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Written by Brandon Berthrong of BSD Education.
While the discussion about modern games and their effect on today’s society is still an ongoing debate, the incredible potential of the medium to teach a range of skills, especially in education, is impossible to ignore.
Much of this potential is tied to the immense versatility of video games themselves. Video games are one of the most flexible types of entertainment around, more so than movies, books, or music. Their ability to tie multiple disciplines together, their flexibility of form and purpose, allows them to fit an ever-expanding range of situations and demand a range of skills and competencies of their users.
In a classroom setting, games allow the learner to take in information at a personalized pace and without much social pressure. In a traditional classroom setting, it’s often the case that students are rushed past a concept that the rest of the class grasps quickly, leaving them without a solid understanding of important material. Conversely, a student might quickly grasp a concept, but then is forced to wait while others catch up, making it extremely likely that they’ll check out and either stop paying attention or begin causing disruptions for others. Games can allow for each player to progress at their own pace, doing much to alleviate this issue. In addition, students are able to learn concepts in a setting that takes off the social pressure of performing in front of the class; instead, they can focus on understanding the concepts presented without being judged by their peers.
The whole concept of a video game is built around creating an experience that makes the player want to keep playing. Rather than being passively talked at or asked to read through materials, games ask the player to overcome challenges through the active use of their brains, making for a platform that allows students to quickly apply concepts or learn new ones. For instance, The Republia Times is a free web-game in which players are tasked with writing headlines for a newspaper; the catch is that, through the titles, they have to toe the line between sentiment and bias. The game asks students to use their creative writing skills and forces them to balance multiple agendas while also opening up the possibility of discussions on relevant issues regarding media and free speech. There’s also Cell Command, a web-based game where students control various organelles inside an animal cell. Through the game, students are able to build an understanding of cell functions and how each part interacts while staying actively engaged in the learning process.
With Kahoot! you can create a game using a pre-made template, then play it solo or as a group. Students can also make games themselves, allowing them to test each other on material covered, an ideal way to retain information. Teachers can even assign games as homework; you can probably see how students might prefer playing a trivia game to filling out a piece of paper.
Fortnite, a popular battle-royal game, has a team mode that encourages students to work as a group, creating strategies and building their teamwork to beat other teams of players. In doing so they’ll have to learn to work with other people, how to effectively communicate to accomplish a goal, how to deal with failure and fix mistakes constructively.
Really, at their core, most games offer the player a series of rules and problems then ask them to use their minds to overcome challenges within that framework. Maybe that challenge is how to solve a puzzle, how to maximize the efficiency of a system, or how to out-maneuver another player; regardless, players are being asked to learn new skills and think about things in new ways.
Video games do tend to be a fairly divisive topic; some claim that they encourage young people to retreat from the world and their fellow humans, depriving them of essential social skills. Others claim that playing video games offers a wide range of benefits, from improved hand-eye coordination to enhanced strategic thinking, and that through online games players build essential skills in cooperative problem solving and teamwork. That’s a bigger discussion, and because this is real life we’re talking about, they’re probably both right.
When used correctly though, video games offer a way to make kids excited about learning and engaged with the material, all in a way that allows for an experience tailored to suit their learning style. While you can have too much of a good thing, when used responsibly, today’s video games can be an incredible asset for building a variety of skills.
For more ideas on how to use video games in your classroom, check out this link.