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Monday, November 19, 2007

Commercial Games with Educational Value

Often, it is too expensive to build a game or simulation from scratch for use in the classroom. However, some very clever teachers are using commercially available games to achieve educational goals. Here are three examples.

First example is Kurt about what he has done in the article Let the Games Begin. Here is a sample from the article:

Packed with geography and history, yet exciting enough to keep teen and adult players engaged for hours, Civilization III was, in many ways, already an educational game before Kurt Squire, an assistant professor of education technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, decided to try it out on groups of 11- to 15-year-olds at an inner-city Boston school. "You might think of it as a map in a history book come to life," Squire explains. Players choose a geographical region and develop it using only resources available 6,000 years ago. Slowly but surely, they obtain agriculture, architecture, knowledge. Trade routes are forged; diplomatic ties with other players are established. Civil unrest and natural disasters pose formidable challenges, as do invading forces from neighboring countries, especially when the invading force is also your playground nemesis.

What I like about the article is that it gives a balanced account of trying to add a commercial game into the mix of a classroom.
Still, integrating a game designed to entertain adults into a classroom full of teenagers wasn't easy. In his study, Squire discovered that the advanced vocabulary and complicated rules frustrated students, while teachers struggled to manage 25 kids doing 25 things at the same time. Also, because Civilization III teaches the underlying principles behind history, rather than names and dates, it didn't do much to help teachers prepare students for testing. Although Squire says the teachers he worked with were overall very positive, he adds, "This is not something I would throw on unsuspecting teachers." Squire has since published curriculum support and is developing an online network to aid teachers who wish to use Civilization III in their own classrooms.

Another example is that of Tim Rylands. He uses the computer game Myst in his classroom to inspire creative writing, speaking, listening, music and art appreciation. He has taken the idea of using games and interactivity in schools and made a career of it. Check out his story in an article titled Reading, writing and playing The Sims which has several great examples of using commercially available games to teach kids in addition to the information about Ryland.

Or, check out this YouTube video of how Ryland inspires kids.

Also, check out Tim Ryland's web site especially the Story So Far section. Interesting approach.

Another example is using The Sims to teach foreign language in the classroom. Check out Language Learning with New Media and Video Games for some ideas on using The Sims to help students learn a new language.

So, on this Monday morning, I'm thinking...we need more computer games in the schools. And, it turns out, I'm not alone. The National Science Foundation, the Federation of American Scientists and the Entertainment Software Association got together in October 2005 to talk about the value of video games for education and have the following to say...
Games offer attributes important for learning—clear goals, lessons that can be practiced repeatedly until mastered, monitoring learner progress and adjusting instruction to learner level of mastery, closing the gap between what is learned and its use, motivation that encourages time on task, personalization of learning, and infinite patience.

Read more about what these three groups had to say about video games at the Summit on Educational Games web site. They have a report, a highlight sheet and a presentation you can view.

So get out there and play some video games...

Recommended Games and Gadgets
Recommended Books
Content Guide


Try Beat Me said...

You may be able to find a few here...

Try Beat Me said said...

BTW - Thumbs up to your cause Karl!

Anonymous said...

I agree, thumbs up!

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