Games For Learning
Guest speaker: Sylvia Martinez
Watch this presentation before Wednesday. Leave one question here. (that way I'll know you've seen this)
Do you feel the use of video games for learning will be more effective than a regular game (such as card games for learning math)? Also, will video games be effective in reaching out to all students, or should there still be a variety of types of games available in the classroom for learning?
I think there is a potential for video games to offer experiences such as simulations that far exceed simple card games. But any one game (or any one activity) is never effective for reaching all students. There is potential for achieving this when the game, activity, or project is a baseline on which the students can build their own experience.

"I agree that we as teachers need to find a new way to connect with children and how to teach them. My only concern is that if we teach them through these video games that they seem to be consumed in, is that the student will then lack some communication skills. How could we have the students learn by video games but also interact with each other? Is there any online application or game they could do together?"
I never advocate the teacher giving up the responsibility to be the leader and the manager of the learning experience. The role of the teacher is crucial to extend the game, to provide reflection activities, and to encourage communication and collaboration around the game. I do think it is important for teachers to understand the lives of the children they teach, but this doesn't mean that children's selections overrule educationally appropriate activities..

~ Teachers are already complaining about not having enough time during the day to teach their students to be (academically) socially connected to the world around them. Are there teaching forums/classes for gaming tools such as Logo in the gaming communities for teachers that would help with such hesitations? (Shari Fender)
Teachers need to fight the tyranny of mandated curriculum that robs students of community and connections in favor of isolated test prep. There are definitely communities of teachers around the world discussing these very issues, but it's hard for a distributed community to change local policy. You can certainly learn a lot from what others have done -- there's no need to reinvent the wheel or go it alone.

Do you think that games have the potential to replace labs in classes like Math, Physics, Chemistry or Biology? Or do you think they would be inadequate? Games and simulations have some potential to be the "hands-on" portion of science, especially science that's dangerous, or hard to do in a classroom, like molecular simulations. But taking away springs and lenses, for example, would just be sad. Everything doesn't have to be virtual to be modern. Using common sense is always good.

Is there a certain age or grade level that students would need to be at in order to begin creating games through programs like Logo? There are versions of Logo for many ages, starting as young as 5 years old. Scratch was created for upper elementary students. MicroWorlds for pre-K to grade 4 and has excellent teacher materials and resources. Game Maker is very popular as a game design tool for high school students. All of these have worldwide communities of teacher-users.

How can the use of games, or the creation of games, be adapted to meet the needs of all students? For example, what if you have a student with a visual impairment, can this be effective for him/her as well? Making games, like all good projects, tends to be very adaptable to students with different needs and interests. Of course, if there is some problem with actual access, you need to solve those problems to give students fair access and usability. I've worked with teachers who say some of their biggest success stories are with special ed students who make games or other projects for younger special ed students. TThey are proud of what they can do and are role models for the younger students.

If there is the claim that children who play video games become more civically and politically engaged, what kinds of games help to promote such discussions? Obviously games like "God of War" and "Super Mario Bros" can just have discussions on the aforementioned games but games like "Assassins Creed" or "Call of Duty" bring further discussions because they are based on some kind of historical background. What games should children be playing to keep their minds active and still in reality instead of fantasy?
I'm not sure that I would differentiate that much between reality and fantasy, because even games based in reality are still games. The community involvement that occurs in any game where teams need to plan or alliances are formed. These conversations can be quite enriching and deep. Making decisions, coming to consensus, planning, learning from experience, dealing with veterans and newcomers are all good lessons for the real world, even if you are talking about Middle Earth or alien galaxies. The teacher needs to make sure that students are exposed to positive behaviors, if this is a class activity, since of course there are always negative aspects to these communities such as bullying or ganging up on new players. I'm not talking about games like Mario Kart or something like that, since the communities around these games primarily exist to share cheat codes. Even then, I'm not against cheat codes, it's good experience for students as a model of a research project. Who can you trust, where does the information come from, things like this can help kids understand how to look for and evaluate information.

Bernajean Porterwill be here to talk about Second Life.

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