Saturday, November 23, 2013

Video Games in Education

Video "Gamification" of the Classroom

If anyone told me that the future of education was in video games a week ago, I would have not believed them. Since then I experienced an AHA moment when listening to a guest lecturer Jennifer LaGarde on using video games in the classroom. She really opened my mind to video games in education through her personal experience and their data from improved test scores. Open mindedness is needed when hearing about this topic for the first time, but once you hear it and decide to jump on board, it is an awesome concept. You may ask "video games, I though they were leading to more violence in youth, why would teachers promote this?" Let me first put this into perspective for you skeptics. According to CNN Researcher, there is no evidence that violent video games lead to increased violence in the youth, but keep in mind that the video games in public schools would not be violent. Also student are increasingly technology savvy, which is need skills for the work force and upper education and using video games is a language they speak and understand. Join the Team also makes a good point that games are no new thing in the classroom, teachers have always used word games and math games to understand topics. The only thing new about video games is the technology. I really relys on how the teacher uses the video games is what counts and makes a difference in education. And something we all can agree on is that video games has the 100% attention of the students. If you ask me as a pre-service teacher, I want to tap into that student attention and use that to my advantage in my own classroom.    

Here are the 3 major consoles in which video games are played:   

          X Box 360                                                                  Play Station 3
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Why educators decided to look at this idea is the overwhelming captivation that video games have on the young generation of students. Kids spend countless hours playing video games. Early gamification thinkers asked "what is it about video games that makes kids want to spend SO much time on?" The answer is in the detailed programming and reward system. Each level is graduated challenges for the gamers to face. Each level giving the player needed skills and knowledge for the next step. The struggles are never impossible, or the players would quite, nor easy, or the players would win the game too fast. The levels are challenging to a point of valuable encouragement. Also what is addicting about video games is the constant reinforcement with rewards and points. When a player fails a level there is no deduction of points, no points are deducted only a new chance to triumph over level is presented. Here is about the point that early gamification thinkers said to themselves "could we use these concepts of challenge with constant positive reinforcement in the classroom? Could we use video games in education?"  

The surprising answer to the questions are yes. My thinking is if the students like it, teachers can use it for curriculum, why not use this technology to the schools advantage. On the topic of The intersection of gaming and education, an American University Professor Lindsay Grace says, 

"You have entire generations of people who are devoted to gaming,

 if we can harness that into something that motivates and educates,

 we can create learning environments that students will be receptive to."

Another thing that is exciting for video games being used in the classroom, is that there are ways to incorporated video games throughout all curriculum throughout any grade level. This means that elementary through high school can use video games for any subject as long as the game is appropriate for the age level and pertains to the subject area. Using video games in learning is more exciting than traditional learning styles and will hopefully the students will leave with more understanding and memory of the topic

Photo credit college.library

In my future classrooms I am super excited to use video games in the classroom. I will model my usage after people like Jennifer LaGarde and their experience and advice. In lecture, LaGarde explained how they used PRE-EXISTING games to use in the classroom, not "education video games," not educational video games are bad, the normal games are public and therefore kids already want to play them. I thought to myself, "how cool, these are games that a student very well could have a home. These games are absolutely tangible and suitable for them." 

The challenge then lies in the hands of the teachers to decide what curriculum each game is optimum for. In lecture we discussed how the students were able to link a concept to a game and then correctly recall it on a standardize test. 

For example in math, thinking about mean, median and mode, the students played a basketball mini game on Wii to get data. Once the data was taken the students were to calculate the mean, median and the mode. This memory of how to mathematically calculate the mean, media and mode is linked to the fun basketball game and now is memorable learning for the students. From LaGarde's school the test scores were noticeably higher after the insertion of video games in the classroom. 

I also really like the other, domino effects that video games had for her school. With the students having "fun" in school and the learning was more relatable to the student, the attendance of students increased, they cheered each other on with increased moral in subjects like math, kept discipline down in order to get to "fun" classes. Those results in LaGarde's school are hard to dispute and dismiss. I am all for video games in the classroom when their are great models already preforming to guide.     

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Other than Jennifer LaGarde leadership in her school as a librarian leading the way, there are some other great role models for teachers looking into bringing in and incorporating video games into their own classroom. Such as:
  • Joel Levin who teaches with MineCraft in his 2nd grade classroom and has a YouTube channel explaining how he incorporates it and teaches with it. Awesome resource if you are looking into how to use video games. 
  • Lucas Gillispie uses World of WarCraft in a fully-developed language arts course, aligned to middle grades standards. He has a blog explaining what they are doing and also they are apart of WoWinSchool which is bringing main stream games into the schools. 
  • Christopher Lazarski is using The ReDistricting Game in his high school American Public Policy class to help visualize and manipulate voting districts. 
  • Shawn Cornally who is experimenting with multiple sites, but likes Portal 2 for his high school physics class.
  • Denise Cruz involved in beta-testing of SimsCityEdu for her middle school computer education class and thought very highly of the game for the students. This is brand new and just opened November 2013, the concept is to take already known game brand and tweak it to fit education.    
Here is just a short list of different curriculum teachers of different grade levels doing super exciting things in their classrooms with incorporating video games. All of these teachers are passionate about using technology in the classroom and getting video games to be used as education facilitators for lessons while speaking the students language. I plan to take the lessons I have learned from these great leaders of video and online games in the classroom and take these valuable lessons with me to which ever school I end up having the pleasure of work at. 

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