Using games for purposes other than entertainment is nothing new. There are war games, educational games, throne games. But a new class of games has sprung up in recent years, designed to create awareness and raise support for a variety of global issues. Such serious games seek to harness the power of competition and/or novelty to attract players and get the word out for a good cause. Here are 15 games you can play and be a better person for it.
Perhaps more than any other media form, video games suffer from connotation.
While sourced directly from a stunning convergence of art and technology, the public perception of video games drips with the juvenile, evoking images of–depending on your age–Pac-Man, Mario, or the Grand Theft Auto series. Their time in the public spotlight is usually brief, and tangled with inevitably tilted discussions on children, violence, impression, and even Constitutional rights.
Recently, MIT Education Arcade announced commission of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that would teach students content aligned to Common Core Math Standards and Next Generation Science Standards. In addition, World of Warcraft in the Classroom is a popular curriculum that teachers have used to engage students in learning critical, standards-based content.There is a trend in education to utilize games for learning, whether pairing a game with classroom instruction or creating a whole new “serious game.” As a regular MMORPG player myself, I have found myself spell-bounded by story lines, incessantly questing to improve my character. In full the spirit of full disclosure, I have a Jedi Shadow currently on Star Wars the Old Republic, but have played numerous MMORPGs in my life as a gamer.
While MMOs are being created to demand learning of content within the game, teachers can still strategize the use of MMOs in pairing with classroom instruction and assessment. Here are some strategies and considerations to consider if you decide to venture into the game-based learning approach.
There are tons of free historical games, interactives and simulations on the web. Playing history aggregates info on these resources in a simple, searchable database making it easy to find, rate, and review historical games. There are currently 126 shared games.
Students who are passionate gamers can talk a blue streak about the virtual online worlds where they invest their free time and energy. Usually, of course, they get to play only when they're not at school. But why not bring gaming into the classroom? Could teachers tap that same passion to spark learning?
Gaming remains new territory for most schools. As the following examples show, educators on the frontiers are eager to share what they're learning. Here are just a few examples.
According to a new infographic from FrugalDad, video games play a critical role in bolstering a child’s ability to socialize, learn, and grow. From therapy to literacy improvement, video games are an easy way to get a child’s brain to start thinking, problem-solving, and figuring out solutions to complex problems. Makes me glad I played Halo so much in college
Social studies teachers Karl Atkins and Scott Deckelmann take on a very serious subject by giving their students a very amusing challenge: Win a computer game. In fact, students have to win PeaceMaker, a simulation of the Middle East peace process, twice -- once while playing as the Israeli prime minister and once as the Palestinian president.
In both cases, students must respond to a rapidly evolving political situation by choosing which actions -- building settlements, launching rockets, making speeches -- are most likely to broker peace. The Scappoose, Oregon, teachers have played PeaceMaker with more than a dozen sections of their freshman global-studies and junior international-relations classes, and they say gaming is an effective way to explore intricate political issues. Indeed, PeaceMaker is at the forefront of a movement -- often called serious games or social-issues games -- in which educators use games to illustrate complex social issues, from immigration to climate change.
Minecraft in the Classroom is a recent addition to the field of game-based learning. It is a sandbox game where players can create and build, fight off enemies and explore vast landscapes. As is the nature of sandbox games, players can roam free, choosing objectives as they go. Because Minecraft has such open possibilities and potential, the teacher can choose how he or she wants to use it. Just as the student has the ability to be creative, the teacher has the same. That can be overwhelming, but luckily, there is a tool for using Minecraft created by teachers for teachers.
Realistically, a “with it” teacher can teach almost anything using almost anything. I’ve been taught trigonometry using a paper clip, and expository structure using paint. Tech is great, but nowhere close to necessary. But if the underlying learning process is well-thought out, tech can provide powerful common ground for teachers and learners.
So then, video games.
Video games do not represent a “rising medium,” but rather one that’s established, potent, and ready for application in any content area at any grade level. While their application may not be as immediately apparent as the Declaration of Independence, an essay by Wendell Berry, or Google Earth, they truly are a goldmine of edu-content.
TED Talks Games like World of Warcraft give players the means to save worlds, and incentive to learn the habits of heroes. What if we could harness this gamer power to solve real-world problems? Jane McGonigal says we can, and explains how.
Most of us also know that games can be educational, and can even be used for learning in schools. Important sounding theories like “experiential learning” or “scaffolding” explain how games can be good learning tools, but don’t really help the average person understand why a particular sequence of play is so engaging, or why one game teaches fractions better than another. This series of posts will take a close up look at specific games and try to understand how and why they teach.
For those who've been under a rock (or buried in a busy classroom -- trust us, we understand), the Wii is today's hottest gaming console, vastly outselling the PlayStation and garnering gobs of media attention with its inventive and easily understood games. More than twenty-four million Wii units have sold globally, according to its maker, Nintendo.
Here's a thought: Why not take a tech platform that kids are already nuts about and put it to use? That was the thought at Cumberland Elementary School, in West Lafayette, Indiana, where first-grade teacher David Brantley used a parent donation to buy three Wii consoles. Brantley integrated some of the Wii's games and online channels into lessons on weather and geography. The result: "A great virtual map and globe activity," he says.
It's 10:30 A.M. on a Tuesday, and a dozen ten-year-olds are jumping up and down, arms flailing in the air, in a classroom at Los Angeles's Marvin Avenue Elementary School. They've been at it for a half hour now and have yet to exhaust their energy, although a few are audibly gasping for breath over the dance music that's driving their activity.
It may sound like all hell has broken loose, but these fifth graders are neatly lined up in rows, their eyes glued to a television screen, trying as best they can to follow the game. They're playing Dance Dance Revolution (DDR), a video game that's helping schools nationwide revive student interest in gym class.