Can Video games be used in education? – a guest post by my son

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.

 

Sources

  • 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.)

Judge Jim Gray – Judging The Drug War

Food for thought…I have never, ever, in my life indulged in illegal drugs – not even marijuana.

Why?

Because as illegal substances, there is no way of knowing if they are adulterated with poison….

But, I do think that ‘drug laws’ are an abomination:  they are an admission that we are the slaves of the State – if the State did not own our bodies, it would not have the jurisdiction to govern what we do or do not choose to put into them.

Now – aside from the ‘recreational’ drugs, there is another, to me, more important implication of drug prohibition and the related legislation:  the only people who can legally ‘prescribe’ medication are people whom the government permits to do so.

And these are people educated in government controlled facilities, largely funded by drug manufacturers.

This is a glaring conflict of interest.

I am not saying that every MD out there is in the pockets of Big Pharma.  Far from it.  But, the education they receive is not well-rounded…and there is no other field that competes against the ideas – or, indeed, complements them.

No, I am not saying that homeopathy and such are credible – just that the only things that get research money for proper scientific examination are in a very, very narrow field.

Let me give you an example of what I mean:  the ‘placebo effect’.

Currently, it is regarded as no more than a nuisance:  patients think they are getting medicine and so get better…even in cases of legitimate disease that is not just a figment of the patient’s imagination.  So, studies control for it in order to evaluate the efficacy of drugs.

But, turn this around:  if there is a way to ‘trick’ the body into healing itself using no harsh chemicals – why are we not studying this in the most rigorous scientific manner possible?  A cure with no side effects is nothing to sneeze at…

That is just one tiny little example.

Another one is from my own experience:  I have some rather rare health issues which most likely stem from having spent the first 13 years of my life 7 km downwind from a chemical plant in a socialist worker’s paradise (where the people who regulate the chemical plants – the government – are the same people who own them – the government – and there is no governing body over them to bring them into compliance with even the pitiful regulation they do have on the books….).  So, some informed friends did some digging in the scientific literature and found a precedent for treatment of conditions like mine.

Awesome, right?

Wrong!

I cannot get that treatment, because it is ‘not common’ and, whole a whole slew of MD’s I brought it to believe it would likely make it possible for me to live again a semi-normal life (no longer bed-ridden and all that pain), they will not prescribe it because ‘it is unusual’ and ‘prescribing it might make the OHIP – the government bureaucracy that oversees the MDs – suspicious enough to audit the MD who prescribed it, which would be too much of a bother….much better not to help me return to being a productive member of our society…

So – when we talk about drug prohibition, do keep in mind that we are not just prohibiting narcotics and halucinogens – we are prohibiting people from accessing legitimate medication needed for the treatment of real-life medical problems!

Because, like it or not, if I were to go out and seek health-restoring medications for myself, I could end up in jail for life on an ‘illegal drug’ conviction.

Not all drugs are ‘recreational’….but they are all equally illegal!

And that does not even scratch the surface of incentivizing police forces to focus on drug busts and the accompanying property forfeiture instead on preventing property and violent crime…

 

 

 

CrazyRussianHacker Tries for a Darwin Award (RE Dry ice air conditioner)

This is really quite amusing – it was just last night (or, should I say early this morning?) that I had stumbled upon CrazyRussianHacker’s channel.  Quite amusing – he is rather funny and some of his ideas are definitely something I’m going to try out when we go cottaging with my family.

And yes, I did see he had a video for a dry ice air conditioner, but thought the idea silly and skipped that video.

It seems that Thunderf00t did not skip it – and has some things to say about it:

P.S.  CRH actually has a video where he criticizes some of his own earlier hacks and shows why and how they are to be voided, so he’s probably open to constructive criticism.  Should be interesting to watch his reaction…

Evolution and HIV

The following videos are most excellent – but, if you have not ever been exposed to the language of ‘immunology’ or the latest theories in this branch of science, you may find the following few explanations useful.  Otherwise, please, proceed to the videos themselves!

Backgrounder:

Our body is made up of cells.

The outer layer of the cell is called a cell membrane.  It is made up of a waterproof ‘double-layer’ of ‘phospholipid bilayer’ – which make it very difficult for either water or fat-based substances to make it into the cell.  (A phospholipid is a thigie that is water-soluble on one end, fat-soluble on the other.  When they form a bilayer (a two-layer), they line up in just such a way that neither water nor fat soluble stuff can enter the cell through – which is why they are so useful in forming the cell wall.)

But, in order to live, the cell needs to exchange chemicals (like food and oxygen) with the outside.  In order to do this, each cell has some proteins built into the cell wall.  These proteins form channels that permit specific chemical reactions to occur – thus permitting the cell to ‘eat’ and ‘breathe’.

These proteins are not ‘flush’ with the rest of the cell wall – they form very specific ‘bumps’ on the surface of the cell wall that are unique to each protein…and each cell has a unique pattern of these proteins.

Thus, each different type of cell has a ‘fingerprint’ pattern of protein ‘bumps’ in the cell wall – that is how the body recognizes each cell for what it is and what function it performs.

Virus cells also have a unique ‘fingerprint’ pattern of proteins in their cell walls – and it is by this ‘fingerprint’ that our immune system learns to recognize them.  It then builds specific anti-bodies that check for this specific ‘fingerprint’ on the virus wall and if they detect it, they bind to it and eventually kill it.

Viruses are notorious for changing their ‘surface proteins’ and thus their ‘fingerprints’, making it impossible for our immune systems to identify the virus cells and mark them for destruction.

But, even if you are not educated in this field, the conclusion in the second video will make sense!

 

 

Thunderf00t: Guess how much US Gov. wasted on Solar Roadways?

 

Thunderf00t: Solar Roadways, a VERY expensive joke?

 

Thunderf00t: Solar Roadways, IMPORTANT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS!

This is a follow up to Thunderf00t’s first criticism of this hair-brained idea for a ‘solar-powered roadways’.

Predictably, pretty, shiny roadways appeal to many people and they didn’t really appreciate the reason for Thunderf00t’s criticism, thinking him a bit of a luddite… Actualy, Thunferf00t is a real-life super-smart scientist, advancing the leading edge of scientific discovery.

Which is precisely why he is criticizing the ‘LED road markings in the daytime’ and glass-surfaced roads…

But, let’s go to the video and let Thunderf00t answer some of these accusations himself:

UPDATE:  Here are some more answers fromThunderf00t:

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