You’ll find a bunch of researchers who will say that playing computer games causes kids to become addicted. That they turn children into zombies and perpetuate violence. Makes them less fit and more anti-social. In general, that they are evil.
But you will find just as many who refute these allegations and claim that time spent playing computer games – with what Beach & O’Brien (2008) refer to as “constant connection and stimulation” (p 778)- in fact could be used as therapy for mental disorders and to slow the aging process. Still more contend that games promote problem-solving and creativity. Others assert that the skills gamers learn through this mode can be transferred into various other learning areas.
And I’m sure we can all attest to their magical powers of engagement.
So, where do I stand? Well let’s start with what I’ve seen…..
I’ve seen boys who can’t do Maths on a test, can’t do it with concrete materials, can’t give their peer an answer if asked aloud. But those same boys can do that same Maths when they encounter it in the form of a puzzle within a game. And shouldn’t that be just as legitimate?
I’ve seen girls who were taught metaphors struggle to identify them and use them in their writing. Despite teachers giving them example after example, heavily contextualised. I’ve seen those same girls complete online interactive “game-like” tasks and become metaphor experts within minutes.
I’ve seen apathetic older boys show absolutely no interest in learning, until they were given their own digital tablet, a keyboard, and a mouse.
I’ve seen the eyes of children diagnosed with an ASD light up when the iPad text-to-speech app talks for them, causing their anxiety to melt away.
And I’ve seen candles around the world harness this learning modality by consuming themselves to create games that teach knowledge, skills and attitudes in an entirely unique way. Ways that would have made their predecessors- at least, those who weren’t inherently anti-gaming or too rigid to change (read my post about this topic here) – turn green with envy. And I’ve used those games in my classroom, and applauded their creators, who “got it.”
Jane McGonigal goes so far as to say that gaming can make a better world….
Still not convinced? Look here for a whole bunch more convincing reasons to get your game on.
Now, I’m not saying throw out all the textbooks and buy everyone an Xbox. Teachers are not so easily replaced.
But I am saying- take a look at what games are available, and consider how they may fit your needs.
Because with games, you won’t ever have to worry about a kid falling asleep in your class. Or asking to go to sick bay, or to go to the toilet, or to get a drink. And I doubt that they will forget what they learnt as soon as they walk out of the room. Or answer that same question asked of them every day in the exact same way as the day before: “What did you do today?” “Nothing!”
The problem you may have instead is they may not realise they’re learning. Indeed, they may never want to leave your classroom again.