Do Video Games Have a Place in the Classroom?
Video games have a long history of controversy. From promoting violence to too much screen time being detrimental to health for children, it would appear to be obvious that they have absolutely no place in the classroom. However, this notion is now being challenged.
Movies, graphic novels, and tablet educational applications that double as learning games, are all currently used in the classroom with success. Through detailed and specific planning, these forms of media have brought a lot of benefits to their student users. They inspire critical thinking and creativity, and help prepare students for the modern world. Some even teach kids to code.
Why would well-executed lessons based on educational games be any different?
How it can be done
Interesting, those who have begun to use video games as a tool for education have made a subtle but significant name switch from “video game” to “digital game”. Doing this releases many of the negative stigmas and connotations naturally attached to video games—namely that they are a waste of time and provide no value.
Digital games can be used across the curriculum as another way to reach learning objectives. And for STEAM education, many of these games are great for project based learning and teaching STEAM concepts including kids coding and robotics.
Have a look at these specific examples in different subjects-
- In English Class
Educational games tend to tell a story and even follow the traditional story progress that we see prevalent in novels. Simply put, there are characters, a main problem that needs to be solved, actions that move towards or away from a solution, and ultimately, success or failure is realized. Students can therefore use this form of media to learn, assess, and think critically about literary elements, like reliable narrators. Students can also explore actions and consequences, plus they can learn about different genres such as magical realism. There’s a lot of potential here!
- In History Class
There are more than a few digital games that are set in a time period of great historical purpose. They are based on events that are both real and imaginative. After studying history from the textbook, along with primary sources of information from historical figures, why not compare it with what takes place in a video game? Strategic war games that also take into account other aspects of diplomacy besides fighting are perfect for this.
- In Science Class
You may have already guessed this example: digital games about dinosaurs. Of course there are other options, but this is the first that comes often to mind, and for good reason. Students have always been fascinated by dinosaurs, and digital gamesprovide them with the medium to be even more engaged. There are other focal points that can be found in different video games for older students. Doing some research and talking to the experts, in this case the students themselves, will give a good lead as to in what direction you can go as the teacher.
- Teaching Kids to Code
Many new games for learning are designed to improve a student’s digital literacy, including providing teachers with fun scaffolded game based queststhat teach kidsto code. A notable example of this is ‘Lightbot’ which a simple, but very effective educational game that introduces the basics of codingconcepts to elementary students.
Our own game Planeteers, teaches block coding and robotics, together with other STEAM skills in a quest driven open world environment, where all quests are mapped to a comprehensive STEAM curriculum for grades 3 to 6.
Keeping it academic
Just like anything that has to do with modern technology and anything new that enters the classroom, the use of educational games requires common sense and good investigation to make sure they are appropriate for the classroom environment. Having fun while learning is the key.
If you are a teacher, consider giving it a try. If you are a parent, be opened minded if you hear about a type of video game being played in class. If you are an administrator, consider bringing these ideas to your staff. There are many possibilities yet to be explored in STEAM Education, and it is just beginning. Creativity and realizing the potential is all that is required (along with adequate planning of course!)