I decided to discuss or reflect on a slightly different note than I usually do. This is still related to Game Development and Digital games - but it is more to their application in the realm of education.
From childhood we begin learning through play – playing is a way to experience something without the pressure of failure. Now of course we cannot stay rewarding failure – but failure should in itself be a method of learning. In school we use literature to supplement student’s ability to think critically – but what we fail to invoke is the feeling of action. Many games are written so well that they can themselves be considered a type of literature – the difference from books however is the player.
Interaction is the one of the most important elements in games. Movies, books and artwork have not quite been able to capture the interaction element present in games – and why should they? They are a different type of medium that can teach and educate in a certain way and deserve their own discussion. Games can be used to improve a wide range of skills including creativity, problem-solving, resource management and so much more. It is this type of education that the interactivity that games provide help improve. It can also be a means for a teacher to evaluate students based on a number of metrics that can be compiled during game play. I don’t just mean how many times did the student get the right answer, I also mean what type of behavior is reflected by the student when given a number of choices? Such metrics would be difficult if not staggering to achieve if they were to be done without software and a means to input and measure data.
Take a Puzzle-based game for example – such a game helps teach a student to look at problems from various angles, to think outside the box and to persist when a problem looks to be impossible to solve. Cooperative games help to teach students to cooperate as a team, to develop leadership skills and improve their communication skills. Story-based games can help give students an awareness about a particular issue, if we were to educate students about for example hunting – picture how useful it would be if the player can experience both perspectives in the issue, the hunter and the bird or the environmentalist. Strategy games help teach students resource-management, risk management, and forward-planning – business skills that are usually mentioned during university more so than secondary school.
These are just the tip of what games can help students achieve – think of any subject you wish and the chances are that there is a way games can help teach the skills needed for that subject in a friendlier and compelling way. Think of a Business game that allows the player to take the role of the CEO – making decisions to lead his business forward and realise the mistakes and benefits of certain actions in certain situations. Think of a game that allows the player to study the way ecosystems function – how different organisms interact and how the habitat changes as a result. Now I am by no means a scientist – but I am a business student and most of the things I came to learn during my student years have in some way been amplified due to my love for games.
Games developed specifically for education can be a major asset to the education system. Data can be recorded in real time for the teacher to review at a later date – plus it provides a calm learning environment for students not to feel pressured, making it easier for them to retain what they learn. Are games infallible? Unlikely – but just as certain students dislike the idea of reading, the same students may respond well to games. The same can be said in reverse – certain students will likely not respond well to games, and respond better to reading a text book. However – games offer us a new way to teach and educate using experience, initiative and interaction.
So what do you think? Do you think games have a place in education? Do you think they would simply be distracting or would they help enhance the learning experience of students and generate interest?
Until next time!