Games in the Classroom … are you sure?

Five years ago (and even more recent for some) the thought of bringing computer games into the classroom (further or higher education) was a resounding “No!”.

So what’s changed? There are two perceptable changes I can identify; the thinking behind the use of a gaming environment, and the type of games that are being developed. The Innovations report has shown that “such games can be used to boost learning” and that games developed for specific learning outcomes can “help build communities of creative, networking children across Europe”. This can be applied to any classroom, whether it’s a primary school or University, the only difference is the ‘intended learning outcome’.

Games have often been thought of as unhelpful, disruptive, even potentially dangerous for a child’s development (would you let a 10 year old play Resident Evil??), and attempts to use them for education were not always successful. Yet research has shown that we are at our best at learning when we are being entertained. Interesting lesson plans stimulate thinking and emotion, the learners can “creatively” work towards the (often) complex goals when they can perceive the action and outcome as something they want to achieve.

Modern gaming strategies (educational games, that is) are making use of the wide ranging technology that is available, and it’s not just the technology that is used. Learners in both ‘Generation Y‘ and ‘Generation Z‘ categories are comfortable with the Internet, Wikis, Blogs, Social Networks, etc and so the ideas behind these tools are being introduced as a standard feature of online educational games. Interaction with children and learners who are not even in the same country, let alone same classroom, is becoming accepted and almost expected.

Modern educational games are dynamic and narrative, creating virtual worlds or “mixed realities”. The actions of different players lead to completely different and credible outcomes. “Subjects such as History and Geography can be brought to life using these techniques”.

“We have come to think of games not as replacing traditional resources such as maps, texts or educational films. Rather, students are motivated to return to those media to do better in the game. They don’t memorize facts; they mobilize information to solve game-related problems” (The Next Generation of Educational Engagement).

The paper concludes by saying┬áthat “games are part of our social and cultural environment: children grow up playing computer, video and Internet games … although the appeal of games is fun, there are deeper elements that may provide a new tool for educators. For learners who are experiential, social, multi-taskers, games may provide a new freshness of approach and motivation to their studies. Although a promising tool, games are not replacements for faculty involvement, direct student experience or the hard work of learning.”