Learning with Computer Games and Simulations

Games and simulations are both interactive multimedia with user control, however games and simulations are different from one another. Games offer a goal or challenge and although simulations are very similar to games, they do not offer a goal or challenge in the same way a game does. It is clear that video games can offer a new way to learn, however the material actually being learned from a video game can be controversial. Because video games are extremely engaging and can grasp student’s attention in a way that traditional learning techniques cannot, it is important to researchers to formulate and hypothesize how to take video games and apply them the right way to lead learning in the right direction. Researchers have done many tests and observations of video games and learning to test how best to support education and learning through the use of video games and simulations.

Learning with video games can also be used to support students with disabilities as well, to try a new approach to learning in a different way that is not traditional. Games are a great way to capture students’ attention that would not normally be able to function in the traditional learning environment because of attention issues or other disabilities. The article being discussed focuses on research of video games and simulations, choosing the right video games for the classroom setting, video game and simulation resources and more detail that follows the research to back up the author’s main points. The article has been created through the Research Center to gather information regarding video games and the use of video games in the classroom setting.

The research conducted by the Research Center has found that by playing games students are not only more engaged, but specifically girls are more likely to be interested in exploration that games create. I find this point very surprising because usually when one thinks of video games and adventure the stereotypical characteristics of boys come to mind. However, the study shows that this type of learning specifically engages girls. An example of this game that would engage girls is Discover Babylon. In this game, the player travels through time using different skills that are normally learned within the classroom environment such as math, reading and writing. Many games and simulations allow students to experience situations in which they would not normally experience in real life. The classroom setting can only be taken so far because of time and money, as well as permission slips and other factors.

One game that allows students to explore different types of situations is Chemsense. This game allows students to explore with dangerous chemicals to see the effects and how matter changes with these chemicals. Normally students, especially young students would not be able to get access to chemicals especially hazardous chemicals to learn about the changes that result from mixing different substances. This game allows students to have that experience through simulation instead of playing with dangerous and hazardous substances. In other situations, students will eventually be able to experience what is presented in the game or simulation. However, because the experience is dangerous or needs preparation, the simulation will introduce the subject and the necessary rules and regulations, as well as preparation before experiencing specific learning situations.

One of the coolest games mentioned in the article is the Froguts game. In Froguts, students are able to dissect a frog through a simulation before actually dissecting it. This allows the student to prepare for the real dissection and ensures that the student makes less errors and does a better and improved job when dissecting the live frog. I think this game is very beneficial and relates back to our in class discussions and lectures addressing simulations that can assist doctors and surgeons while performing surgery on patients. After all, practice makes perfect! Students have been observed as being more confident after practicing with the simulations when pursuing the actual dissection of the frogs.

Research has also shown that guidance is extremely important when learning a new computer game or simulation. It is important to have directions, but more importantly to have immediate feedback at vital points within the game or simulation. Games also need to highlight critical points within the game so students are guided in the right direction regarding what to pay attention to and what is most important to learn from. It is not assumed that students can gather the important aspects of the game without guidance and simply on their own. More often than not, students are more overwhelmed by the various features included by a game instead of paying attention to the important more innovative aspects of the game. This is definitely comparable to many situations where students need to focus on one aspect, but there are distractions to keep the student from focusing on what is vital.

Another game that is really cool that is mentioned in the article that also relates to class discussion is Immune Attack. Immune Attack allows the player to be guided by a mentor through out the game and more specifically the immune system and throughout the body. The goal of the game is to learn about different parts of the body including immunity in relation to different cells. There is a lot of instruction and guidance which lowers stress and anxiety when working with patients with immune issues in a realistic setting. Games prepare students for the real world and create practice where there is not real life practice. Games are also in the long term a less expensive way to practice rather than practicing on a cadaver for instance. Also, experiencing practice on a cadaver can still be stressful, which is why games offer a slow introduction to a sensitive and gory topic.

It is very important that while playing games, students have the right skills in order to face the challenge. This type of match allows the student to feel more comfortable and confident about meeting the offered challenge. This type of comfort and confidence transfers to a real life setting and allows students to perform beyond their expectations.

The article can be found here: http://www.cited.org/index.aspx?page_id=143

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