Games are nothing new for technology. We’ve always had a variety of types of games from action-adventure that started in Atari and Nintendo to more strategy-based games such as Warcraft and Command and Conquer. For the most part, educational games have been developed but often lack the depth or complexity of games intended for entertainment. There are plenty of flash type games online that educators usually use for low-level thinking skills such as math computation and spelling and vocabulary type games. Although these certainly have some educational value but as a teacher, I’ve usually don’t allocate too much time to these in the same way that I don’t spend too much time on drill and
kill skill worksheets. However, games are coming increasingly complex and realistic and a more recent genre of games has emerged including simulation and 3D virtual games such as Second Life, Sim City and most recently, Minecraft.
These games have captured my attention. I must confess that I am a bit of a gamer myself and really enjoy strategy type games or simulation type games such as Civilization or Myst. I love the challenge and the thinking skills involved with these games. I also see the educational value of these games as well. The Horizon Report (a publication that discusses emerging technology in education) predicts that it will play a significant role in education over the next 2-3 years. For an excellent read on this topic, read Marc Prensky’s article “What Kids Learn that’s POSITIVE from video games” . To sum up he points out that kids learn the following real-life lessons from video games:
- Cause and Effect
- Long term Winning vs Short-term Gain
- Order from Seeming Chaos
- Second-order Consequences
- Complex systems behaviors
- Counter Intuitive results
- Using obstacles as motivation
- The Value of Persistence
My current plan is to start using it with 3rd Graders to create a Math project in which they designed a garden with limited resources and calculated the area and perimeter. I am also starting an After School Activity with some students 3-5 in which we are going to design the new campus for our school in collaboration with some High School students.