Video Games in the Classroom = Engaged Learners!
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The Top 5 Hardest Nancy Drew Puzzles, How Nancy Drew Inspired Me To Do…, 10 Things I Learned Playing Nancy Drew, Nancy Drew Games and Their Book Counterparts, How Playing as a Female Heroine Changed Me, How I Use Video Games in My Classroom, History of Video Games, My Favorite Female Protagonists, etc…
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As a gamer, one thing that I appreciate in this day and age is that the stigma towards video games being a “mindless” pastime is quickly fading. Taking a broad look at video games, we can all agree that there are some games where critical thinking skills aren’t as necessary. However, the vast majority of video games are actually stimulating our brains in an edifying way. So much so that video games are rapidly making their way into the classroom for remote learners, and for those headed back to in person classrooms.
Video games are used to teach students by half of UK teachers based on recent studies. The article from GamingBible.com notes, “The world of education is finally starting to see the potential of video games as a tool for teaching and getting students engaged with learning.” A formally commissioned G2A.com study reports that, “Of those teachers using video games in the classroom, 88% of the teachers say it has helped them better engage with their students-with games now being widely used across a wide range of subjects, from maths to physics to history and English literature.” The G2A Academy offers training for teachers on how to use video games in the classroom, called “Video Games in Education”.
As a student, many of my teachers incorporated media into my clases. Films, music and television series have all been used as tools for learning related to the subjects. I believe there are several reasons video games have taken so long to make it to the classroom. If you don’t play video games, you may not be aware of just how educational the content and the play mechanics can be, and how the game play itself can help facilitate life skills like critical thinking. Another reason using video games in the classroom could be of concern is the stigma that video games are mindless or that “they can rot your brain”.
A videogame can be colorful, riveting, and even juvenile – but that does not mean that we aren’t actively learning something from playing. Games all present a problem, and we are tasked with working through that problem to find the solution. That practice in and of itself is strengthening our brains. Of course, I would not recommend that you play video games for 10 hours a day and count that as your “mental exercise and strengthening”, but, science is revealing that one hour a day may just provide recognizable benefits for you and your brain over time.
A quick tour through the brain and good for you video games
In our brain, our frontal lobes are the last and (frankly) one of the most important areas of our brain that takes years of experiences and lessons to strengthen. Thankfully, video games actually aid in the growth of that part of the brain. Our frontal lobes have many great qualities that help us to survive and succeed in life, and discernment is one of those key qualities. Just think about a game that uses visual and mental discernment like Tetris – it’s a fast-paced puzzle game that strengthens our critical-thinking skills, and has even been linked to helping players alleviate their anxiety because of the satisfying effect it has.
Why Brains love games!
Another positive statistic and trend that we see occurring is that more adults are playing video games each day. According to this 2019 report by The Entertainment Software Association, the average age of an adult gamer is now 33 years old, and I think that is something to celebrate!
Although I have been able to mindfully follow the trends of gamers in the past decade, I was pleasantly surprised by this age number in the results. However, I think that number is indicative of the fact that videogames are not, by any means, “mindless”. Some of the most important mental and cognitive development actually happens within the decade of your 20’s, and the games we play are helping strengthen that very development.
Have you ever wondered what famous games strengthen which skills? Innovation and Tech Today wrote this fantastic article about notable games strengthening our STEM skills. In our current time, there are more remote learners than ever before due to the pandemic. Teachers transferring learning to online have tapped into video games as a tool to engage students. Minecraft, for example, has become wildly popular for teachers, due to the fact that it trains players to meticulously follow important instructions. The collaborative learning through researching, building, and working on a challenge has been good for teaching and for staying connected. Of course, that benefits the students in the classroom. Other skills that expert teachers are instilling in students via Minecraft include literacy and reading, and of course, math concepts like ratios and proportions. Sid Meier’s Civilization VI has been the source of inspiration for many historians and history teachers finding their first interest in history. Cult classics like The Sims have helped to show players young and old to handle multiple responsibilities at once, and World of Warcraft requires an intense level of reading, communication, and comprehensive skills to be touted as “successful” within the game.
Nancy Drew games, where players play as the famed detective Nancy Drew, put the player’s critical thinking to the test as they solve cases around the world. The games have long been known for mystery storytelling filled with facts and information from science and literature and global locations to history. The process of investigations, interrogations, and gathering clues teach cultural and historical facts and even forensics in the process of solving the crimes all of which builds engaged and enhanced learning. Teachers and parents using the games in the classroom have identified specific Nancy Drew Learn & Play games. Each offers a free downloadable worksheet for added learning while playing the games.
There are also learning-focused playthrough videos on YouTube of the games from HeR Interactive highlighting the educational components.
(Left) Photo by HeR Interactive
One way in which I believe teachers encourage students to play video games to learn is through the teaching process of ESL. Teachers with an extensive work history or aspiring, certified teachers are needed worldwide to instruct foreign students how to speak English, from ages as young as 5 to 6 year-olds to young adults who need English for work aspirations. Native English-speaking teachers who are suddenly dropped in a foreign, non-English speaking country would immensely benefit from the easy and colorful use of video games for their classrooms. Of course, video games will reach the younger children much more in the scenario of teaching ESL, but I believe online games will become more commonly integrated in international teaching as time goes on.
“Thanks, I learned it from a video game.”
Instead of removing video games, consider integrating. Since video games have become increasingly popular over the last few decades, teachers and educators have felt as if they are constantly at war with trying to fight for their student’s attention, which seems to be short-lived. Understandably, prior to the newer wave of video games being more positively portrayed, teachers relied on the stereotype that distractions like video games were decreasing the student’s level of functionality in the classroom. What we have seen is that a healthy dosage of video games help brain activity, and that video games can be used for, not against, a better learning environment.
This article by ClassCraft gives 7 examples of how video games (one of which features our shining star, Nancy Drew) help involve their students in pivotal learning lessons, such as spelling. A few of these examples include a NASA website specially designed for kids to learn about astronomy, math, and science. Another great example includes one game called “Vocabulary Spelling City”, which includes a handful of fun, fast, and colorful games that teach kids vocabulary words in a vibrant way.
(Left) Photo by Medium
As fans of video games and seeing their benefits for use in the classroom, it is great to also learn how scientific research is providing extensive evidence on how video games change, strengthen and challenge our brain, helping to dismantle the old idea that “video games are a mindless distraction”. Medical News Today writes an article that highlights just a few of the reasons that we can celebrate what video games do for our brain. A compilation from the Medical News Today article shows 116 comprehensive, scientific studies that display video games majorly improve attention skills, such as selective attention and sustained (or focused) attention. For young and fully developed adults who may be designated to handle important and tedious projects in their work, video games are a great way to improve your attention span. Another phenomenal finding in this scientific journal mentioned prior showcases that being a devoted “gamer” can even change the structure of your brain – not just the dynamic of your brain.
Studies that stimulate the brain for all ages
In an extensive study done by The University of California-San Francisco, participants ages 60-85 had their memories observed and later tested by playing a video game over the course of 12 months. The next group of participants, in their 20’s, who were playing the same game for the very first time, had a less impressive performance than the older participants. Now, it is obvious that the minds of those in their 20’s are much newer, sharper, and so on. However, it is more than impressive to see participants in that high of an age demographic learn to acclimate to video games (and essentially memorize them too).
What that study shows, and what video games generally show, is that all ages can learn to play, and that the brain is not “set in stone” once we reach a certain age. We should all consider that our brains are like clay – they are malleable and able to be molded when challenged with something new. I believe that mindset will help us all be much more open-minded and progressive learners.
(Right) Photo by The Indian Express
Tech Learning published an article on some of the best and most effective in-class video games that help to mold student’s minds, some of which include:
- Assassin’s Creed: Origins
- Cities: Skylines
- Rocket League
- Code Combat
Recently the cast from the video game Midnight in Salem shared their thoughts on learning from the game in this video.
A beautiful example of video games providing a learning experience for students can be found in this Washington Post article, detailing the story of how a teacher had to cancel a once-in-a-lifetime educational field trip to Greece. Kevin Peloquin, a teacher based in Montreal, was heartbroken to announce to his students that the pandemic would mean that their trip would not happen. Like so many resilient educators that sought to find digital ways to reach their students, Peloquin reached out to Ubisoft, the creators of the famous franchise, Assassin’s Creed. One incredible facet of the Assassin’s Creed games is the rich, educational components they have. Not only are they exciting games, but they all take place in historically pivotal times, which then creates great visuals for the players, who may often be young learners.
In hopes that Ubisoft would be understanding of Peloquin’s request to distribute the gaming technology to his students, and in return, Ubisoft was receptive to his words and granted his 23 students the free access to Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, a game that allowed his pupils to virtually learn and travel through ancient Greece (and even included quizzes along the way). The Washington Post article included this statement from Peloquin…
“When I spoke about it with my students, they seemed really, really pleased and surprised that we can work on our history course through a video game.”
Most video games are entertainment first, and that creativity is what makes them fun. Playing video games that have usable content for learning is getting a great bonus! Game companies have taken the scientific research supporting the benefits of playing video games for the brain, along with the many teacher stories sharing how video games are being used in the classrooms. Game companies are also utilizing the research and are now providing educational tools and learning game versions with educational tips and study guides to help students, parents, and teachers get the most out of teaching with their content.
The pros of being a gamer not only include having fun – gaming has a bevy of meaningful and long-lasting health benefits. The exercise of challenging your brain, challenging your attentiveness, and keeping your memory sharp is invaluable, so why not exercise your brain doing something that excites you? Additionally, why not include video games in the classroom? Especially in this post-2020 era of remote learning, it is the perfect time to seize the day, pick up a remote, play an educational game, and strengthen your brain.
Tell us your story about using video games in the classroom!