Articles Tagged with Video Games

E.D. Kain over at Balloon-Juice has a fascinating saunter through crime stats since video games became widely popular.

According to the FBI, since 1990 violent crime has been on a steady decline. E.D.’s basic hypothesis is that some of this can be attributed to people experimenting with rage and mayhem in video games and learning how to manage their emotions more effectively as a result.

Those of us advocating for video games in the classroom have been making a related argument. By allowing kids to experiment with activities that are too dangerous, too expensive, or too time consuming we can broaden their experience and expose them to epistemic frames they would not normally have access to. In the case of violence – it is far safer for everyone to experiment with it virtually.

6a00d8341d03da53ef00e54f50f27c8833-640wiIf you don’t think story-line matters in instructional materials just look at the pie fight over evolution in Texas. At its root this is a battle over which story we use to make sense of how we got here. Advocates on both sides will be unhappy with this characterization – for them the fight is over the truth. My goal in this piece is not to take sides in this argument (I do have one) but to talk about the power of story-line in instruction.

“And The Moral of the Story Is…”

Theories, metaphors, legends, myths, etc. are all attempts to impose order on our perception of the world. These stories give us a shared shorthand to help us make decisions about how to think and act. Without the moment of “oh this is like the time when x did y in the story about z” we’d forever be stuck deciding what to do next – stories help us be efficient. It is so wired that our brains even make up stories when we are sleeping – dreams may not make literal sense to our left brain but our pattern seeking right brain has the steering wheel during those hours.

videogamesA new free white paper that tackles the practical challenges teachers face when they use video games was released this week by the Software Information Industry Association (SIIA). I was the author of the paper and the co-chair of the working group that produced the paper.

Barrels of ink and pixels by the gigabit have been spilled trying to answer the question “Do video games work as teaching tools?” We started from a simpler perspective – assuming that games can support learning what are the practical tips that teachers can use to boost the odds of success? We interviewed the pioneers in the classroom and at the companies that have developed successful games and summarized their hard won insights in the paper.

I excerpt the executive summary below and over the coming days will post some of the more detailed findings. For the complete paper visit the SIIA’s website and download the PDF.

532497422_f925be50c4_oFresh hot blog links to education topics here. These are some of the posts that caught my attention recently – enjoy.

Facebook for Teachers. This article is sad – lots of promise and money invested by people who just don’t get it. One district can not support their own social network – it takes hundreds of thousands of users to make these communities vibrant. How about we look at what is actually happening on Facebook for teachers? I Am Teacher – a Facebook plugin from We Are Teachers – already has almost 10,000 active users and over registered 50,000 users.

Video Games Improve Cognitive Skills. The title says it all. Go read about it on Richard Carey’s blog.

file0111313-1Videogames in the Library? Wouldn’t installing a Wii or an xBox bring a lot of unruly teenagers into a refuge of quiet and intellect? It turns out that putting computer games in a library brings in a huge wave of new patrons and dramatically increases circulation – of books!

Two recent items support the thesis that games can benefit libraries and patrons. The most interesting aspect to me is that it may move libraries from being relatively static storehouses of knowledge to dynamic studios where knowledge is crafted, shaped, and extended.

The American Library Association is sponsoring a study to gauge the impact of games on learning and literacy. Why? The gamer blog 1Up has the money quote from Dan Barlow:

186873_world_cyber_games_2004_finalsThe reaction of many parents and educators to the idea of playing games in school is horror. School is supposed to be serious hard work. What these people don’t know is that in modern video games doing tasks repetitively to slowly build skills and status is the norm not the exception. These games are all about “hard” play.

Gamers have a term for this – grinding. Grinding is spending two months getting your mining skills up so that you can make a special suit of armor for your friends. Grinding is repeatedly doing some menial chore for a faction so you can earn status with them and get access to skills they can teach you.

Educators also have a term of art for this kind of activity – they call it building fluency. We learn most of the hardest skills in life through a slow process of accretion that amounts to building fluency. According to reading experts a child needs to read several million words in order to become a fluent reader.

Ed Note: Do videogames embody the best in cognitive theory? In Part 2 of his series on educational video games guest blogger NT Etuk explores the work of James Paul Gee. Part 1 is here

By NT Etuk – CEO Tabula Digita

Why do videogames work? Why are gamers so willing to learn in these environments but so unwilling to learn in school?

Fortunately, some of the answers lie in the research of an extremely well regarded literacy professor. Dr. James Paul Gee is the Mary Lou Fulton Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies at Arizona State, and the author of the book “What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. Second Edition

gjames_lDr. Gee as an educator was curious about why videogames were able to do so much that our education system was having trouble doing – continuously engaging students, making students feel safe failing (not silly), unafraid to ask questions, and providing contextual learning that makes the learning relevant to the learner.

So he set out to answer these questions. His book is an excellent read and I encourage everyone to read it, but for the sake of brevity, I will pull out a core part of his findings.

Dr. Gee found that commercial videogames are built on a set of design principles, and that these principles translate into some of the more fundamental learning principles that cognitive theory has validated.

Among them are:
1. Active, Critical Learning Principle – [In a videogame] all aspects of the learning environment are set up to encourage active and critical, not passive, learning.

2. “Psychosocial Moratorium” Principle – [In a videogame] learners can take risks in a space where real world consequences (i.e. grades, risk of looking silly) are lowered.

3. Achievement Principle – [In a videogame] there are intrinsic rewards from the beginning, customized to each learner’s level, effort, and growing mastery and signaling the learner’s ongoing achievements.

699057_keys_and_finger_24. Practice Principle – [In a videogame] – learners get lots and lots of practice in a context where practice is not boring (i.e. in a virtual world that is compelling to learners on their own terms and where the learners experience ongoing success). They spend lots of time on task.

5. Multimodal Principle – [In a videogame] – meaning and knowledge are built up through various modalities (images, texts, symbols, interactions, abstract design, sound, etc.), not just words.

These are principles built into all good videogames. I have listed 5, but there are 36 that Dr. Gee documents.

As you read through them, hopefully it becomes clear how videogame systems can actually translate into tremendously powerful and flexible learning systems. Tabula Digita [link] and other companies pioneering this arena embrace these principles and look to embed as many of these principles as possible in the design of our games.

The good thing is that school systems are beginning to realize the inherent power of simulations. I can only speak from our company’s experiences, but Tabula Digita games and simulations have been accepted in some of the largest and sometimes most conservative school districts in the country, including Plano ISD, Orange County – Florida, New York City Public Schools, Forsyth County, and Chicago Public Schools among others.

Educational gaming methodologies and pedagogical approaches have been accepted as superior by some of the most rigorous judges out there. Orange County educators published a list of 54 intervention products that they recommend their teachers use. Tabula Digita simulations received the highest Rubric score of ‘A’ and the highest educator recommendation rating of 4 stars. Only 4 other products were rated so highly. Two were non-computer based.

628292_imageAnd students are singing the praises of educational games and simulations, with approximately 88% of the students who have used our software recommending it to other students and over 90% saying they wished more simulations were in their classrooms.

There is a paradigm shift that is occurring in education and it’s being forced by our industry’s ultimate customer – the student. Today’s child demands immersion. They demand experience. They demand engagement. And their expectations of how they receive, interpret, and absorb information are growing more sophisticated every day. As educators, if our methods don’t adapt to their needs, we run the risk of irrelevance. And if we’re irrelevant then we run the risk that we can’t talk to them. And if that happens, then how will they ever hear what we have to say …. ?

About Tabula Digita:
Tabula Digita is the award winning publisher of the DimensionM series of educational videogame titles. DimensionM titles encompass action and non-action titles and allow students to play other students within classrooms, across schools, and across the country, all while learning and increasing achievement.

Related Blog Posts

Link to Part 1 in this series.

Slaying Myths About Video Games In Schools

Virtual Worlds for Education – 1987 Redux?

Games for Education- Essential Resource Links

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introductionEd Note: Are video games and simulations essential learning tools for the 21st Century? Guest Blogger NT Etuk responds to my post about Ethics in the first of two posts on this topic.

By NT Etuk – CEO and Co-Founder, Tabula Digita.

Video games and simulations are among the most efficient learning tools ever built. Period. This is not a guess. It is not a hypothesis. If you don’t agree I’d like to share the perspective of someone who is working with schools to incorporate video games into classroom practice.

Jessica Hagy - IndexedTechnology & Learning On-Line has launched a set of forums on education technology issues. For some odd reason they selected me to moderate the Games and Virtual Worlds Forum. As the graphic shows teaching and learning is about a conversation, so lets get one going over there.

MaestroC got the ball rolling by stating that Second Life is the best platform and that games for education are a fad. Agree, disagree, keep it polite and lets all learn together. See my response on the forum and ad your own!

There is also a quick poll on which kind of game player you are. Several years ago Richard Bartle articulated the four primary styles of game play and a theory about how to balance them. Take the poll and see where you fit with your peers.