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.)
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6 Responses to “Can Video games be used in education? – a guest post by my son”

  1. juggernaut Says:

    I feel like video games, generally, have a long way to go until they are educational. They’re edu-tainment at best.

    There are a lot of games out there that have educational bits in them, but games are not a pure form. With films, you can convey a lot of information in 2 hours. In a game, often times, two hours is just the introduction.

    Want to learn about Buddhism or volcanoes? You can find 10 books at the library about them. You can find 10 documentaries on Netflix about them. With games, you might be lucky to find a game with a volcano or a Buddha statue in it somewhere but that’s it.

    Games are generally limited toward spatial reasoning. This is because games intuitively feature controllers with directional analog sticks. This is the kind of stuff you’ll see on IQ tests, but games are largely absent in other types of reasoning.

    The potential for interactive software like simulators and such are possible. In fact there is a market of educational games specifically marketed toward children. But I wouldn’t call games like Minecraft and Portal as primarily educational, even though they are sources of entertainment that teach a little bit.

    Can games be educational? Maybe 50 years from now. Right now, I wouldn’t add it to the school curriculum anytime soon.

  2. Maikeru Says:

    ”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.

    Very good point !

    Textbook study of WW2 is prone to influence by the victor’s version.
    Of all the main war lords who led their countries into that conflict, only two paid their bills from the proceeds of their literary talents.
    Of the two, only Winston Churchill survived to write a History of WW2, an if one read only that account they would be well educated on the entire period.

    During his tenure as PMpire , Churchill advocated for offensive action against Axis forces in North Africa from the earliest days of the conflict.
    The North African campaign was as close to a modern day strategy game as the times could provide, with overseers in distant lands moving men and material to afterwards iconic destinations

    Here’s a great example of a computer strategy game from the 90’s, named Allied General. which also examines European and Soviets spheres of conflict.

    Having read the history, and enduring the game learning curve, one can gain a much deeper understanding of why what happened happened.

    The other side of that coin is this.
    Absent the textbook knowledge, historical strategy games are no more meaningful than one based, say, upon ‘Lord of the Rings.

    If I were King, homework would consist of a minimum of 1 1/2 hrs on the internet, with a 15 minute game break at 45 minutes. Homework would begin after loading the dishwasher (properly)
    Schools would increase their hard-copy libraries, make students read out loud until grade 12, teach graceful penmanship, useful mathmatics, the art of cooking, and value of sweat.
    Memorization would be stressed, with
    Jabberwocky required in Grade One curriculum.

    • xanthippa Says:

      Sorry, Maikeru…but I beg to disagree on a few key point.

      Memorization is silly at best – reasoning, from first principles, is much more powerful and meaningful.

      I, myself, studied Physics because as an Aspie, I was not incapable, but philosophically unwilling to ‘memorize’ what other people said/though/dictated. Rather, reasoning from first principles – whether physical, mathematical, logical or philosophical – learning to do that became my priority and something without which my world-view would loose all meaning.

      Submitting one’s will to the mind/reasoning of another is flirting with evil. Thus memorization must not become superior to reasoning one’s positions from first principles.

      I could go on, but it would be a bit of gilding the lilly…

  3. CodeSlinger Says:

    Xanthippa:

    People love games because they love the dopamine rush that comes from winning and from succeeding at something after failing a few times.

    In other words, in the absence of contrary conditioning, people are hard-wired to love learning.

    Interestingly, learning is impaired both by succeeding too often and by failing too often The absence of success leads to frustration and the absence of failure leads to boredom, both of which are extremely demotivating. One of the worst things we have done to the school system is to deprive students of the possibility of failure.

    All we need to do to get kids to learn is to put the challenge and competition back into the schools. Oh, and get rid of incompetent, unenthusiastic teachers.

    The only way to achieve a deep understanding of a subject is to think deeply about it. For this reason, teachers do not really teach, and students do not really learn, during lectures. One simply cannot think deeply while attending to external stimuli.

    The most obvious thing teachers do in the classroom is to provide a guided tour of the territory the student is to learn. But the actual learning must be done by the student. Thus the most important thing teachers do in the classroom is to provide a role model. That is, to demonstrate how to approach a subject, how to think about it and how to feel about it.

    The best way to learn about something is to spend time with someone who is good at it – and imitate them. Of course, this imitation must be faithful in all relevant aspects, including the physical, the emotional and the cognitive. And it only works once we have mastered the basics, which can only be done by memorizing and practicing until we have those basics down cold. That’s what prepares the soil in which the seeds planted by the teacher can grow.

    Thus one good use (probably the only good use) for video-game-like technology in formal education is for memory work and practice drills – a kind of high-tech replacement for flash cards and books of exercises, if you like.

    But for any serious instruction, video games are utterly useless. Comparing games like Minecraft to sandboxes and LEGO – not to mention Tinkertoys, Mechano, and Scrabble – is quite apt. These toys do help children develop some basic skills that will help them learn later, but this should not be mistaken for an actual education.

    Like videos, video games are very good at training, but very poor at bona fide teaching. The difference is that training is aimed at producing prescribed responses to specific stimuli, while teaching is aimed at fostering understanding.

    At best, instructional videos are only good for providing an introduction, overview or summary of a subject. They impart a strong feeling of understanding, but that understanding is rather shallow. One comes away from a video understanding much less than one thinks.

    Why? Because watching a video puts one in a passive, receptive state that utterly precludes deep thought.

    This is why videos are so very effective for indoctrination and delivery of propaganda. People will respond very differently to the same facts, depending on the associated images and background music. In addition, techniques for embedding subliminal stimuli have become extremely sophisticated, meaning highly effective and completely deniable.

    Thus videos are superb vectors for the propagation of thought viruses.

    And video games will be even more effective than videos. Much more effective, in fact.

    Why? Because playing the game makes students actively complicit in their own brainwashing.

    This is how the very best brainwashing methods work. They recruit subjects to brainwash themselves, and thereby maximize their emotional investment in believing the propaganda.

    What is truly dangerous, therefore, is the idea of using role-playing video games to teach history. The claim is that by stepping into the shoes of historical figures, the student will learn why those historical figures did what they did.

    Of course, this is utter nonsense, because the game will be carefully crafted to lead the student to come to specific conclusions and make specific choices, while maintaining a very convincing illusion of free thought and free choice.

    Without doubt, game developers will base the game’s hidden logic of cause and effect on a modern, politically correct world view; indeed, they would probably be sued or charged with some kind of hate crime if they didn’t. At the very least, we can be quite sure that only games promulgating politically correct views and values would ever be approved for use in public schools.

    So there is no chance whatsoever that students could learn from such a game how historical figures truly thought and felt. What they will actually learn is how to re-interpret the actions of historical figures and impute motives to them in accordance with modern, politically correct thought.

    Biased textbooks rewrite history, and biased videos serve up the rewritten history in an easily palatable form.

    But biased video games recruit students to rewrite history for themselves – exactly as prescribed by cultural Marxism.

    In consequence, free thought will be completely abolished, but not by fiat.

    People “educated” in this way will be incapable of it.

    • xanthippa Says:

      CodeSlinger,

      What you say is true – unless the game-writer is on ‘our’ side…as, I believe, my baby will be when he grows up and develops videogames that lead people to our way of thinking.

  4. Zimriel Says:

    But I was told that every male who played a video game was a wymyn hating misogynist hater. You’re clearing raising him all wrong. ;^)


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