Being in the business of e-learning, I am fascinated by video games. No, I’m not a big player myself, but they amaze me for what they can do in terms of teaching and learning. While their primary goal may be to entertain, the core of what they do is perform a continuous process of teaching, simulated practice and assessment, all while engaging learners in learning from worlds rich with content and experience.
As teachers, we’ve always looked to various types of non-interactive content to engage and instruct students. Prior to the 20th century, we depended upon print. In the 1970’s, I remember cassette tapes and film strips coming into the classroom. In the 1980’s, it was video cassettes. Now, we show DVD’s and online video.
Today our digital native students are looking for the kind of interactivity that they experience in their lives outside of school—and that includes the video games that they play. But what skills and experiences can students gain through interactive gaming environments?
While the so-called edutainment market is small, educators and entrepreneurs alike are in the process of bringing the true educational value of computer games into the classroom.
Is the shift going to be rocky? Absolutely. As an example, look at the debate around a "historical action" game called Six Days in Fallujah and the mainstream discussion that has taken place on NPR and in Newsweek. Will this genre of game become a new form of documentary? If contextualized appropriately by a teacher, can this breed of games represent a serious way for students to experience the civics, political science or world history first-hand? After considering that, check out Games for Change, an example of a new breed of online games for teaching and learning a wide variety of topics with significant human impact. This is a challenging and productive debate, one that will take the marriage between computer games and the instruction of content and skills to the next level.
Edutopia recommends many resources for further exploration of the value of computer games in education, including:
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