Thursday, February 5, 2015

Video Games Inside the Classroom

Civilization V
Video games are becoming the future of education. Many teachers are now using video games as an inexpensive way to enhance the learning of thousands of students worldwide. Video games applied to education can be used to create a fun and interactive learning environment to experiment, understand, and expand off of the material that students are taught.

Imagine a world where your history teacher demonstrates to your class why World War 3 never happened by making everyone in the class play against each other in a scenario of Civilization V  in which the Cold War gets really hot, your science quiz is to make a fully functioning nuclear reactor in a very realistic Minecraft modpack, and your physics homework is to complete a custom-made level in Portal 2  made by your teacher. Believe it or not, this is actually happening in several schools around the world in which the teachers not only use video games to help students understand the context, but have them interact with each other as they do it. For example, teachers at one Norwegian high school use video games like Civilization, Portal 2, The Walking Dead, Skyrim, and The Last of Us to simulate the context of their lessons. They are using these games, many of which have a surprising amount of educational capabilities, to teach multiple subjects, including history, physics, religion, Norwegian romantic nationalism, and literature. Another game, known as Minecraft, is also being used as an educational tool due to its large potential
Portal 2
for teaching. Because it is a building game with worlds made out of blocks and hundreds of mods and mod packs to modify the game, Minecraft makes it very easy for teachers to make a limitless variety of lesson related tasks, environments, and goals that promote a fun, engaging, and interactive atmosphere for their students. Minecraft's three-dimensional blocky worlds force players to cooperate and think in three dimensions in order to survive, thrive, and accomplish amazing things. There is even an educational version of Minecraft called Minecraft Edu, which is used by over 20,000 students worldwide. Minecraft is an inexpensive game that does not require a very expensive computer to run, is appropriate for all ages, and like all games, creates a sense of friendly competition between the students, making the experience even more fun and interactive.

Video games not only help students learn and understand the context of the lessons, they make it easier for teachers to teach a larger variety of students and improve their overall curriculum.  Many teachers use video games to teach classes with students of many nationalities and educational backgrounds. One teacher in New York, Scott Jackson, says that video games are "a real good kind of leveler for all students” and that “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." Outside of the classroom, video games are being used by many teachers and researchers to research and improve school curriculum in a manner that is just as effective and saves tremendous amounts of time and money. Rich Lamb, a professor at Washington State University, does research on science curriculum in the classroom by giving students science related tasks within video games and has a computer examine their behavior. The computer then mimics the way students think and learns to solve new problems, allowing the research team to test multiple different changes in the curriculum and calculate the probability on whether or not a certain model will work. This saves millions of dollars by running software off a computer instead of going through the long, expensive process of distributing, processing, and researching the tests of 100,000 students.

Yes, that is a 1 to 1 scale of Kings Landing that some guys made in Minecraft
Some people might disagree that video games can be effectively used for educational purposes. When NBC’s Education Nation summit highlighted gamified education and online learning, some teachers and educators did not support the use of video games within classrooms. According to the Huffington Post, they argued that children ages 8-18 already spend an average of 7.5 hours a day using entertainment media, students who seem to master skills within educational games have trouble applying those skills to their assessments, it can be difficult to monitor all students using devices, educational games can be expensive when used on a large scale, teachers aren't trained sufficiently enough to use video games in classrooms, and that there is little evidence that video games have a positive impact on student achievement.

X-Box 360 remote
I disagree with these opposing arguments because almost all of them are false, mistaken, or are use examples from only one specific age group. The statement that there is little evidence that video games have a positive impact on student achievement is a misunderstanding of the difference between an educational video game and an “online education program,” the term that was actually used in the report. An educational video game is a game solely created for teaching students, however, an online education program is an online school like K-12 that students use on computers at home. Also, the only examples they use for students having trouble applying skills from video games to assessments and the difficulty to monitor all of them are from first grade classes. Even though educational video games are typically appropriate for all ages, it does take a certain level of maturity and responsibility to use them within classrooms and a teacher should not simply have a first-grade class play a video game and then make them take a test on the educational factors of it. Another opposing argument was that many teachers are not adequately trained enough to start using video games in classes. However, as video games are being seen in classes more often as time goes on, teachers become more and more prepared to apply such technology to student curriculum. What they are right about is the cost of educational games, as it can be very expensive to buy an individual copy for a large amount of students and are rarely used for any subjects other than math and English. Where they are wrong is the actual use of educational games. The technology of educational video games is years behind that of normal video games. Valve even has a contract that allows schools to use its hundreds of video games for free.

Video games can be used for educational purposes to create a fun and interactive atmosphere that lets students experiment with the material they are taught to help them understand it more deeply and advance further into the curriculum. Many of teachers around the world are using video games not specifically made for education to demonstrate the context of their lessons in a fun, interactive way that supports a deep understanding of the topic for their students. Many video games that are made to have limitless possibilities for improvisation and modification, like Minecraft, are ideal for use within the classroom. Video games also make it easier for teachers to teach a wider variety of students and improve the overall curriculum. As video games become more and more advanced, so shall the technology at our disposal to teach future generations to come.

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In my blog, I emphasized that video games, when applied to education, can be used to create a fun and interactive learning environment for students to experiment, understand, and expand the material of which they are taught and make it easier for teachers to educate a larger variety of students as well as improve their learning curriculum in a more economically-efficient manner. The comments I received did not change my mind, but made me even more confident about my position. Most comments were curious about how video games could be used in our school and helped me clarify my thinking on this topic by making me consider more ways video games could be used within the classroom. A few comments required me to do further research to reply effectively and persuasively by asking if there are any proven statistical benefits of using video games in school compared to not using video games in school, such as SAT score comparisons. Even though I was not able to find any studies or SAT score comparisons, as the unconventional use of video games for educational purposes has gotten more attention than ever for only a few years, I found even more evidence showing that it is very beneficial. In the process of writing this blog, my intrigue and understanding of this topic grew more and more. As a blogger and digital citizen, the outcome of the process of researching, writing, and reading, thinking about, and responding to comments has been a great experience for me.

12 comments:

  1. Hello, this is a good topic to talk about, because video games are definitely being used for education. I personally have used minecraft for 3 school projects now. Imagine how hard it is to build like a diorama for any class, then imagine how easy it is to make it in minecraft. Now all you need is teacher permission, and you can make a project that is 10 times easier to make and way easier to make better. The only question I have is is how you can teach a subject like english in a videogame, but besides that this is going to be how kids learn hopefully in less than 20 years. Also look at this game http://www.spaceengineersgame.com/, it is similar to minecraft but requires a computer with an external gpu and is much more physics based with much more advanced educational potential.

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    1. Thank you Roman for contributing personal experience to this topic! I am very impressed that you have used Minecraft to create three school projects! I have made a foam replica of Point Du Hoc from the Battle of Normandy in the Second World War for a school project once; imagine how awesome it would be if somebody made a life size scale model of it within Minecraft! As far as teaching English goes, the possibilities of teaching grammar would be fairly limited within the world of video games. However, teaching literature has great potential within video games. In the article I used about the Norwegian high school, teachers used a popular zombie/survival-horror game known as The Last of Us, a game with such a great story that it could be published as a best-selling novel. I myself have seen a series of videos of a person playing the game from start to finish. Other games with excellent stories such as the Half Life series, the Starcraft series, The Walking Dead (with an ending so moving that one employee in the company that made the game started crying out loud), and the The Wolf Among Us contain countless features that would count them as great works of literature. I am very familiar with the game Space Engineers, and it also has great educational potential for teaching physics, as it has great in-game physics, such as for collisions and thrust.

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  2. Jim Raynor, this is a fascinating topic that I am so happy to see considered from a student perspective! Teachers are debating the merits of video games for education constantly, but I don't frequently get to talk to kids about it, so thank you. Games are touted as an excellent way to promote critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and creativity. As someone playing the game, are you aware of those benefits, or are you just enjoying yourself because it's a more fun way to learn about something? If you (and Roman23458 for that matter) are up for it, I could use your help developing a Minecraft lesson myself. Each year our 5th graders build their own civilization or "colony" as they study American history, and they participate in a simulation that challenges them to survive and thrive in the New World. I'm thinking they could do it in Minecraft...what do you think?

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    1. Thank you ,Miss Gerla, for giving a teacher's point of view on video games and education! Playing video games from my perspective, I have become aware of those benefits as I went deeper and deeper into the game. For example, in a real-time strategy game called Starcraft 2 in which you build a base, make an army, and try to defeat your opponent with that army, I started the game not knowing any strategies, what units countered others, or how to predict the actions of the opponent. Over time, I learned different strategies to counter the strategies of my opponents by predicting the movements and types of units in his or her army by noticing specific patterns in the construction and placement of certain buildings and units. In most games I play, I "learn the game" and adapt in relation to the results of doing something in a certain way and the reasons why I would want to do something that would seem strange or unnecessary to an outside observer. I think Minecraft would be the perfect game for that kind of project. You could simulate early colonies in America by giving your students limited supplies and have them cooperate in order to create a miniature civilization by making shelter, finding a source of food, and create events and situations that will give the students a limited amount of time to come up with a plan and manage their resources efficiently in preparation. I would love to help you develop such a lesson.

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  3. Hello Jim Raynor. Thank you for sharing this interesting article. I really like the idea which is video games are defined as potential education material. I think Video games definitely has the potential, but how video games are better than the textbooks and how much they can help the teachers to teach but not let students just simply having fun? Also I am also doing research on the video games boost aggression, so it would be interesting to see your topic and your idea. Thank you!

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    1. Hello Dr.BoomBoom and thank you for your contribution to this topic by asking very good questions, one of them similar to Helen's. I do not think that video games ever will or ever should replace textbooks, as they should be used alongside textbooks, like in class after reading in the textbook for homework, to help students develop a much deeper understanding of the context of which they read. For all students, material in textbooks can sometimes be a little difficult to grasp the main idea. With the assistance simulations within video games, students can go from, "I know these things happened on these dates, but what does that mean?" to "Oh, I get it now! Because these things happened, this happened as a result and that is why people felt they needed to do this!" Video games help teachers do their job because it makes it easier for them to teach a large verity of students with different religious, national, and educational backgrounds as well as students who learn differently than others. Teachers using video games should allow students to have a controlled amount of fun by keeping the students on track yet giving them enough freedom to experiment, be engaged, and sustain a mildly competitive atmosphere. Lets say you are a teacher, and you want your students to figure out what trajectory to shoot an arrow in Minecraft to hit a cow 147 meters away using the mathematical formulas they learned in class. What you would want to say is: "Ok, using the mathematical formulas you learned in this last lesson, get in groups of two and calculate the trajectory that you would need to shoot an arrow in Minecraft to hit a cow 147 meters away at the same elevation as you. You have two arrows each, and each arrow you miss looses you five points out of 30, unless you miss all your shots." This keeps the minds of the students on the lesson, yet creates a small sense of competition between the students on who can win first. As for video games boosting aggression, it really depends on who is playing what game. A game like Grand Theft Auto V, a game about breaking the law and doing things you would not want to be caught doing in real life, would definitely have a negative impact on a player who is not mature enough. On the other hand, not all video games are Grand Theft Auto, and not all players are immature (I say immature as in not old enough to be allowed to see torture scenes and go to strip clubs in games). Many people think that violent games make players violent and make them think that it is fine to do horrible things like school shootings. This is not the case, and is the same thing with guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Violent games don't kill people, people kill people. Many violent games are actually less about killing the bad guys as they are about cooperating and coordinating with others in order to accomplish goals of strategic value. In Planetside 2 for example (you can Google these game titles, since I can't make links in the comments), you can accomplish very little on your own, and rely on teamwork, cooperation, and coordination in order to secure continents, each giving a different advantage once captured. Planetside 2 broke the world record for largest multiplayer player versus player battle in video game history, with 1,158 players participating. The fact that some people who play video games become aggressive is mostly because of inattentive parents who don't realize what is in the game that their 12 year old son or daughter is playing.

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    2. Wow, that was longer than what I needed to write.

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  4. Hi there! This was such a well written article! I was so interested to see two big elements of people's lives both come into play! It is true that with the growing use of technology, the casualty of using mediums such as video games in environments such as the Classroom has increased very much. The question I am interested to find out is related to the fact that you argue that technology like video games help students have a deeper and more fun understanding of the material. Compared to comprehensive numbers and scores, has the use of technology in the classroom actually proved to be more helpful? I am interested to find out if there are any actual evidence that students exposed to the media gain a better and more clear understanding of the curriculum. Perhaps you could research various SAT scores or other standardized tests, and compare the two. Overall a great blog! I think that with technology, we have created a whole new generatio, and I am excited to find out what the future of education holds! -Helen

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    1. Hello Helen and thank you for your contribution to this topic! It is difficult to find numbers and statistics, such as SAT score comparisons, between students who's teachers used video games to reinforce their learning compared to students who's teachers didn't, as the unconventional use of conventional video games within classrooms has only recently gotten more attention than ever after the turn of the decade, when a whole new generation of video games and game mechanics were, and still are, coming into being. However, many of the sources that I used, such as the article about the Norwegian high school and the video about Minecraft (unfortunately it won't let me make these links, so you will have to click on the ones above), and most credible sources I have not used, such as this article by the MedicalDaily: http://www.medicaldaily.com/how-video-games-can-help-children-succeed-school-246201, report teachers who use video games in class to enhance their lessons noticing a significant increase in the intrigue, engagement, participation, and understanding of students for the context of the lessons and other educational benefits of gaming observed from countless students. I have not yet found an actual recent study on the benefits of using video games inside classrooms, but I am very confident that many more will start popping up as video games continue to evolve.

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  5. Hello Jim Raynor, I think that this article is fantastic. I had no idea that this was happening throughout the world until i read your article! This new type of learning could open up new opportunities for kids to process information in all classes differently than before. I think that this type of learning relates to our century, and will help our society learn easily, since we are so used to technology and screens. It I think that all schools would benefit from video games, because it challenges visual, auditory and of course tactile learning styles. Do you think that our school could benefit from video games for learning purposes's?

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    1. Thank you Ann for contributing to this topic by giving the perspective of a person unaware of the recent use of video games to enhance learning.Video games are a great learning tool for all learning styles, visual, audible, sensory, etc., but unfortunately, I believe that it will be quite a while before almost all schools start using video games, as some low budget schools may not be able to afford it. I strongly think that our school would greatly benefit from using video games to reinforce our lessons. For example, in History when we are learning about the Cold War and a free market economy versus a command economy, the teacher could stimulate the collapse of the Soviet Union by making us play against each other in a custom-made scenario in Civilization V in which one group of students have their civilizations use a free market economy and trade internationally, and the other group would have their civilizations use a command economy and only trade internally with themselves individually. The group with the command economy and internal trade would eventually fall into economic collapse and lead to disaster for their nations, while the group with the free market economy and international trade would prosper. This is just one of many ways we can use video games to enhance our learning and increase the capabilities of our teachers.

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  6. Hello Jim Raynor, as I read through your paragraph it was very interesting to me. As a gamer I agree that games can be used for educational purposes and I hope it happens in the future. Civilization is a great game to learn history. I have played that game too and most of my knowledge of history is from that game. It is easier to remember from games than studying. Some people might not agree with your article, but as the gaming industry grows with such massive speed, people should be able to view games as another way to learn. One question for you. How do you think school should adapt video games in classroom?

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