Colleges’ Latest Thrust in Learning: Video Games

Brianno Coller is an engineering professor at Northern Illinois University. Coller began teaching and soon realized that he did not like teaching math in a traditional way and began exploring different teaching techniques including teaching through video games. As an instructor Coller realized that the material was dry and felt the need to excite students in the classroom by creating a competitive environment. This type of environment definitely resembles the learning environment within our own education 222 classroom. After realizing that there was a better way to teach math to his students he began implementing video games into the classroom setting.

After designing his own video game, his students are apart of a virtual race where they build virtual race cars and face challenges that build their engineering skills along the way. Students are exposed to computational math through a challenging course that continues to increase as you play. This type of learning allows the students to learn from their mistakes and build their math skills without using a textbook and without the more traditional technique of learning. Coller believes that students should not look at homework or learning in general as a chore or a burdening activity. By incorporating video games into his classroom, Coller allows the students to look at learning as “an interesting journey.”

From Coller’s experience, he has seen positive effects on video games and learning. Through out the country many teachers have adapted similar teaching techniques to Coller’s involving video games. Their goal is to stimulate learning and encourage students to motivate themselves in a competitive environment. The author of the article, Mary Beth Marklein, explains that there are many examples of different video games that colleges use in the classroom environment. These examples include; Melody Mixer, this game is used at the University of Wisconsin to teach students how to read and compose their own music. At Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA, they play World of War Craft in order to explain intelligence studies through the multiplayer game. In addition, at Boston College, nursing students use forensics through a virtual crime scene.

Larry Johnson, CEO of the non-profit New Media Consortium, explains that we need to make learning more engaging in order for students to become motivated and want to learn. Johnson predicts that there will be an increase in game-based learning in higher education within the next three years. Students learn differently and game-based learning will really allow students that do not learn as easily to understand material that they would not normally be able to understand. Johnson says, “Games can open that door for many students.”

Recently, game-based learning has been supported through the U.S. Education Department’s new technology plan. Most game-based learning initiatives have been focused primarily on elementary and high school education levels. Sandra Day O’Connor, a retired Supreme Court Justice encourages teachers to show their students iCivics, a web based game that is to be used with 5th-12th graders. Many schools in Chicago and New York have based their curriculum around games that are a lot like iCivics.

A Kaiser Family Foundation study taken in 2010 shows that 60% of kids ages 8-18 play video games everyday for about two hours. Video game usage has only increased over time and with new educational games available engaging students is less of a challenge within the classroom. I definitely agree with involving games within the classroom. Often students tend to study and forget the material because it is dry and uninterested, however when information is associated with a game, the material is more likely to be retained within one’s memory. I personally have experienced this idea through my own coursework and i believe that if i had learned much of the information through a game, i would still remember it today.

Johnson explains that it is not only important for students to be familiar with video games within the classroom, but the faculty has to be used to playing video games and understanding their importance in the classroom. The teacher has to be able to relate the game to the students and translate how playing the game is functional and beneficial to the student. The teacher also has to approve that the game covers the amount of material that should be covered for the specific grade level. Marklein also explains that not all colleges need to have high-tech virtual games in order to learn, many students play board games and learn through non-computer or technology oriented games.

At Mercyhurst, intelligence studies departments have used the game Clue. Another example is at the University of New Haven, students play the game Black Death and are introduced to psychology and economics through the card game that leaves students holding a Joker that falls victim to the plague. At Barnard College students play Reacting to the Past which is a role playing game developed by a history professor that does not require software. This game has spread through out 300 campuses and involve texts and costumes.

Although video games have been successful on many campuses and within many grade school learning environments, video games have been suspected to decrease a student’s academic performance. A recent study found a correlation between video games for fun and risky behavior. However, other studies have found that video games increase classroom learning and therefore, video games continue to be a controversial learning tool in the classroom environment. One student explained that he began doing his homework all the time because the video games became addicting and he learned so much more. Alex Raz says, “It’s like really learning, not like just going through the motions on paper.”

Although many educators remain skeptical of the use of video games in the classroom, students have reacted to video games positively with compelling evidence from various campuses and grade level education nation wide. I personally believe that video games will increase within the learning environment within the next decade. I also believe that teachers will adapt learning techniques that resemble those used in video games to reach that next level. The important part of learning to become engaged and motivated, what better way to do that then through the use of video games!

The article can be found here… http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/story/2011-11-29/video-games-college-learning/51478224/1

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