14 Replies Latest reply: Jan 5, 2012 10:24 AM by kmetz RSS

Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys

Tammy Dewan Novice
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This week, on NPR, I listened to a segment where Ali Carr-Chellman from Penn State discussed how schools aren’t engaging boys.  She argued that integrating video games in schools can help re-engage boys by bringing their culture into the classroom since video games promote “boy culture”.

 

This is a controversial topic and there is research on both sides pointing out the pros and cons of children using video games. 

 

What are your thoughts on either using video games in the classroom or other ideas on how to re-engage boys in the classroom? 

 

Here is another Community discussion forum that is related to children and video games titled How does video gaming affect the education of children?

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    dbolin Novice
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    Great question, Tammy. I'm sure many boys would love to see video games in the classroom. However, I suspect that much of the "learning value" might be lost in the novelty of it all. I'm sure there are many creative teachers out there who keep boys engaged in class without bringing video games into the curriculum.

     

    Duane

    • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
      kmetz New User
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      Video games have such a stigma in the classroom today. At best they're used only as a way to give the teacher a break, or to supplement a lesson plan. I think a lot of it has to do with the negative connatations surrounding the term 'video game'. So often, video games are condemned by politicians and media outlets as a direct cause to a lot of issues kids experience in the classroom.

       

      There is also a specific theme around most games used in the classroom today. And it's that of "drill and practice". It practices those hard skills, the rote memorization, the ones that will hammer information into those who play it. Look at math blasters, which is just a way to practice basic math skills over and over again with new visual aids at each level to mix it up. It's a timid way to approach video games, as they can really be used in a much bigger way, in my opinion.

       

      Soft skills, or contextual skills are taught by the US military in simulations (and no, I don't just mean those flight simulators) and even in a lot of corporations to practice managerial training (A is presented with employee B's issue, what do you do----the choice will bring on a whole new storyline, and there are infinite ways to complete the simulation successfully).

       

      The point is, in the classroom today, teachers are so afraid to use video games because of the social stigma surrounding them. It will be interested to see what sorts of advancements are made in the way to Serious Games (a reframing of the video game tag to remove the stigma attached with it). Especially with the revolution of iPads, iPhones, Droids and other mobile learning applications that seem to be the future of technology.

       

      I think it goes way beyond just boys, too (as mentioned in Tammy's OP)

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    Sam Barker New User
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    Technology can be a tool to make what the students are learning "more real". One of my strongest memories of  school? The Oregon Trail video game. It taught me the harshness of the time, the massive movement to the west coast, the cost of goods, and, probably more deeply, budget. In high school, one of my history teachers used the board game Diplomacy (you could easily swap in the online version or have them play Civilization) during his WWI lesson plan to teach the intricacies of war. It showed WHY wars happen and all the behind-the-scenes actions of actual diplomacy, but he took the game even further. With another assignment, he had the students write a journal from the perspective of a person from the country they controlled (i.e. a political leader, a factory worker, a child, a business owner). This assignment really pulled the students in and got them to understand what it put the citizens through.

     

    These games do more than just entertain and engage. It transforms the learning. It isn't just something on paper. It isn't just something that happened a long time ago; a vague idea. These students now FEEL what it was like, they have an attachment to it.

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    bncrider@hotmail.com New User
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    I think video games are a great way to differentiate instruction.  They can help teachers meet the needs of visual, kinesthetic, and auditory learners.  Many games encourage cooperation.  I personally appreciate the idea of students "learning by accident" through play.  They are more likely to learn new material when they are enthusiastic participants in a learning activity.  I think video games encourage enthusiasm for a variety of subject areas. 

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    Jane Brown Master
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    It was interesting when Oregon Train went from a stand-alone project to a networked program where someone else's decisions affected your decision-making.

     

    But just boys? Aren't there "games" available that would involve and excite girls too? Or, is the education pendulum swinging again.

     

    One of my favorite online games currently is Illuminations' Calculation Nation where students take learning math strategies beyond the classroom. 

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    fleabittenjoe New User
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    One of my all time favorite videos online is Jane McGonigal's lecture on how gaming can make a better world. In it she talks about how people who play MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) Games are solving problems in their virtual worlds and asks how the game development community can use that phenomena to solve real global problems. I think that it would make a great discussion to have with students but I think it also puts the whole concept of playing video games in a different category than we as educators are used to.

     

    Love… love… love this video:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/jane_mcgonigal_gaming_can_make_a_better_world.htmlhttp://

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    ipolymathed New User
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    I am a product of the Nintendo generation. I do believe video games can aid in the comprehension of logic, order and problem solving. I do however feel that some parents will fight teachers on this issue. Inevitably the violence issue comes up. FYI: I played Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct religiously and I'm ok.

     

    I have a feeling that people think that if kids are having too much fun, they are not learning. Its an archaic view. As for the gender issue, do most female teacher enjoy video games? If so what types of games to they enjoy. My wife, sister, mom and female cousins do not play video games. I do see that it is mostly a male dominated arena. Its probably the competitive aspect of the game.

     

    Aside from hand eye coordination, there are tons of skills that are required/learned when playing video games that are not addressed in the standards. I feel that in order to cross the digital divide, people must change their views on education. Tons of classrooms are still modeled after the 1950's. Straight rows with the teacher in front. Even lectures occur this way.

     

    If you want to cross over the digital divide you must be prepared to leave some of your archaic views behind.

    There may not be enough room there. We're all bringing our TB hard drives with us. :-).

    • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
      Jane Brown Master
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      The Air Force uses simulators to ready pilots for the air and our million dollar planes, improving pilot reaction time, situation recognition, and decision making.

       

      Is it the competitive aspect of video games that appeal to males? What would you be teaching your students if faced with a Kobayashi maru scenario?

       

      Would females be more into collaborative simulations? Who will create these simulations and how will we be sure we are addressing student learning and the standards?

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    mrstsoi New User
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    I'm excited to see how this field grows in our careers!  From my experience it works wonders and could really challenge our students - especially the boys. 

     

    Last year, two Somerville High teachers and I partnered with MIT in a project creating biogames - biology-related digital video games played on HTC Incredible Smart Phone.  Students were loaned phones for 1-2 weeks to play the games (four games covering four units in biology) and then they were assessed by pre- and post-tests, interviews and surveys.  By all accounts, the games were successful and a big hit.  http://education.mit.edu/projects

     

    In response to Jane Brown's questions, I didn't find that there were gender differences in regard to competitive vs. collaborative games, although I did find that the games appealed more to males, overall.  More of my "homework averse" male students were more likely to do their homework when it was a matter of achieving a certain level or amount of points, and they were overall more enthusiastic about the games.  Of course the games were tested in only two classes, so results will certainly vary.  The jury is still out about the "Boy Crisis" (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2000/05/the-war-against-boys/4659/; http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1647452,00.html), but anything that piques their interest in learning certainly has mine!

    • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
      Jane Brown Master
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      Thank you, Amanda, for sharing your personal experience with using biogames with your students and for pointing us to your games.  This must have been an exciting project in which you were involved.  Any time we can extend learning beyond the classroom by getting students involved in their own learning we are succeeding at our job.

       

      I know the pendulum swings from side to side on the controversy of boy vs girl engagement or the lack thereof, but you make a compelling statement.  Anything that "piques their [students] interest in learning" has all of our attention.

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    joshuajeon New User
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    I remember Oregon trails! I loved it!

     

    I do have one worry. I wonder if all these video games will only shorten our children's attention span and stunt their creativity. Creativity, growing up, came from absolute boredom at home. Then the mind got working, and my friends and I would come up with some amazing games. I just worry that video games in school is catering too much to their need for constant audio-visual engagement and entertainment, thus keeping them from growing in self-initiated active learning.

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    kprovost New User
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    I remember Odell Lake, it was a game where the lake was full of different types of fish.  Some fish would eat others but then would be devoured by differnet fish.  You had to figure out the pecking order of the fiish.  Boy did I want my teacher to show me the math/logic so I could figure it out.  I know video games can help some students become engaged, but I am worried that we will find there are hidden negatives to learning with video games.  I'm not sure!

    -kevin

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    lma New User
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    I think that video games have the potential to engage a wide variety of students into the topics at hand.  They can offer a "hook" into topics and provide a feeling of "I can apply what I learned in school," which can be a very hard question to answer in a meaningful way to students.  I believe that the challenge is to teach the students how to think about the knowledge that they can gain from the games.  We can assign journals, specific tasks, and benchmarks, but how can we teach students to engage in metacognition when playing games?  While I would appreciate the immediate gratification of seeing better test scores and higher critical thinking, I would ultimately want students to recognize the complex thinking they use in order to beat a game.  Perhaps if males and females realized how often they are engaging in higher-ordered thinking, they would be better prepared to succeed at the tasks we ask them to complete in school. 

  • Re: Using video games in the classroom to re-engage boys
    gzes New User
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    I think games can definitely serve as an engaging activity for the classroom.  Just mentioning that we're going to play a video game today would probably perk up quite a few ears.  I think one of the keys is to use the game as a gateway to other offline activities.  For instance, after playing The Oregon Trail, students could write a short story about their adventures on the trail.  Or research what exactly dysentery is (a disaster that can befall you in the game).

     

    With smartphone and tablet use rising and supplementing computer and console games, kids are exposed to games more now than ever before - you have 4 and 5 year olds now who pick up a mouse or an iPad and are able to manipulate them with little to no guidance. Video games are part of their lives, so it makes sense to use them as tools in the classroom.

     

    I am working on an educational game called Sand Dollar City - it's a virtual world with an underwater city setting designed to teach concepts about financial literacy.  In the game, players run a family candy shop.  So after playing the game, students could be tasked with creating an advertisement for the shop and the candies they make.  We're actually looking for ways to make the game more classroom-friendly and how to make it more effective as a tool for teachers.  Feel free to check it out at www.SandDollarCity.com!

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