Games vs teachers? NOT Any More

image-for-3The more I read about and explore the world of technology for teaching purposes, the more I realize how much digital skills I lack. I can’t consider myself a digital native as I had my first computer only when I was 14-15. And to tell the truth, I couldn’t do a lot much with it. And even though as a kid I didn’t need technology to learn (or at least I didn’t know that I could use it to learn), I can’t reject its effectiveness and significance now.

When it comes to video games, I have to say that I haven’t played a single video game in my entire life. I have never been fond of them, never enjoyed even the idea. But the literature I have read about it recently and conversations I had with people who are “video-gamers”  have presented me with a different reality.

A while ago I was talking to a friend who loves video games (he was actually playing one while talking to me), and I asked him what he finds great about those. He answered that he loves playing video games as they allow him to make strategic decisions, give solutions to the problems, collaborate and reach a specific goal. In simple words he explained to me what the whole science of DGBL (Digital game-based learning) is. As Richard Van Eck writes in his article “Digital game-based learning: It is not just the digital natives who are restless”, DGBL allows the learning process to happen in an authentic environment. There is always a specific context for the game, players have certain goals and have to implement certain strategy to reach the goal. Video games as learning tools have also proved to be a very effective way of learning to collaborate and work in groups and they also make the assessment a fun process. James Paul Gee in one of his interviews states that video games have become a great teaching tool as they have inbuilt assessment. “It is actually an assessment in itself, as every moment of a game is an assessment”. When playing, the student always has to perform well to get better results, to unlock new worlds and to eventually win. We could say that video games actually make the acquiring of new knowledge or of a new skill a “win-or-lose”  issue. This becomes a huge motivator for kids to learn something new as it equals to winning.

I would highly recommend that you check out these two articles published on CBSNews and The World Street Journal, where the teachers who have used video games in their classrooms tell their success stories and advise on how to do that effectively.

Scott Jackson, for example, who is an American History teacher at the the Brooklyn International High School, says, “I think the game is a real good kind of leveler for all students. Everyone can access it, it doesn’t put anyone in a certain position, it’s an easy jumping off point for the content, for the topic.” Joey J. Lee, an assistant professor who runs the Games Research Lab at Columbia University’s Teachers College in New York, says “video games allow students to explore, be curious and persist through negative outcomes.”

Psychological and learning benefits of DGBL have been researched and tested over and over again, but one thing that is certain for me due to my teaching and learning experience, is that kids learn when they enjoy it and if kids enjoy video games the teacher should be able to use them for her own and her learners’ benefit.

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