January 18, 2006

Video Games: A Form of Learning?

So we all know how important technology is to each and everyone of us correct? There is not a day that goes by that I don't have or use my cell phone, iPod, and laptop. These things essentially become apart of us and as soon as we get comfortable with the electronics that we have, we get newer and faster devices. However, one thing is sure to stay the same...learning. We all have different ways of learning but we do learn. A generation 10 years older than ours more than likely learned the old fashioned way...pens, paper, and books. And a generation 10 years younger than ours are learning with a mouse, keyboard and computer screen. Our generation is in the middle--the comfort zone. However, the newer way of learning is a trend that has become one that has seemed to help kids learn better.

In this presentation we will take a look at how video games can be looked at learning tools for today's youth.

First check out:
href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missile_Command">Missile Command. I would like you to play this game to consider the question have video games taught you anything relevent to generel education?

Missile Command may look like your average shoot 'em game but there is a deeper meaning behind it.Does anything look familiar in the game? If you know history then you also know that it is based on the The Cold War. In an article by GameSpy Missile Command is commended for its connection to reality.

Now Look At:
Many of today's modern video games teach as well. Many of the first person shooters and RPGs teach such tools as stealth and survival skills. Platformers teach values such as patiences. There are also games that are specifically made to teach values such as Brenda Laurel's Purple Moon. There have also been games that are made for children in schools to teach the three Rs reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic such as Word Worm, BookWorm,Number Cruncher, and Where In the World Is Carmen Sandiego?. All of these games have traditionally been enbedded in the educational system but today's youth wants more.

"We need to incorporate into our classrooms the same combination of desirable goals, interesting choices, immediate and useful feedback, and opportunities to "level up" (that is, to see yourself improve) that engage kids in their favorite complex computer games" (.Listen to the Natives) Children want what Chris Morris calles the three Rs--recreation, reflexes and RPGs. Children's attention spans grow shorter by the years and there needs to be something there that keeps their attention. So if the classroom was like a video game they would do better. In saying this I am not denying that children should be put in the traditional education because they should. The classroom itself is a location for learning and traditional teaching works well but what about those kids that have a hard time in the traditional learning setting, they need help too. Video games as a learning tool is a good source of learning for toddler too young to go to school, it helps get their minds flowing and gives them an advantage when they do go into schooling.

So In conclusion the next time you play a game, think about what you're learning within the game and relate it to the way you learn. Which do you find more appealing--reading, writing and arithmetic or recreation, reflexes, and RPGs?

Posted by Kayla Lukacs at January 18, 2006 01:39 PM | TrackBack

Kayla, there's a huge difference between the Java version of Missile Command that you linked to and the far more authentic Shockwave version.


In the original arcade version of Missile Command, you positioned a pointer with a trackball, then pushed one of three buttons to launch a missile at your pointer. After the missile made it to the pointer, it exploded, hopefully taking the incoming hostile missiles with it. In the Java version, you just click on the screen, and an explosion immediately surrounds your mouse pointer.

Neither online emulation is going to be perfect, but since the Java version eliminates the delay between firing your interceptor and watching it explode, that version is more about clicking in the right place, rather than timing and strategy.

In addition, the original Missile Command would display one by one the number of cities that you still had and the number of interceptors that you did not fire, and you'd and you'd get extra points for preserving these resources. While the Java version does flash a score at the end of each round, it doesn't feature the progressive display of the resources you've preserved.

That rhythm was an important part of the game.

The Java implementation may be intersting as a game in its own right, but it's only a copy. The key is to get the best copy possible. And there are more authentic online versions of Missile Command out there.

The Gamespy article also seems to have taken its screen shots from the version of the game I've recommended.

Games certainly have an excellent educational potential. The average teacher would have a difficult time creating an original game to teach a new lesson, so I wouldn't put words and numbers in the dustbin of history just yet!

You've brought up some good points.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 18, 2006 05:38 PM

I thought that the version I found was different, but when I searched for it there were many versions and I didn't know what to do so i just chose one based on my knowledge of the game.

Posted by: Kayla at January 18, 2006 07:22 PM

I think there are some "Arcade classics" CD versions of classic games out there. Maybe the next time I teach this class, I'll put one of those CDs on the required list.

There are also software emulators that run the actual code that was created for the arcade games, but it takes some technical tweaking to get those emulators to run properly, and I didn't relish the idea of having to support that software remotely. Dealing with J-Web and MovableType keep me busy enough!

I actually enjoyed playing the different versions of Missile Command this afternoon, and I'll probably use what I learned today as the basis of a future lecture.

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at January 18, 2006 07:33 PM

Kayla, I agree that video games are actually very good means for teaching adolescents as well as adults. Simulataions and games engage the subject, even if they are doing someting as mundane as cleaning the house, which you could argue is being taught [The Sims] (Juul). Games are especially useful for visual learners. Simulation scenarios are often used by the various military brances which includes the air-force and their use of flight simulators. And since we defined simulations as part of games, they are essentially using games to teach/train.

Posted by: Leslie Rodriguez at January 19, 2006 08:39 AM

Missle command is probably not for teaching, since it is an allagory. An allagory does not have a solid coherent world, but the only way to conceptualize coherence or significance is through bio/historical interpretation. Incoherent allagories might be harder for children of another generation to see as more than a game to forget right after they play.

There is a danger in trying to keep up with kid attention span. In my educational research games should not try to keep up with attention span. Giving children the fast pace FPM(frames per minute)makes it hard for them to focus and take the learning from the activity to apply it. Is what children want the best for the child?

But I agree we have to incorporate into our classrooms the same combination of desirable goals, interesting choices, immediate and useful feedback. But the video games we are using now are either too incoherently educational or too fast-paced because that is what we think children want.

Posted by: Stephan Puff at January 19, 2006 02:47 PM
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