The competition for our kids’ attention is fierce. They fidget
in their seats, especially on Tuesdays, when they rush over to the local game
shop to buy the latest release that they’ve preordered. After their purchase,
do they get together with friends to study biology? No, they go online to frag
their friends in Halo 3: ODST. Just ask the teachers whose drawers are filled
with confiscated NDS and PSP units.
Video game companies spend gazillions in advertising their
products to kids who plead with their parents to buy them. And these parents
will readily drop $60 per game but cringe at half that amount for student fees.
Game designers understand that they must teach players how
to play their games and, hopefully, win and have fun doing it. Many educators will
talk about how challenging it is to keep students engaged in class. Is it
possible to teach and engage at the same time?
What can game designers learn from educators? – not much. School
curricula and standards are stuck in the nineteenth century. Edutainment software
titles tend to suck and attract kids during the school day only because they
don’t have to have their noses in textbooks. Even the new technologies present the
same material in the same non-interactive ways.
If game designers included
learning standards in their entertainment products and demonstrated how they
could be integrated into lesson planning, it would expand the market for the
product and assist teachers and parents in and out of the classroom.
The things educators can learn from game design are
limitless. Educators should play games – regularly and a wide variety of games.
They would be surprised at the plethora of educational content present in
off-the-shelf products that are not marketed for that purpose.
The Total War
series from the Creative Assembly contains plenty of opportunities for history teachers
to discuss military strategies and resource management from varied time periods
and permits students to enact and possibly improve upon the greatest
strategists in history.
Young students using their vocabulary words in
Scribblenauts from 5th Cell to solve custom puzzles will eagerly participate in
the activity as well as absorb the words, their meanings and synonyms.
As educators, if you know how your students choose to spend
their time outside of class, you will know how to engage them in class. And
when your students are looking forward to Wednesdays because you mentioned that
you will bring in Medieval 2: Total War for the next history assignment, then everybody
wins. That is, if you’ve preordered in advance.