Video games in the classroom? Yes, indeed according to Jim Brazell who recently gave the keynote speech at the Florida Education Technology Conference. Video games can be effective learning and teaching tools, not just entertainment.
We all know that mammals learn best through play. Video games have learning embedded in playing. They are very motivating with their interesting graphics, sounds and strategies. They have built in reward systems where players move up a level after achieving certain results.
Students in a new class called "Videogames & Learning," offered at the University of Michigan, are exploring how video games can be used in the classroom and are looking at the connection between video game technology and social science research in education. Traditional educational video games have been used to teach hand-eye coordination and drill skills such as spelling or math. One student, a junior in the class, points out that video games that are typically used solely for entertainment can be used to teach many different skills and concepts from time management to forward thinking and planning.
The military is at the forefront of using technology for teaching, using simulators and virtual experiences to present situations that cannot be recreated live. In the classroom, video games can incorporate tremendous amounts of data giving the students an opportunity to make decisions and apply knowledge in very complex environments that integrate virtual, physical and imaginary realities. This level of complexity cannot be achieved with other classroom teaching tools. Brazell has used video games and gaming technology for career simulation with K-12 students.
He has noted a tremendous amount of interest by teachers in using gaming in the classroom. His recommendation? Start by determining what it is you want the students to learn. "Never start with the idea that you're going to use a video game (as a teaching tool). Decide what you want to teach and then find the right application."