Friday, January 6, 2012

Putting On Your Game Face

“Video Games” have been a rising point of serious discussion in education for the last decade.  There’s a growing range of journals focused on the topic and a plethora of other articles in other journals discussing what place they have in education.  While it’s safe to say that we have moved beyond the limited (albeit fun and nostalgic in hindsight) nature of video games such as these, there’s still much skepticism about what video games and simulations have to offer the college classroom and how to be properly integrate them.  

The caliber and sophistication of games has significantly changed. Given the development of video games over the last 40 years and the serious effort that “gamers” invest into games (manifesting in a significant amount of time and energy often self-identified as “work”), this remains an untapped opportunity.  Many people are beginning to take note, including PBS, who recently considered the role that play (and video games) have in education.  

It makes sense.  Modern video games and simulations tap into a many human motivations that include the desire to work hard (that is, concentrate, practice, and systematically negotiate challenges). to be rewarded for success, and to able to work with others to achieve goals.  Most intriguingly, video games do something that we as educators have trouble doing; turning failures into opportunities for learning.  When I fail at a game, I don’t abandon the game, I go back and consider what I did wrong and try to correct it.  We often think the “reset” button on a video game console is part of what makes the game less important and relevant, but in fact, it also means that a gamer has the opportunity to try and try again; to determine where to improve his or her game.  This ability to conquer failures came to me like lightning when reading Kathryn Schulz’s book, Being Wrong.  Below is a Ted Talk that sums up her book.  I think there’s much to be considered about education when considering gaming, failing, and learning. 

For certain, it’s no panacea but there’s a lot that can be done (and is being done) with video games and education.  If we want to improve student learning, we should be considering what is useful and important to take from video games.  Authors and activists like Jane McGonigal have given serious consideration to the role that gaming can have not only in education, but in the everyday world.  For those who want to know more, I’ve assembled a playlist of videos on games and education that that you might find useful.

Stimulated by the ideas herein and want to learn more?  Check out some of the great resources at GamesforChange.org here and by all means, don’t hesitate to leave a message here or contact us at Academic Technology.
  • What kind of video games do you use and what value do you derive from them?  (Remember, video games here include everything from Angry Birds and Words With Friends to World of War Craft and Grand Theft Auto to Wii Yoga and Rock Band).
  • What have you learned or in what ways have video games improved your real-world experience? 
  • What kind of video games or simulations do you imagine would be useful for the kinds of courses that you teach? 
  • What would be the obstacles of integrating video games and simulations into the course?  To what degree would you think about integrating video games into your classroom?