I removed the header identifying my son’s name and the class/teacher/assignment he wrote this for. The reason for publishing this essay is that I think it is most awesome and can stand on its own!
Video games. You’ve probably played at least one of them before. Almost everyone has at some point in their lives. Chances are it was fun, but maybe not. If you look on the internet, it doesn’t take long to find out that there are many people who love video games. If you haven’t really thought about them, you might find it strange that some weird form of entertainment has gotten such a huge following. But stop yourself there. If you really go down the rabbit hole of video games, you can see that they can be more than just cheap time-wasters.
When kids see games, most of the time, they will pounce upon them, because kids love games. What if there was a way to use these games in order to educate them? Then kids would see it as another game, and allow themselves to imprint upon it, something kids might not do for pencil and paper work. But how could you possibly get any educational value from a game?
Firstly, games can help you learn basic logic skills. This can be as simple as teaching a young child how pressing a certain button can have different results. For example, you could let the child experiment with a set of buttons, where each of which makes a different colour on the screen. After letting the child experiment, ask the child to make a specific colour appear. This can be extended into more advanced logic puzzles. In a game called Minecraft, there is something called Redstone, which allows users to create logic gates and make complex contraptions. People have made computers, calculators, clocks, and more by using it. This would be a fantastic way to teach logic gates. Have the students make RS-Nor latches, and contraptions to prove their understanding.
Redstone isn’t the only good thing about Minecraft, though. Minecraft can teach kids architectural design, how to manage resources (Making sure you don’t run out of food, getting the right amount of material to build something, etc.), how to read, allow a great form of expressing themselves, and so many other applications! It’s like LEGO on steroids, minus choking hazards and the pain of stepping on them. There’s even an official educational version of Minecraft licensed by the developer, Mojang, called Minecraft EDU, and it’s being used in classrooms around the world. If you install mods manually into Minecraft, the possibilities increase almost exponentially, as are mods to add computer programming, and more.
But let’s take a step away from just Minecraft. Games in general can help kids develop problem solving skills and wit. If you already think that playing chess (or similar board games) is great for children, you’re in luck. There are many games that are all about using wit, intuition, and problem solving to get out of a tight situation. There are games that are basically chess with different rules, such as Starcraft or Civilization. There are also many single-player puzzle games that make you think about how your actions can affect your environment and how to get past obstacles. Games like Portal 1 and 2 are great examples of this.
Some history games put the player in the shoes of a historical figure, and give you the task of making the same decisions the figure did. If well executed, this can really help the player understand why these figures did what they did, while if they just read a textbook that said they did something, it won’t have the same impact for the student. Admittedly, this approach might not be great at teaching specifics like dates or small decisions the real historical figures did, but it can put them in the right mindset.
And when it comes time for marking to see how each student is doing, most games will provide a much more quantifiable answer than other means, or at least a more convenient means to an end. It’s easy to take a look at how students are progressing through games. What stages gave them the hardest times? Which ones did they breeze over? Is there a central concept the student is struggling with? You can teach it to them, maybe walk them through one of the stages they are having a hard time with. Watch them progress again, see if they learned anything from your lesson.
In fact, there are some schools and teachers that are testing the waters with using games in the classroom, and you know what? Teachers are showing that it’s working! There are many examples of teachers reporting positive effects, and the usage of some games like Minecraft in subjects like math, science, social studies, and computer science.
I am not trying to say that games should replace other parts of school. No, that would not be a good idea. What I’m really saying is that games can be used in conjunction with the other methods to provide great benefits. If we can move ourselves away from the idea that games are only entertainment, our society can benefit hugely, as games have a lot of untapped potential.
- Andrew Miller “Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom” org, Demand Media April 13 2014, Web. September 18 2014
- “Examples by Subject” minecraftedu.com n.p. n.d. Web. September 18 2014
- PBS Idea Channel, Mike Rugnetta “Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios” Online video clip. Youtube, March 6 2013, Web. September 18 2014
- Jacqui Murray “Minecraft in the Classroom Teaches Reading and More” Teachhub, n.d. September 18
- Brandon Chapman “Video games could dramatically streamline education research” news.wsu.edu September 18 2014, Web. September 18 2014 (No, this was not a mistake.)