5 Teaching Tips for Professors—From Video Games

Jeffrey Young, the author of “5 Teaching Tips for Professors—From Video Games,” explains how video game usage can be incorporated into education, including college campuses. Young explains that college level school work is difficult and definitely not a joke. However, he further explains that video games can be incorporated to sustain student’s attention. Young describes how students will challenge themselves in a video game and are willing to face difficult tasks within video games, however when it comes to school work, students are opposed to challenges and would rather take the easy way out. In addition, students also learn a lot when using video games that are not necessarily educational because they are so invested in the challenges within the game. This idea can be applied to schooling with the usage of video games and therefore students will learn a lot.

Constance Steinkueler studies students while playing video games. She has made many discoveries as to how video games engage students and how this knowledge can be applied to learning environments. She has also observed that students will use their math skills in order to fight an unstoppable beast within a game. The combination of learning and great game design can work together in order to engage the student, while learning important concepts that are normally taught in a traditional school environment. Much data has been collected on the behavior of characters within games such as monsters and how to implement math into these game settings. Many of these games teach complex problem solving and collaborative learning to students.

The possibilities of games and higher learning have been further researched by many in order to understand the cooperation and engagement behind game design. A lot of the time, students do not realize that they are learning while playing games such as Oregon Trail. These types of games that do not seem like they are educational on the surface are the most appealing to students. Other games that teach geographical information, as well as other important concepts are “Where is Carmen San Diego?”, “Darfur is Dying” and “Global Conflicts: Palestine.” The issue with many games is that they are not fun because they are solely based on the educational aspects and do not focus on the engaging game design aspect. The designer of The Sims is Will Wright. Wright explains that we take subjects too seriously and thats why adding fun to them is scary. Because we take topics too seriously, the games are unattractive. Fun has to be added to the game in order for students to pay attention to it.

There are five main lessons that professors use in order to balance video games and learning. The first lesson is “give frequent and detailed feedback.” Most games display some type of scoring in order to measure how the player is doing within the game. The first lesson is that students need to know how they are doing in order to become more interested in the game. Students need to know how good they are at playing the game and need the initial feedback in order to continue or care about playing in the first place. In classroom settings, students do not always get immediate feedback and that is one of the issues because students become less motivated. Immediate grades on specific assignments are more meaningful than one overall general grade. If a student is good in some areas, but bad in others, their grade could result as just mediocre when really they are excellent in areas that are not being highlighted to paid attention to.

The second lesson that professors use is to “test before going live.” Video games have hundreds of testers before allowing people to play their game. A lot of the time the games are not hard enough or they are too hard and this makes it unattractive to the student playing the game. It is important for the game to have enough challenges, but also important that the player realizes that with practice they are capable of excelling and achieving more through out the game. It is also important to be able to identify the challenges and the rough spots through out the game. If everything is unexpected than the game could seem random or impossible. The surroundings within the game design have to make sense and have a purpose. In the classroom setting, many teachers have tested games on their students and then tried to further solve the issues as to why the students are unable to excel within the game. Then the game design changes to attract and engage the user.

It is also important for professors to relay the message, “why are we learning this.” This is the third important lesson addressing video games within the classroom. If you want to deliver math in a game then you must do it in a way that has purpose and goes along with the story line that is incorporated in the game design. The story of the game is the powerful motive to keep the player engaged. By incorporating the educational principles into the game design, the player will understand the purpose of learning while playing along with the story line. This way the obstacles of the game do not seem like busy work and the student is motivated enough to learn and continue playing the game. If there is a purpose and a goal and the student can answer the question, “why are we learning this?” then they are more likely to learn the most.

The fourth lesson is not to be afraid of fun. A lot of the time professors are afraid to make learning fun because they feel that the students are slacking off and not actually learning the material. However, this assumption that learning is supposed to be dry, tedious and awful does not keep students learning as much as they could be. This assumption is not true and has the opposite affect on students because they are less likely to become engaged. Instead they are turned off by the material being presented. The fifth lesson is that not every subject works as a game. Educational games are difficult to design and if the game is not meant for the subject, then its better to learn in a traditional learning environment. Education games need to be designed well in order for students to have fun while learning just as much, if not more than they would be in a normal classroom setting.

The article can be found here: http://chronicle.com/article/5-Lessons-Professors-Can-Learn/63708/

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