In order to reduce the time young people spend playing video games, China has banned students from playing them during the school week and limits them to one hour per day on Fridays, weekends and holidays. The new rule came into effect on September 1, 2021. From my perspective as a video game designer and an academic specializing in game-based learning, I do not see the need to limit video games among students for the school week. Instead, I see a need to expand it – and do it during the regular school day.
Video games are one of the most popular media of our time. One estimate shows that by 2025, the global gaming market will grow to $ 268.8 billion per year, which is significantly higher than the $ 178 billion it was in 2021. Money spent on games not only facilitate a virtual escape from the real world. Academics such as longtime literacy teacher James Paul Gee have repeatedly shown that video games can be used to aid learning in the K-12 classroom. Education writer Greg Toppo came to the same conclusion in his critically acclaimed book, The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter.
A long story: The use of video games in the classroom is nothing new. Many people who went to school in the 1970s to 1990s may remember the iconic video game The Oregon Trail, which debuted in a classroom in 1971. In the game, players lead a game. group of settlers across the Midwest following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark. The game came just before the creation of the video game industry with the release in 1972 of the video game Pong, an electronic version of table tennis. Even though educational video games have been used in classrooms for 50 years – and despite research showing that educational games can be effective – they are not that common in classrooms today. Many educational games have been released since the days of The Oregon Trail. Some of the most popular are: Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego ?, Math Blaster !, Zoombinis, iCivics, DragonBox Algebra, and History Maker VR. Most of the games are intended for students from kindergarten to elementary school. Here are five reasons why I think video games should be used in every classroom:
1. Video games can help students stay in STEM: In 2020, the Presidential Council of Science and Technology Advisors found that the nation must create the STEM workforce of the future. One of the reasons students drop out or drop out of science, technology, engineering, and math programs is the difficulty of introductory courses such as calculus. The University of Oklahoma has developed a calculus game that can help students succeed in calculus. Research has shown that students’ math proficiency increases when they use a purpose-designed learning game, such as Variant: Limits – another math game developed at Texas A&M University.
2. They offer experiential learning: According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, it is important for the future workforce to teach students 21st century skills, such as creative problem solving. Games such as DragonBox Algebra, where students solve math problems in a fantastic environment, can help students master skills such as critical thinking. In games such as Civilization, players can be a civic leader and lead the prosperity of nations. In ART: Mecenas, learners can become members of the Medici family and become successful patrons of the arts and bankers. Students learn by doing and can acquire skills and knowledge through experiential learning that might not be acquired in traditional classrooms.
3. Players learn from failure: Games are a natural way for students to fail safely, learn from their failures, and try again until they succeed. Some games, like Burnout Paradise, make failure fun. In the game, players can run over their cars – and the more spectacular the crash, the higher the points. This essentially allows players to learn from their mistakes, correct them, and try again. The late video game theorist and author Jesper Juul wrote in his book, The Art of Failure, that losing in video games is part of what makes games so appealing. If the player fails in a game, the player feels inadequate, but the player can immediately redeem himself and improve his skills.
4. Students stay engaged with the content: The average time a student spends learning in a classroom is only 60% of the time allocated in class. Extending the school day to give students more time for learning has been shown to be only marginally effective. A more effective way to maximize the time spent learning is to devote time to the task. When students are interested and care about a topic and it is relevant, they are curious and engaged. This provides a much better learning experience. In the classroom, teachers can involve students. But when it comes to homework, educators need to look to other ways to motivate students. One way is through games. Educational games can be designed to improve motivation and engagement, giving students more time to spend on the task.
5. Games make complex knowledge fun: Educational theories assert that students cannot receive knowledge; they build knowledge in their own mind. Learners rely on concepts already learned to build higher level and more complex knowledge in order to appropriate them. The Periodic Table of the Elements is difficult to learn and remember for many students. However, learning a complex three-dimensional matrix with 27,624 values is easily accomplished by middle school students playing the popular Pokemon video game. The essence of the game is figuring out how to combine the 17 different types of attacks when fighting against other Pokémon. Each Pokémon has one or two types of attacks that it can use. Players do not learn the different possible combinations by studying a large table with 27,624 entries, but by playing the game. By playing the game, students gradually acquire a deeper knowledge of the game and develop basic skills, such as literacy, how to compete with grace and sportsmanship, and abstract thinking. Pokemon was not developed as an educational game, but its design principles – and those of other popular video games – could easily be used to design video games for classrooms that enhance their educational experience.
(This article by Andre Thomas, director of the LIVE Lab and associate professor of practice, Texas A&M University College Station, first appeared on The Conversation.)
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