Teachers have been using games like Scrabble and Chess for a long time in schools to both entertain and educate students at the same time. Just like those board games, video games can engage students by making the whole learning process fun.
What’s more is that with the added visual and audio effects, video games deliver information to students’ brains in a much more effective envelope. In fact, research has shown that educational video games can increase student achievement, as well as spatial reasoning skills, compared to more traditional instruction.
Mission-based video games are about more than just getting students to memorize facts. Video games have been shown to teach literacy, problem-solving, perseverance, and collaboration.
Even games designed exclusively for entertainment integrate skills like literacy and math by forcing players to read necessary information or make complex monetary decisions in order to ‘level up’. Most video games offer students opportunities to both gain knowledge and, more importantly, immediately utilize that knowledge to solve a problem.
Going back to the Lemonade Stand school game, the game never asked students to define ‘asset’. But kids were unknowingly forced to look at their assets, examine additional information (weather reports), purchase supplies, set a price for their product, sell, and then assess their profit.
After this, they had to reflect on what did or didn’t work and re-adjust their strategy. How more clearly can anyone teach them critical thinking and crisis management than this?
I still remember about an article that Mr. Will Wright has written in a Magazine some time back. In that article he described about gaming in education. He referred it to as ‘failure-based learning’. Well, while thinking about it, a video game is all about failing.
Gamers make mistakes, lose lives and lose the entire game. But then they learn from those mistakes and try it again. They will keep trying, in fact, until they ‘beat the game’. Therein lays the challenge and fun of gaming. The article even refers to the language of gamers as ‘the language of strivers’.
Game designer Jane McGonigal takes this idea even further. In her TED Talk, she asserts that gaming skills could actually help us solve the world’s largest problems.
So to boost up things a little bit in this way, Valve has been doing research by involving a diverse group of teachers to aid them in formulating more games that actually will pump up both moral and intellectual levels of the students. The idea came into existence after the impact of the game ‘Portal’, on young minds, were studied.
Valve knows that the potential of gaming is unlimited and they have decided to give it a shot. If the whole programme came to be a success, we can see almost all schools purchasing these games to raise their students’ mental levels.
Even the corporate world has already seen immense potential in the ability of video games to train workers for real-life scenarios. Right now, doctors use video games to practice rare and complex surgeries. And U.S. military soldiers use video-game-like consoles to control unmanned droids, especially for bomb defusing.
Any teacher in the 21st century can tell you that video games engage students. Games motivate kids to keep trying, even as tasks get more difficult. They feed students bits of information, just when it’s needed. They encourage students to persevere, despite failure after failure.
Video games are, in essence, scaffolding machines. And they do it perfectly. Obviously, every lesson can’t be (and shouldn’t be) learned by playing a video game. But there are ways to integrate gaming principles into everyday lessons to help motivate and engage students.
Hats off to Valve for trying out something that will subside the negative effects some of the so-called ‘violent’ games have on children and hope other gaming giants also participate in some intriguing activities like this one.