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Fun and Games…and Learning?

Imagine it’s homework time. Instead of prying your children off the couch or herding them inside from the playground, all you have to say is: “Go play some video games!”

You’re probably thinking this will never happen in a million years, particularly with the time they already spend with their eyes glued to a screen. But what if they could actually learn while they played?

Researchers have been investigating how to put the popular pastime of video gaming to good use. Why not harness the power that games hold over kids and apply it to education? After all, shouldn’t teaching embrace all aspects of technology to keep children interested and make sure the curriculum stays relevant?
 

In the fall of 2008, the U.S. Department of Education awarded over $9 million to the Education Development Center (EDC) to create and test a series of educational games developed for use in the middle school classroom. The game modules, known as Super Sleuths, were formatted for the popular Nintendo DS.

The EDC team is working with approximately 20 kids (4th through 8th grades) over two or three months to gain insight into how kids frame and solve problems in video games. They are particularly interested in looking at age-related – and perhaps gender-related – differences in the ways in which kids think about and solve problems as they play games, which also involves how kids identify and interpret feedback.

Independently, Spanish researchers from Complutense University in Madrid (UCM) recently published the results of a similar study conducted just last year. According to their report, graphical adventure games hold the most promise for adaptation in the field of education but that a variety of technical issues would need to be addressed before video games are “classroom-ready”.

These projects show that there is still much to do before educators can confidently introduce video games as a trusted teaching tool, but it will be interesting to see the progress made and whether there is renewed respect for the theory of game-based learning.
 



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