Why Should We Care About Educational Videogames and Simulations?

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.

But first, let’s reset our minds about videogames. If you can, forget all of the media hype. Forget all of the preconceptions about how good or bad they are for children. Instead, let’s take a fresh look. Let’s view videogames from a new perspective and together let us really see what’s happening …
In fact,
let’s look at this through the eyes of a child
Process Matters

When a child picks up a new videogame, he or she knows very little about the game. He or she knows little about the world the game operates in, the rules of the world, the rules of his or her character, or the rules of the interaction of his or her character with that world. The child doesn’t know what problems they have to solve to advance through the world, and in many cases the child doesn’t even know how to solve those problems ahead of time!
Yet, to win (and that is the goal of most videogames), he or she must learn those rules, master those rules, learn the problems, solve the problems, and fail a hundred times before finally succeeding!
340105RxAW_wImagine a system so ingeniously designed, so pedagogically efficient that it takes a child from beginner to master in 40 to 60 hours (the standard amount of time a game plays), forces them to fail dozens of times before achieving ultimate success, but is so inspiring and so engaging that they solve the problems on their own, actively ask friends for help, and even do research to find answers.

Content Matters

Now imagine that what they’ve mastered, what they’re curious about, what they ask for help on, and ultimately what they succeed in is not Super Mario Brothers … but Algebra
Now – if you were asked to design a system of education, wouldn’t that result be your goal? If you were an administrator or a principal and you were asked to manage a system of education, wouldn’t you be hoping that was the behavior of your students? And if you were a teacher, wouldn’t you be begging for the tools to help that become not just a dream, but a reality?
Of course! We all would! So as educators, we actually
owe it to ourselves and to our students not to be frustrated by the videogame medium, not to be afraid of the technology, not to be suspicious of the engagement factor, but actually to embrace it and to ask the critical question “Why?”
In the
next post we explore the question of why this works.

A Note from the Author:

This is the first in a series of discussions around the idea of educational gaming, simulations, and immersive learning. It’s a small snippet meant to start a dialogue. I’ll try to keep the piece short so we can dialogue together – so please, any questions, answers, retorts, replies – please post. More than happy to hear them and respond.

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. View Tabula Digita titles at www.DimensionM.com