More Video Games, Fewer Books at Schools?

Of all of the proposals aimed at improving America's failing schools, there's one idea kids will really like: more video games and fewer books. Some educators argue that children would get more excited about school and that video games can present real-life problems to solve. Don't expect them to be playing anything available in the local game store though; we're talking about starting from scratch: alternative video games that can teach, as well as entertain.

Former high school teacher and now Indiana University associate professor Sasha Barab, who develops such games, believes in digital media literacy and emphasizes how changes in education are necessary to avoid children being left behind in world markets. "Right now, I'm not that optimistic about where schools are headed." Katie Salen is also a backer of the idea, and as a game designer she is working with a group called New Visions for Public Schools to establish a school in New York City for grades six through 12 that would integrate video games into the entire curriculum. "There's a negative public perception and we know we have to deal with that. We're looking at how games work and we want to think about ways to redeliver information. It's quite unknown territory." The MacArthur Foundation is investing $50 million to investigate whether video games promote learning, and last month sponsored a panel discussion on the subject in Chicago.

Dr. Joshua Freedman, a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said video games are interactive and can help with spatial concepts. On the other hand, video games engage children with continuous action, a concept known as "enthrallment," that raises the threshold for engagement, Freedman said. "It's the equivalent of giving kids a lot of sweets and then wondering why they don't want to eat regular food." Several studies have shown that video-game playing corresponds to higher rates of attention deficit disorder (ADD) among children and are associated with aggressive behaviour. Freedman noted, however, that cause and effect are difficult to prove. "I wouldn't say that using more games in education shouldn't be done, I'm just saying that it should be done with our eyes open."

Whether or not there is any educational value in video games is a tough question to answer. What do you think?

News source: eWeek

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When I was younger, my parents bought my computer games tailored to the grade that I was in. It was something like 4th Grade Adventure! The games were fun, and they forced me to improve areas like arithmetic and spelling. I would definitely recommend them.

I always liked the Oregon trail in elementary school. Can't say I learned a ton, other than that many of the people and oxen died.

Why not just whip the little *******' minivan-driving parents until they convince their children to learn. Maybe they will spend a bit less time buying their brats electronic babysitters and glue their asses in front of the math and science books instead of the television.

This is a very good idea. Many people still don't realize that games are an interactive activity. Heck, I am not a parent myself but I'd prefer my kids to actively play computer games (without ignoring social aspects of their lives) instead of watching TV all day. It's funny how people still don't get the fact that TV is one of the worst things ever, you just stand there doing nothing getting information readily digested for you while when playing a game you actually have to do something, some sort of brain activity.

But I guess I went a bit off-topic there, anyway wish they adopt such a system soon.

Games could be the right answer. Although a touch unrelated, I'm a computer teacher in Austrlia and I've always thought the best reward has been if the students have completed their work they can listen to music or play some Quake over the network.

Off note: Did anyone else notice that Freedman's name is one letter away from something?

Yeah, I hope to see video games in schools as well. If it is a success in America, then perhaps they might trial it over here in the UK. I heard that some schools in America use Dancing Stage/DDR for P.E. lessons. This would be a good idea for some people, including me, as I can get a good workout on the game in at least 10 minutes, lol.

For the past 10 years I have been telling people schools need to change. I have always envisioned a "classroom" full of networked computers that allow each student to be challenged and progress at his or her own pace. In such a system the computer would constantly evaluate each students progress and present them with increasingly difficult challenges as they learn. Grades (1st-12th) would be replaced by competency scores which reflect a students understanding and ability to apply a skill whether it be math, language, science, critical thinking, spatial reasoning, etc.

I see the use of video games in the classroom a step in the direction of my vision, so its a good thing.