The DeHavilland Blog

Friday, September 30, 2005

Video games as teaching tools

An article in eSchoolNews titled "$10B gaming field inspires new curricula" (link here) talks about the rise in college coursework dedicated to game design and technology. While the article focuses on new coursework at the college/university level, it is exciting to see an academic response to the emerging needs of industry. It also gives rise to two thoughts.

First, video games are tremendously important to kids and teens (they do make up a fair chunk of that $10B market after all). There's also a tremendous cool factor around game design (in the ESN article, Carolyn Rauch, SVP of the Entertainment Software Association says, "Just like when rock and roll came of age, everybody wanted to be a rock star--as video games have come of age, everyone wants to be a developer."). Why are we not leveraging this more at the K-12 level (or at least middle and high school), using game design/development as an entree into various content areas?

In addition to the growth in tech skills from actual coding, and increase in communication skills needed for good game design (you've got to approach game design from the user's experience - a great principle in communication), you also have to learn your subject in depth. Having kids build a game out of a Shakespearean work, for example, would allow them to explore a 360 degree view of the time in which the play is set (so costumes, locations, etc. are realistic). Same goes for history. You could also do great science instruction - to make a ball bounce realistically, you have to learn the physics of moving objects, including gravity, friction, and so on.

The second thought is that we should be using the principles of game design in planning instruction. One of the best books I've read in a while is "What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning and Literacy" by Jim Gee (link to book on Amazon.com
here). In it, he asks the question: why is it that in education, we keep trying to make things easier and easier, and continue to see engagement and performance slip (or at least stagnate) - when, in contrast, the harder our video games are, the more kids want to play them? He presents 36 principles of good game design - what makes games engaging, accessible, and challenging - and it would be fascinating to watch someone integrate this set of ideas into their instructional approach.

If anyone sees examples of either of these in action, please share - I'd love to study them and report.

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