It seems like every week I get fixated on some topic and it seems to pop up everywhere. This week it was games. It started on Tuesday when our staff was having a math lunch. We try and meet once every month or two and watch some of the Math Makes Sense Video series and have math related discussions. This week our discussion centered around the role of games in math and the games that were available at the back of the Math Makes Sense Pro Guide. Teachers would like to use them, see value in using them, but were lacking the time to make them. We came up with a couple of possible solutions for that problem…but my thinking stayed with the topic of games.
In our division our filtering system tags anything to do with games and gaming and blocks it from our use. I have been frustrated by this the odd time when I am trying to find a quick little game that might add to the program of one of my learning support students. There is always the constant debate about whether playing games at school is valuable use of time. I guess it depends on how you define game playing and what skills you think children can get out of playing games.
I was reading a paper on digital learning and media this week published by Henry Jenkins, the director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others. It is called, “Confronting Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century”. The paper described what they thought were the 11 skills one needed to have to participate within the new media culture, a “participatory culture”, they called it. It was aimed at education and gave many valuable ideas about projects and activities that fit with each skill area. One of the core media literacy skills discussed was play.
I really never thought of play being a media literacy skill. It has long been proven that play is important for children and it helps them figure out their bodies, worlds, social systems, etc. My idea of play seems to start with playing house or playing cars, not really playing video games. Can children learn valuable skills from playing video games?
One of the reasons that children learn from play is because games set them up to take risks and role play in situations that do not have real life consequences. They can take chances and still turn around and fix their mistakes or they have the option to start over. I think one could still argue whether that was good or bad. Could this teach children to ignore real life consequences? What happens when there is no starting over?
I am not a fan of video games, mainly because I am not very good at them and sometimes I cannot tolerate the movement within the game due to motion sickness. I have trouble watching my son play when he wants to show me something he thinks is sweet. I do observe lots of gaming going on in my household though… from afar. The author of this paper would argue, “Games follow something akin to the scientific process. Player are asked to make their own discoveries and then apply what they learn to new contexts. No sooner does a player enter a game than he or she begins by identifying core conditions and looking for problems that must be addressed.” If this is the case, then maybe video games do play a valuable role.
According to Don Tapscott ,in his book, “Grown-up digital”, I am slugging through right now, ” A recent nationwide survey of 2500 U.S. business professionals searched for differences between those who grew up playing video games and those who did not. Professionals who grew up playing video games were more serious about achievement, more loyal to their company and their coworkers, more flexible and persistent problem-solvers, and more willing to take on the risks that make sense…net geners have a desire to win collaboratively…” (p. 171) Once again, it would seem that these would be worthwhile skills for children to learn.
He goes on to say, “To be a guild master in a game like World of Warcraft, you need to be able to create a vision, find recruits and give them a platform on which to learn, and orchestrate the groups strategy. To me [Don Tapscott], it sounds a lot like the skills a corporate executive needs, doesn’t it?” To me it sounded a lot like what a teacher must do every day. We need to create a plan as to what learning outcomes we are targeting, get the students involved, decide what strategies we are going to use and pull it all together. These sound like skills that could be related to a number of different situations. Come to think of it…perhaps I should of played more video games!
Well, if you look at it like that, it does seem that game playing in school might be valuable. Now, I am not saying we should plug them in and let them play video games all day, even though some of them would be pretty keen on that. I just wonder if we are losing some of the value to be gained from finding a place for games in education such as the engagement factor, the need for collaboration and the thinking involved in some gaming situations. As a learning support teacher, I can’t argue the engagement level of my students goes up when I say we are going to grab a laptop and add to our learning by playing a little game. Even drill and practice games can be valuable and engaging to students.
The funny thing is… that was not the last thing about games that came my way this week. When visiting an interesting blog site called PrincipalsPage. Very funny writer! I linked to a video on the importance of play for adults. Now I know that I am jumbling together a bunch of different, unrelated ideas about play. I have jumped from childhood play, to math games ,to video games and adult play, but I guess my point is…play is important-and should not automatically be dismissed as a waste of time or a dangerous activity . Even video games in some format can play a role in the school day.
Of course I see the importance of all kinds of play, in school and out. Just like everything else in school, it has to be done with purpose and reason.
Catch you on the playing field!