Digital Games in the Classroom


Life is a game. 

I gamed when I was a kid. I enjoyed the Atari and Commodore 64 early on. I bowed out of the console-device games around the end of the Saga era playing an occasional PC game. I skipped out of the Xbox culture completely. Instead my challenges grew into exploring and learning productivity software applications instead. First I reached to do everything possible in the Microsoft Office suite; then I slowly migrated into the Adobe collection —  first with photo manipulation, then video editing (which is my newest and current passion). I was geeky toying with spreadsheets, and making websites with Publisher. I enjoyed creating paper worksheets and manipulatives for teaching Spanish classes. In every lesson, I challenged myself to create even greater products then the ones that were available to me in textbooks or workbooks. I never took the easy route. More and more I expanded into the web and mobile technology of today. It began to feel like life was a game. 

Family Together Again w/ Digital Games

It was 7:30am on a typical school day. Three students sprang into my room to greet me and play Minecraft on one of the school computers. I watched as they crafted cool objects and used deep cognitive strategies to build profound contraptions with combinations of wood, stone and ore. There was something peculiar about this:  for once I wasn’t looking over the shoulder of a teen who was shooting guns at monsters — well, with the exception of creepers. Once my 16-year-old nephew came to me raving about it, I knew I had to try. Why not? Gaming online with family? How cool is that? After building side by side with my niece and nephews, I knew there was something special about this program. Now my 8- and 10-year-old daughters are in, and there is all-out creativity and collaboration.

Inspired by Joel Levin, The Minecraft Teacher, I am thinking about expanding what I bring to education with creative augmented realities. I’ve tried Secondlife, but the graphics always lagged with even the fastest internet connection. Minecraft first turned me off because the graphics seemed block-like. But as I grew into the perspective of the game, the lack of graphical detail is purposeful. A group of teachers at MinecraftEdu have put together an educational version of the game which makes greater sense. Not only do the students have a chance to learn from the nature of the game, collaboration, physics, and problem solving, but the teacher can create challenges, download curriculum-related landscapes or places of historical significance and challenge the students to explore their learning in a 3-D world.

I stumbled on a survey of 500 teachers who use digital games in their classrooms at Joanganzcooney.org. Seventy percent of teachers agree that using digital games increases motivation and engagement with content and/or curriculum. Joel Levin There is also evidence of sustained focus and collaboration. Teaching with games in the classroom is a natural way to teach. Riding on the challenges I experienced with digital games, this should be more of a focus in schools.

 How, then, do we transfer games to real life? (which I think happened naturally for me.) I look at games as a waste of time now in my adult life. I’d rather be exploring Adobe products or finding ways to creatively tell stories with nifty multimedia techniques through the power of video. Perhaps making games, students will be creating their own realities to share with others.  This may be where they share feeling through creative expressions — through creating digital games. Today’s gamers will be tomorrow’s game creators. What do we wish for tomorrow? Perhaps guiding them in schools is necessary for a brighter digital gaming future.

Another noteworthy read: Nomadic Education

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2 thoughts on “Digital Games in the Classroom

  1. Denise Elya says:

    This sounds like great technology. I wonder if there are any games that could be incorporated into an English/Language Arts classroom. I would be a great way to engage students. Obviously, I would like something that focuses on reading, writing, or grammar skills. Unfortunately that probably means more text than graphics. Perhaps there will be someone really creative who comes up with some kind of grammar quest!

  2. Colleen Gianino says:

    Kevin,

    This is a great article. So often I am scolding my students about playing games during class. I teach a Flash Animation course. It only runs for a semester so it’s hard to get down into the gaming aspect and script aspect of it all. If I had the time this would be a great motivator- students making their own games. They’d love that and I know they’d love to share them with one another.

    Colleen

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