I will admit it – I am not a “gamer.” In fact, I am probably more inclined to think that those who do “game” are often wasting time. What value could possibly come from spending hours in front of a screen playing a game? This week’s topic has caused me to challenge that assumption. I wouldn’t say that I’m entirely “sold” on the idea of gaming, but I’m certainly more open to it than I was before.
First of all, for those who like to game (lots and lots of boys do), then it might be a very good idea to use their natural interest in games in order to teach them something. I have two sons who love video games. One, in particular, would spend all day playing video games if I would allow it. I have found various educational computer games for him to play and he really likes that. It has been a great way for him to develop some math and reading skills. All of my children – daughters included – often respond very well to a new game to play on the computer. It’s like they don’t even realize that they’re learning – it’s just fun. This type of gaming has been more “acceptable” to me as their teacher.
But, what about taking it a step further – what about the use of virtual worlds like Second Life and others? This is an area of which I am much less familiar. While I’m not ready to create a space in Second Life, I am very intrigued by what “worlds” like this can offer. Mostly, I have learned this week that virtual worlds and simulations can serve as wonderful training tools when a real world scenario is needed. Students can participate in near-authentic environments, solving problems and applying what they have learned (and for learning completely new things).
I have also reflected on the idea of how gaming is now becoming more of a social rather than a solitary activity. Because of this, collaboration can occur in a virtual, simulated environment. Within the context of a game, students can work together with others to solve problems, etc. I can see how this could be an effective teaching tool.
With all of that being said, I think there are still dangers. Bonk and Dennen write, “…the social support, challenge, feedback, and sense of identity that players receive online in MMOG often provides psychological fulfillment that they may not be receiving in real life.” To me, this can be a danger. When gamers start replacing the real world with their virtual world, a dangerous line has been crossed. When virtual worlds are preferred over the real world because of the fulfillment one receives in a virtual environment, then what was once a tool for learning and positive social interactivity becomes a hindrance to personal well-being.
The bottom line for me is that games can be an effective tool for learning. However, I am still cautious about the potential negative effects. For this reason, it’s important to be intentional about their use within an educational environment. Games should not “rule” the classroom. Kept in proper balance, they offer much potential.
Bonk, C. J., & Dennen, V. P. (2005). Massive multiplayer online gaming: A research framework for military education and training. (Technical Report # 2005-1). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Defense (DUSD/R): Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://mypage.iu.edu/~cjbonk/GameReport_Bonk_final.pdf
Korzeniowski, Paul (2007, March 27). Educational video games: Coming to a classroom near you? TechNewsWorld. Retrieved on June 25, 2010, from http://www.technewsworld.com/story/56516.html