As a middle school technology teacher I get the same question from students every year, "Are we going to get to play games?" My pat answer is "no". This usually gets some grumpy faces and less than positive comments from some of my older students. Although as I reflect back on this question of my students I find myself wondering why not allow them to play games? I wonder to myself (and the occasional colleague) why are we as teachers so against the use of video games in the classroom? Is it because we are conditioned this way by our teacher education programs, our colleagues, or is it a philosophical decision? I have as yet to find a decent educational reason why. In talking about this with some colleagues and friends the discussion turns to the topics of role playing and how that was seen as a great evil back in the mid to late 80's (think Dungeon and Dragons). I was told many a time I was doomed because I engaged in role playing with my friends. However, we use role playing quite extensively in education at all levels and subject areas. Board games are making their way into the classroom as well. In my administrative classes we played a board/role playing game based on the introduction of a new form of professional development in our district. Board games are also used as both reward time and academic enrichment in elementary classrooms. Can it be that time just needs to go by before video game playing is accepted in the educational field?
I pose the question here, why don't we use video games in education? I have been playing video games for almost 20 years now and have seen all different types of games. I find them to be relaxing after a long hard day at work, I find them to be a great way to relate to my students, and I also find them to be a great source of education as well. Now I fully agree that sitting down in front of a monitor for hours at a time is not good for kids of any age (young and old alike). However, I believe there is some merit to introducing them into education as well. I am sure that most of us have heard in the news about the various studies on video game use by adults. One such study by the JAMA, looked at how playing video games impacted a surgeon's laparoscopic surgery skills (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070220012341.htm ). It was found that in those surgeons and residents who played video games performed better on a laparoscopic training simulator than those who didn't. There have also been studies on how playing video games help the elderly avoid dementia as well as keeping their brains sharp. In most of the studies and articles I have read both the pros and cons of video games are discussed (http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/2-27-2004-51038.asp ). I whole hearted agree that time on games and/or on the computer should be limited but I also think it is time for our profession to look more into the use of video games as a tool.
I have talked with one of my fellow classmates who has used video games with some of his high school social studies kids. In the few years he has been using a simulation type game like Age of Mythology (Microsoft) he has seen an improvement in test scores as well as an understanding of the principles of economics. There are a ton of these simulation type games out there that are applicable to any subject area. Games like Roller Coaster Tycoon (Atari) for science, Flight simulator (Microsoft) for pilots, and as mentioned earlier Age of Mythology or Age of Empires (Microsoft) for social studies. There are also a number of games out there that can be used to work with young students on hand eye coordination, fine motor skills, shape recognition, basic problem solving, typing, the list goes on and on. I believe it is time we start to explore more into the uses of video games in education. What are your thoughts on this issue?