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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