Games in Education

This article struck a chord with me. (Get ready for hints of an article I would love to write and see published somewhere!) The article discusses the use of a multi-player online simulation environment being used as part of a university class. There are discussions rippling through the online education world about effectively using weblogs and online forums in classrooms, but this may be the earliest I’ve seen a game used this way.

The idea behind the weblogs, forums, and this game is that it allows students to literally interact with the material as well as with each other. The teacher’s role goes from being the sole point of knowledge to being a facilitator, guiding students to build personal meanings from each other’s knowledge and experience. As near as I can tell, these environments are being confined to the high school and college arenas.

However, in the case of the game, there is another principle at play. Some may call it “entertainment education”, however I prefer the term used by Montessori programs and children’s museums “play is fundamental”. Those three words are the summary of an idea that through play children learn about the world around them, complete with those personal meanings that we as teachers strive to inspire in our students.

When we play, whether in games or in leisure-time activities, we learn from those around us as well as from what we are doing. If we make a mistake in play, we take our lesson and move on. If anther makes a mistake in play, we learn from their mistake and try not to make the same mistake. It’s a freeing experience where we can make our mistakes and interact with each other in a non-threatening environment.

One of my favorite areas to note these behaviors is gaming. I grew up as a gamer and around other gamers, and I’ve recently started wondering about the effects of gaming on our learning of various skills. Personally, I learned strategy, problem solving, decision making, and dealing positively with the consequences of my decisions through video games. I’ve seen people with low social interaction skills blossom in a tradeable card game (TCG) league. I’ve watched, with utter fascination, as elementary and middle school students negotiate a fair trade of cards. I’ve often wondered, watching these children trade cards and strategies with far more grace and ease than their peers trade candy on the playground, if these children are going to grow up and enter the business world with a nicely honed set of business skills.

For all the bad press games and playing receive these days, it’s easy to overlook the good. However, it needs to be remembered that play is necessary to help instill and develop skills necessary later in life.

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