A New School Teaches Students Through Video Games

Susannah F. Locke writes about a school that uses video-game based lessons to teach new classes of students each year. Locke writes that using video games could be the future of learning and although many spectators feel this is controversial, Locke sees that this definitely is not a bad thing. Quest to Learn is a school that uses video game strategy in order to educate students through engagement and preparation. This type of learning is to prepare them for high-tech careers in the future. Locke explains that video games outperform teachers because they keep students paying attention for hours at a time. The amount of practice and engagement gives students more time working on key concepts that are expected to be learned in the classroom.

Students are less likely to give up in a video game because they are more likely to keep trying after realizing the addictive and enticing aspect of the video game. Locke explains that because students give up, this is the reason that on 1/3 of eighth graders are proficient in math. Because of this issue with engagement, the MacArthur Foundation started a nonprofit group of game designers to create education games that students can learn from in the classroom environment. After testing the games the Quest to Learn school opened. There are currently 72 students enrolled and the class is broken into four groups that rotate through five classes through out the day. The classes include Codeworlds which is math and english, Space and Place which is social studies and english, The Way Things Work which is math and science, Sports for the Mind which is game design and Wellness which is health and gym class. Students often work in groups to work through problems sets collaboratively. The projects require the New York State curriculum and cover various topics relating to this curriculum.

The school is modeled off of over thirty years of research that shows how putting a student in a context in which they will use the information they have learned is the most useful and students learn the most this way. An example that Locke uses is that students would learn by pretending they are Spartan spies gathering information on Athens rather than learning facts by memorizing concepts about ancient Greece. In the sixth grade classroom, they identify integers through a code-breaking game. Students also learn through a game called Troggles in which students need to move heavy objects and must learn about building force and how to minimize it in order to move the objects. The concepts also draw on complex systems where at other schools students at this young age would not be able to understand or pick up in the traditional way of teaching. By teaching students about complex systems this will prepare them for areas that involve bioformatics.

Students are also expected to attend Quest through high school and are expected to pass the standardized tests that normal public school administer each year. Gregg Betheil is the NYC Department Education Director and believes that “we need new ways to create a passion for learning.” He believes that the planning behind these games must be extremely well thought through to ensure the greatest success in learning through game design. Betheil says, “the planning has been extremely thoughtful. It seemed like a chance worth taking.” The first class of students has not graduated yet, however once they do various studies will be set in place to observe the effects of learning through the Quest school opposed to traditional learning techniques. One of the students already enrolled in the Quest says that school is fun and her least favorite part about school is when she has to leave.

Many of the comments posed by others that have read the article think it is comical that students have to “reach level 73” for homework that night. But also agree that it is important to implement video games into learning because kids are able to relate to the games in a way that is impossible through traditional learning techniques. In addition, there are also various students with disabilities that would not normally be able to learn in the traditional classroom setting. This type of learning engages students that have trouble playing attention and gives these students the opportunity to succeed. In a normal learning environment these students would never have this chance, which is why i personally believe that students should be given opportunities to learn in different ways and to attend different types of schools. If only 1/3 of 8th grade students are proficient in math, what is there to lose really?

Many comments also emphasize that the real world does not act like a video game, which is a key point to address. However, in many ways even if the world does not act like a video game, the way in which students react to problems they are presented with could act like a video game by using strategies and independent thinking. Although the world is not a giant video game, the strategies and the type of thinking gained from using video games could potentially create a different way of solving issues that are present in the college environment and the work environment as well. The type of preparation that games offer gives the students a relaxed and less stressful feel when approaching familiar topics.

Another factor that spectators worry about is where the funding will come from over time because game design is so expensive and new technology costs a lot of money. Questions posed are how will these foundations keep creating new designs without continuous funding? Will the proof of students that attend Quest succeeding in the real world be enough to keep funding increasing? I think that this school is definitely a great idea, but how many parents will use their child as a guinea pig? How do colleges look at these schools and are students more or less likely to be accepted? How fair is this type of acceptance in comparison to other high schools and will colleges create more video games classes for students to continue to excel in?

This article can be found here: http://www.popsci.com/entertainment-amp-gaming/article/2009-12/new-school-teaches-students-through-videogames

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