGBL will eventually be taken for granted as the way people learn, because it meets the needs and learning styles of today's and future generations of students.

Still, teachers say they have good reasons to be reluctant to bring games into their classrooms: 1) The goals of a game may not be consistent with learning objectives, and may function as a distraction to students instead of as a learning tool. 2) A game's features (use of color, sound, flickering, etc.) might trigger unacceptable cognitive and physiological responses. 3) Many video games are just too violent for users of any age. And 4) there is general concern about how gaming fits in with the demands of a standards-driven accountability movement in education. In fact, in his book, Prensky concedes that near total revision of existing consumer games is needed for the games to be useful as education vehicles.

Before becoming converts to DGBL, however, educators need answers to questions about how games can support learning, what makes a good game, and what types are available. But if you can address and dispel those concerns, you'll find plenty of DGBL examples suitable for K-12, in addition to resources for learning more about this emerging technology.

Game-Based Benefits

Assuming the education community can afford it, DGBL promises to bring broad learning benefits on several fronts:

* Provide deep digital engagement to students who have come to expect it.

* Offer motivation for persistence in completing courses.

* Enable customized learning experiences.

* Promote both long-term memory and transfer of learning to practical, everyday life endeavors.

Planning and problem solving. The key to unlocking potential learning gains is to find good role-playing, simulation, or adventure games that do not include violence. Such games involve strategic planning and problem solving, and enable concepts to be developed and remembered. Adventure games, for instance, enhance reading and observation skills by forcing users to read carefully and look for details in visuals, in order to plan strategies. Simulation games expand students' common knowledge, provide real-life experiences that they might not otherwise get, and have the potential to enhance logical-thinking skills. (Players might need to select problem-solving methods and put them in sequential order to proceed through the game.) Map-reading skills are often employed in simulations, and in some simulation and role-playing games, players must create maps and take notes. The ability to take good notes, organize those notes, and find them when needed are all associated with good study skills. …

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