Do Video Games have Something to Teach Educators?

I’ve always been a big fan of change.   That’s why I teach overseas. That’s why I teach middle school.  That’s why I teach.   Change is good.   And I’m the kind of teacher who is constantly seeking out new ideas, the latest research, and ways to be better at what I’m doing.  I know there are many teachers who are afraid of change and set in their ways, but I’m pretty much the opposite.  But for me, the courses I’ve been taking and conferences I’ve been attending have been a treasure trove of new ideas to stretch and challenge me professionally – something I love.  I am after all, a “work in progress”.

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I can honestly look back at my teacher education courses in college and say that there is very little from them that I can even remember, let alone put into practice.   Is that bold for me to say that?  I know it’s a commentary on higher education and how impractical it is, but for me, I needed to have a point of reference before I was ready to learn.     It’s like playing Angry Birds or Casey’s Contraptions or any other similar video game, where you have to get it wrong, to learn how to get it right.  That’s the kind of learner I am and based on recent movements in education, I know there are many others like that too.

James Paul Gee, from Arizona State University, has some great ideas about how we can use what we know about video games to improve education:


…Video games is just an assessment.  All you do is get assessed every moment as you try to solve a problem and if you don’t solve it the game says you failed, try again and then you solve it.
…Games don’t separate learning and assessment.  They don’t say learn some stuff and then later we’ll take a test, they’re giving you feedback all the time about the learning curve that you’re on.

These are  good points to really think about what motivates us to learn.  Points that can change the way we teach students.  Since I’m not a video game developer, I need to mull over these points and think about how I can harness that kind of motivation in my classroom.  What is it about video games that make learning fun?

I found this article, 5 Lessons Professors can Learn from Video Games, by Jeffrey Young, which is actually directed at the university level.  They’ve pulled out some good points for thought.  (See article for more details.)

  1. Give frequent and detailed feedback.
  2. Test before going live.
  3. Narrative can answer the question “Why are we learning this?”
  4. Don’t be afraid of fun.
  5. Not every subject works as a game.

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