Our ambassador Stephanie Brantz recently wrote this piece on games in learning. It also appeard on ABC Tech.
I know many parents question video games, but I wonder if they have ever stopped to consider their educational value? With the increasing variety of titles being custom made for the classroom such as Mathletics or Study Ladder it’s getting harder to ignore the benefits. Imagine how many factoids your 8 year old comes out with each week – how many might be gathered from the games they play? Possibly quite a lot more than you think!
Games in their traditional form have long been a significant part of every school playground – I remember having great fun playing countless hours of bull rush and soccer with my classmates when I was at school. Using video games as a teaching tool is only an extension of something we’ve all been doing for a very long time. Whether the game has been created specifically for use in a learning environment, or whether the educational value is secondary, I believe video games can play a positive role in a child’s development.
The very appeal of video games feeds into our innate need to seek a reward for our good work and this begins early on in life. Just think, the first steps a baby takes is usually in an effort to walk to mummy or daddy, or pick up a new toy – and this continues throughout a child’s development. With my own three kids, they are at the stage now where I can’t even get them to do their homework without having to offer some sort of reward! In much the same way, most video games are designed to offer a reward – whether it’s gold stars or access to a new level – every time a student learns something new. In short, video games provide a real interactive element to learning and can help make otherwise tedious topics fun.
It is well documented that video games teach problem solving skills as they challenge players to reach a certain goal. I’ve watched my children countless times work out the quickest way to reach a flag by running across moving platforms whilst jumping for rings and avoiding what I thought were cute little animals. Similarly through trial and error they work out the most effective way to take down an enemy.
Some of the RPG’s and online games my kids have played in the past have even contributed to their reading skills as the games have required them to read (and retain) the details about a certain character and their particular powers for use in the game. For obvious reasons I also love it when they (or we) play the word scramble and vocab games, I even win occasionally.
That said, I believe video games have a place in education much in the same way video games have a place in the home – it is a great tool that needs to be balanced with other activities. At home, I am very strict about ensuring my children get a healthy dose of outdoor activities as well as time to play video games or watch television.
In the classroom, I think learning through video games needs to sit comfortably alongside reading books, taking spelling tests, solving maths equations and conducting science experiments. As I’m sure many other parents are, I am an advocate of balancing theory and practice in order for my children to learn effectively. Although both theory and practice are valuable, they are not beneficial in isolation – and I think video games can help children gain and apply the practical knowledge they need to succeed in learning and for success later on in life.
Video games not only help kids learn facts but can help them gain the important fine motor skills and problem-solving skills that are an important part of growth. Surprisingly, I’ve also found video games have helped teach my children about what constitutes good sportsmanship, how to reason and how to distinguish right from wrong. No parent can argue that developing these traits isn’t beneficial!
I see how my kids respond to the educational elements in a wide range of games – they often have no idea they’re doing any learning as they’re too busy having fun! Other parents are also seeing this and making choices accordingly – a report conducted by Bond University, Digital Australia 2012, found that four in five parents with children under 18 years old play games together and of these parents, 90 per cent use games as an educational tool.
I want my kids to be playing games, both inside our home and at school. I hope they continue playing these through high school and into university and encourage educators to embrace interactivity in the classroom. I might even be able to find some I can play with them – and learn something along the way myself!