Like talking to teenagers about sex, not enough serious conversation happens between elementary/middle school students and their adult counterparts (teachers and parents) about playing video games. And if the kids do ask the questions are asked the responses are finite “Nos.” (I don’t think I need to tell you how well abstinence works as birth control.)
I used to get annoyed with the kids at my local library. On any given afternoon (mornings on the weekends), they will stand three or four deep, peering over each others shoulders, watching a peer shoot an “enemy combatant” or fight their way through a labyrinth of booby traps and mythological creatures . Their peer has reserved time on library computers to do exactly what they do on their DSs.
I was annoyed because I felt they weren’t using the library computers “properly” — in terms I understood: searching the web for links to information and informational sources, composing papers, building tables, etc. But once I realized my terms of “proper use” were based on the limitations of the library computers of my generation: a frantic, blinking rectangle; crude, blocky text in white or green; clicks, whirs, and beeps heralding the dawn of the Information Age.
I was looking forward to the New York Comic Con (NYCC) panel on National Gaming Day. And was disappointed when I missed it. I think even in the age of “blackening in the Bubble” and the determination of a “good teacher” is how well he or she teaches to the test, it is still easy to argue successfully for the inclusion of games and play in the classroom. Playing games in the classroom have a positive, quantifiable effects on learning and student achievement. In 2007, Robert S. Siegler and Geetha B. Ramani published a study on the benefits board games had on math learning among Pre-K and elementary school students.
“Young people learn a great deal about the world through play, and games are one source of play,” said Mr. Siegler, a professor of cognitive psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. And when it comes to learning math, he added, “the games that build understanding of numerical magnitudes are crucial.”
In 2011, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at the Sesame Workshop hosted a National STEM Video Game Challenge. Students in grades 5 – 8 competed to develop educational video games with special emphasis on STEM learning.
As far back as 1948 (when the term “edutainment” was coined), educators were aware of the benefits of pop culture media like TV and games on student engagement and achievement. Students may not place value in a traditional algebra lesson. However, when that lesson is presented as a part of a strategy for winning a game, its value increases.
I think teachers agree that games are an effective way to introduce students to and maintain their interest in traditionally unattractive lessons in math and English. I also think where teachers will disagree is on the length and depth of play. Where does the application of academic skills meet the testing? How is the academic skill building isolated and brought out so students can identify the skills practice with the appropriate bubble on standardized tests?
National Gaming Day @ your library is an initiative of the American Library Association to reconnect communities through their libraries around the educational, recreational, and social value of all types of games.
Currently, National Gaming Day is a community building initiative aimed at presenting your local library as a hub of community social activity and information. I believe a “National School Gaming Day” would be a great opportunity to engage students to skills practice through gaming and to help them connect those skills to strategies for succeeding on standardized tests.
National Gaming Day is November 12. Check their website to see if your local library is participating.