Gaming in the Class Room

As far as gamers are concerned, the Wii is a lame platform. Nintendo knew that it could tap into the “casual gamer” market and so it sold out – plain and simple. As a result, however, it is the best selling platform, well above PS3 and Xbox 360. So as I read the Edutopia article about using Wii in the class room and how all the examples were of primary education use, I thought to myself “figures.” Counting bowling pins or looking at the weather is not going to help my high school students figure out trigonometry or how globalization affects commerce. These are complex ideas that require a more thorough approach.

So here is a thought, how about one of the good platforms (PS3) design games that teach people stuff? Well I would argue that they already do, but what they teach does not fit well into the design of our educational system. Notice I did not say that video games do not fit into education, just the current design of education. Our current system separates teaching and assessment where as in games, they are one in the same. Video games emphasize problem solving and innovation where as the schools of today focus on rote memorization and test taking.

I could go on, but there is no point: These issues are the backbone of the debate and represent ideas that many teachers are unwilling to give up. Then again, I’m not sure that I am comfortable changing to something that is just like a game. If teaching and assessments become one and the same, do I not have chapter tests anymore? Do I just have a quiz at the end of every day and that is good enough?

As for problem solving, I would argue that I teach problem solving, but it is just not nearly as interesting as what is in a video game. So do I drop teaching the previously mentioned topics of trig and commerce and instead talk about ogres and wizards? If I can teach a student how to beat a level 32 mage, did I not just teach them problem solving? Does it matter what type problems they solve?

Finally, there is the thorny issue of innovation. Everyone wants a creative thinker, but at the same time people also like it when you can add, subtract and spell correctly. Is it possible to be creative when learning how to add or spell? You can possibly come up with a new method, but it is doubtful you will be any faster than someone who is good with the old method and so what is the point? Where is the happy medium between learning old facts and creating new ones?

I keep hitting this wall where I think certain ideas are good, but they will mean that the entire system will have to be redesigned and I’m not sure about that. Do we really want to throw away the whole system and start new? If you really want to incorporate some of these strategies, I don’t see any alternative. Some might say there is a way to blend old and new, but I just have a feeling it would end up being a watered down version of the real thing. So how do you change hundreds of years of tradition?

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About Bryce Hartranft

High School Social Studies Teacher
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