Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Video Games and the Curriculum

I wouldn’t call myself a video game enthusiast.  I had an Atari growing up that I played periodically.  I never owned a gaming system in high school or college and only last Christmas purchased a Nintendo Wii.  So it is with some curiosity that I’ve watched my three and half year old son play two Wii games he received for Christmas.  His Nickelodeon Wii Fit game has over 30 mini-games that emphasize heart health, cardio, strength building, balance, endurance, and coordination.  His other game is Go Diego Go: Dinosaur Rescue.  Dinosaur Rescue uses more than twelve different motions such as stomping, climbing, flying, and bouncing along with developing problem solving skills.  Over the course of the week, he has learned to navigate each game with the controller and perform all of the actions required.  I’ve watched him develop better hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills.  Neither of which I think he would have picked up in his normal daily routine, at least not as quickly.  So this got me thinking, why aren’t we using this concept of video games in schools?
 I found at least one school that is using the concept of kids’ love of video games to design a curriculum that engages students in learning.  A New York Times article by Sara Corbett entitled “Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom” specifically takes a look at a school in New York called Quest to Learn.  “Quest to Learn is organized specifically around the idea that digital games are central to the lives of today’s children..” (Corbett).  The author cites research that indicates that children who have access to computers have mastered pointing and clicking with a mouse by the time they are 3 ½ years old.  The Kaiser Family Foundation found in a national survey that 60 percent of children 8 to 18 reported playing video games daily for about two hours (Corbett).  Several studies on dropout rates indicate that students drop out of school due to boring classroom content.  Of course there are hurdles to implementing more technology and gaming into the curriculum.  There are few schools that have the money to purchase the necessary technology and training for teachers.  But are we missing an important opportunity by not tapping into our students’ digital knowledge?
Ms. Corbett asks, “What if we blurred the lines between academic subjects and reimagined the typical American classroom so that, at least in theory, it came to resemble a typical American living room or a child’s bedroom or even a child’s pocket, circa 2010…” (2010).  Well, either my son is going to be well prepared for the future with 21st century skills or he’ll be the first toddler to have ACL surgery.
Corbett, Sara. "Learning by Playing: Video Games in the Classroom." Www.nytimes.com. The New York Times, 19 Sept. 2010. Web. 29 Dec. 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/magazine/19video-t.html>.