Since the dawn of pong, mankind has found itself infatuated with games, to a point in which just about every genre has been released to the public. Action games, fantasy games, RPGs, mysteries, point-and-clicks, tactical espionage action, tactical massage action, and just plain weird games that are in a category all their own. But what about education? Can games be used successfully to teach students? And perhaps more importantly; should they?
Well let’s first make it clear that not all games are designed to help kids learn. You’re not likely to learn the alphabet from Silent Hill and I have yet to solve a single rational equation in Clash of Clans. Games like that are for entertainment purposes only. But there are still a wide array of games that do inspire such learning elements, but are they really useful? The answer is actually pretty simple. Yes. Yes they are. And here’s why. Learning processes for many students can become dull or boring over time. And learning is more than simply taking notes or memorizing an equation until your brain feels numb. Learning revolves around actually understanding and acquiring skills, understanding when and how to apply them in and out of school. Games can ease this dull feel, engaging students and stimulating their brains to a point in which they actually feel as if they are a part of the learning process, not just a pawn. This is another classic case of learning by doing.
But now we need to go back to the root of the question. We know that games CAN help students. But SHOULD they? Should college students be playing video games in their classes? Pointing and clicking all day long as they attempt to learn how to market a brand of cereal they just customized? Or should games be tossed out when students reach a certain age? What would that age even be? Well it ultimately comes down to each individual student. While some kids respond to games, there will still always be those who prefer to silently read or to hear the instructor give the orders, not an automated voice in a game. Student’s minds work so differently that in the end, we cannot simply ask: “SHOULD games be used to teach kids?” We should actually be asking: “HOW many ways can kids learn? And how can we reach them all in ways they are comfortable with?”
In the world of education, comfort is key. And we shall never agree that one technique surpasses another, nor should we ever try. Instead of fighting off the new, we need to embrace it; understand why it works or how it could work in the future.