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Video Games and the Classroom

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You may have come across the term game based learning (GBL) before and while some snigger at the idea of video games offering anything other than the chance to breed violence and obesity, research shows that gaming and education are a match made in heaven.

It is important to understand that not all games are created with the same objectives in mind; some are more effective in terms of learning than others. Jessica Trybus from the New Media Institute believes that at the core of any game, when you deconstruct away the fun, is a built-in learning process. She believes that the implications of delivering game experiences for education are enormous. Passive learning is no longer effective for the digital generation, Trybus argues, it does not offer a true to life experience. Teachers can breathe a sigh of relief, children do not need more time in the classroom; they need more experience in real world challenges.

Well designed GBL draws users into a virtual environment, the key to learning, is that children feel engaged and motivated. Learning should be interactive and allow children to acquire skills and thought processes that are relevant to the real world. A recent survey by City and Guilds showed that while students see maths as important, they felt that it should be made more relevant. Parents also want education to be relevant; a separate YouGov survey recently found that many parents believe that children should learn how to use technology in order to equip them for the modern world. Children want to understand and utilise key skills, but traditional learning methods do not accommodate these demands.

David Samuelson, Head of Augmented Reality, believes that video games for children are a natural and ideal medium for learning. Children and adults can learn without inhibitions and without any hang ups or self consciousness about expressing themselves, it allows them to make mistakes in a risk free environment.

Dawn Hallyborne, ICT co-ordinator and senior teacher at Oakdale Junior School, Essex, believes that learning in a virtual environment assists in playful learning. In terms of 3D immersion, Hallyborne says that some of her students become so engaged in their characters and activities, they forget where they are. Children remain motivated and focused with in-game rewards, they can practice without getting bored as they remain stimulated and engaged.

Other fans include the President of the USA, Barack Obama. During a speech earlier this year to a group of students at TechBoston in Dorchestor, Massachusetts, Obama said: "I'm calling for investments in educational technology that will help create... educational software that is as compelling as the best video game. I want you guys to be stuck on a video game that's teaching you something other than just blowing something up." An American study by the Entertainment Software Association found that games travel across demographic and generational lines. More people more than ever are playing games and those with educational content will not only be fantastic learning tools, but also hugely popular. The evidence really is stacked in favour of this learning approach, showing that games transcend class, race and gender.

Michael Gove, Education Secretary, is also an advocate, claiming that it is amazing how quickly children learn when there are in-game rewards. However, Gove has been criticised for not fully understanding the potential of educational games. Critics have argued that using games for motivation is only one facet. Gaming can encourage team work, problem solving, allow for experimentation and exploration. It can also offer users personalised or differentiated learning experiences.

Educational video games are becoming more reputable, with stronger communications between the educators and game designers. The educational gaming industry is getting stronger with intelligent content and programming that appeals to teachers and children alike. Will the education system awake from its backward slumber? Well it is definitely beginning to stir. At Pora Ora we are seeing more and more schools embrace GBL and long may it continue.

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