While few disagree you learn more from experiences than from books, many don’t count playing a video game as learning. However, there are a few experts that are beginning to challenge that idea.
Recently Dr. James Paul Gee, a professor at Arizona State University and leading authority on literature and educational games, gave a talk at the Learning and Brain Conference. Dr. Gee spoke about 10 ways in which video games are good for learning.
10 Ways Video Games are Good
1. They Feed the Learning Process – the best experiences have motivation, clear goals, interpreted outcomes, and immediate and copious feedback. Video games have all these components.
2. They Eliminate the Need for Testing – the current assessment forces teachers to teach to the test. Video games hold out a different way of thinking about assessments namely, that they don’t need it. “Learning and assessment are exactly the same thing,” Gee said. “If you design learning so you can’t get out of one level until you complete the last one, then there is no need to test.”
3. They Build on Experience – with every new level, the knowledge and expertise picked up in previous levels can be applied to a new experience. This is a fundamental part of leaning.
4. They Refine Teachers as Learning Designers – game designers create well-designed experiences and social interactions. They also encourage kids to share tactics, experiences, and explanations to cement what they have learned.
5. They Teach Language Through Experience – the benefit of video games is that as children play they experience every image, action, and dialogue.
6. They Entice Kids to Love Challenges – “They’re selling stuff to kids that are complex and hard. And because it’s outside of school, it’s virtually addictive.”
7. They Motivate Learning – it’s hard to motivate students to learn something difficult without context, without motivation and the gratification. Video games provide all of that.
8. They Teach Problem-Solving – when it comes to problem-solving, research shows that if you teach and test facts and formulas, students learn facts and formulas. This doesn’t correlate to solving problems, but if you teach through problem-solving, students learn problem-solving skills, plus the facts.
9. They Encourage Risk-Taking – if the cost of failure is too high, students won’t try. If the cost is lower, like in video games, kids will continually rethink new tactics if something isn’t working.
10. They Provide a Learning Model for School – Many of the principals in video games can be applied to multiple subject areas in schools.
See the New Learning in Action
Now, if you doubt kids learn from playing video games, sit down with them and ask them to walk you through how to complete a level. Likely, they will walk you through, step by step, and provide you with detail and insights you never would have gotten on your own. Then ask them to explain a Math, Science, or English concept. While they may be able to do both, it is likely that the level of excitement and detail will be lacking from the traditional learning model.
We see the excitement of this new way to learn time and again with the kids in our summer camps. The amazing thing about our camps is kids don’t just use this new way to learn they get to create it for themselves. In STEM camps like ours, kids get to develop their own video games rather than just playing one of the thousands developed by someone else. All of this makes me very optimistic about our children’s future.