Friday, February 8, 2008

Video Game Curriculum?

Radical Unschoolers have known for years what mainstream educational researchers are just now discovering: video games are more educational than traditional teaching methods. James Paul Gee, a reading professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is the author of 'What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy'. In a gamezone interview and again in Wired Magazine, he explains "why games, not school are teaching kids to think." However, he feels parental control also presents an obsticle to realizing the full educational value of video games. "People will object to games that have a variety of choices because they can't limit the choices their children make. However, if you remove that type of ambiguity, you've removed any sense of morality from the game because there are no consequences to bad decisions." In life parents may ask little Sally, "Do you want your red coat or your blue one" while patting themselves on the back for being good parents who allow their child to make choices. However, they never allow "no coat" to be an option, thereby eliminating the potential for real learning. In this way, video games, which show how choices affect future outcomes, are more like real life than the sheltered, consequence free, environment many parents have created. Then again, these same parents use the word "consequence" as a euphamism for punishment.

Several research studies have been conducted on the relationship between video games and education. In one study, "Psychologist Dr David Lewis discovered more than three-quarters [of 13 and 14 year olds] absorbed facts contained in a historical video game as opposed to just more than half who were presented with the same information in written form." Another study, using 7 to 16 year olds, "concluded that simulation and adventure games - such as Sim City and RollerCoaster Tycoon, where players create societies or build theme parks, developed children's strategic thinking and planning skills." Parent and teachers of the children in this study also noted improvement in math, reading, and spelling skills. Contrary to the popular belief that video games are socially isolating, the children in the study felt that team work was the most important aspect of video games. "Negotiation, planning, strategic thinking and decision-making" were also found to be important skills involved in gaming.

With a plethora if information emerging on the benificial aspects of video games, many indviduals in government and education are starting to examine how this information can be used to their advantage. They are looking into the feasability of using video games in the classroom. However, as with so many other potential learning tools, they are gravely in danger of missing the boat. "What's needed, one researcher said, is research into which features of games are most important for learning--and how to test students on the skills they learn in games." This statement underscores all that is wrong with traditional education and the mentality that children must be fed information and then tested to make sure they swallowed it properly. They are looking to glamorize the dysfunctional teaching methods they are already using. Their goal is still to shove a bunch of facts down the throats of captive children who will in all likelyhood never need most of those facts. This is evident by the concerns some of these educator have over the accuracy of the information in games like Age of Empires III. We must re-examine the definition of "educated". Does one define "educated" as the ability to recall facts or, rather, the ability to learn. If you, too, favor the second definition, then I invite you to join me in a resounding chorus of "Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!"


coolmetric said...

I'll join in. The proof is in the pudding is a phrase I remember from my childhood. I think the meaning is self-evident and so is the results of the educational processes you have chosen for your children. DS1 is well educated beyond his years. This is evidenced not only in the areas you speak of in this blog but also very evident using the traditional methods of evaluation. It is noteworthy that he has not spent a single day in a traditional classroom environment and yet he would be immediately ranked with the top students in any traditional school he might be placed into. This fact is born out by the comments other adults make all the time. It works. I am not sure this traditionally educated old mind can fully grasp exactly how it works; but, I can only say, "Read the first sentece of my commnent again"

coolmetric said...

@!sc.rr.comJust read the blog again and I am fuming over the comments at the end. Especially the one regarding the educator's stubborn refusal to admit that their model for education no longer works. As a person who began the public school education process in 1957 (yes they had schools then, just no books or indoor toilets) I will emphatically state that a variation of the current model did work; for that time. I came out of the system after eleven year (HS dropout) with an education far surpassing that of today's high school graduate. It is important to know that I was an average student in a series of average schools. I took the lowest level classes the system would allow and skipped school as much as I could get away with. I am hiding no undeveloped genius potential. LOL. The point is I was not well educated by the standards of my day; and yet that poor education far surpasses that with which they now exit the system. This has been true for at least the last 20-25 years. Somewhere along the way either the way they do education changed too much or the students themselves changed. I claim no knowledge of which it may be. I only know that the empirical evidence proves that the current system does not work. The sad fact is that it is not going to change for the better unless the educators are willing to admit to a need for change. Real change. Not a veneer of change over an already flawed system.

~K~ said...

Do you have any idea what blog coolmetric was reading "again" and "fuming over the comments at the end?" I would like to read it.

Very succinct blog entry here. Before Karl started learning so much on his games I would never have known how much he could learn. He must play well over 4 or 5 dozen different ones, maybe even approaching 100. That's tremendous variety for someone who's been playing since he was 3 and is now 5. He's in movie watching mode now mostly been on a Scooby Doo spree.

Tina said...

Sorry about the bad link. I went back and tried to find the article, and it appears to be gone. I wish I had printed a copy. There was a neat story about how a man arrived at an accident scene before the emergency personel. He was able to save the lives of the victims using what he learned playing a medic in an army simulation game.

Coolmetric was upset by the fact that even after acknowleging the merit of video games, educators still want to cling to the skill and drill methods that don't really work.

By the way, coolmetric is my dad, so anything he says about my kids may be biased.

If you want to learn more, google "video games education". There is a plethora of information available once you weed through the crap about using educational video games to keep your kids busy during summer vacation.