21st Century Twist: Video Gaming Now Belongs in the Classroom



My two oldest sons Brady (age 9) and Cameron (age 7) are addicted to the video game Minecraft. If my wife Erica and I didn’t heavily limit their time using it, it is quite possible they would spend days on end building new worlds in this interactive game. Last weekend, they built a model of the Manchester New Hampshire airport, complete with a baggage claim area and several aircraft parked at gates and getting ready for take-off. Like many parents, Erica and I embrace the use of this game because we see so many learning opportunities for our boys.

Recently The Atlantic’s Rey Junco reported out on the educational benefits of games like Minecraft in the article Beyond ‘Screen Time:’ What Minecraft Teaches Kids. Junco encouraged teachers to incorporate the game into their classrooms, with suggestions that included: Letting kids share what they are building in the game and having them describe how they are interacting with their peers; setting up Minecraft hackathons where students who know how to use certain game skills can teach others how to do so; and devoting some class or after-school time to allowing kids to work on Minecraft-based assignments.

In a recent Scientific American article Fact or Fiction?: Video Games Are the Future of Education, author Elena Malykhina reported out on the increasing use by teachers and parents  of educational video games as a learning tool for children. “If educational video games are well executed, they can provide a strong framework for inquiry and project-based learning”, says Alan Gershenfeld, co-founder and president of E-Line Media, a publisher of computer and video games and a Founding Industry Fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Games and Impact.

Over the last few years, video games have started to become a regular fixture in classrooms across America. The movement is known to educators simply as gaming, and it is considered by many to be one of the next great disrupters that is changing the landscape of education in our schools. The online blog Mind/Shift has published and entire set of articles on the topic, their Guide to Games and Learning. Their articles range from explaining what gaming is, the do’s and don’t’s for selecting games and integrating them into classroom instruction at various ages, and what the research is already telling us about gaming as a classroom tool.

In Mind/Shift’s article the Benefits of Gaming: What Research Shows, author Jordan Shapiro referenced a recent American Psychological Association study that identified four types of learning skills that are positively impacted from video games on the kids who play them: cognitive, motivational, emotional, and social. Shapiro reminded teachers that these types of skills go far beyond the twentieth century view of a teacher’s role as one who simply transmits content and facts. In a follow-up article, Shapiro cited research that was completed by GlassLab (the Games and Learning Assessment Lab), which concluded some significant gains were made by students who used gaming in the classroom in their cognitive competencies and their abilities to generate simulations of real world experiences.

The evidence available to us today is telling us overwhelmingly that gaming can have a positive impact on student learning. Principals, are your school policies conducive to gaming? Do you have the resources to support gaming in your schools? Teachers, are you ready to starting a gaming initiative in your classroom? It could be as simple as starting a game of Minecraft. I know for one that my boys Brady and Cameron would welcome the opportunity to use their video game skills in their classrooms.

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