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Gaming/Play – A worthy part of Education Pt. Finale

Strong MuseumWhen  looking at our goal in education, what is it that we are there to do? Let’s take a look at my school district’s mission statement: “To ensure rigorous, relevant learning experiences that result in high achievement for our students.” To what point is learning rigorous and relevant? By whose standards? The  FDOE, State DOE or local school boards? Relevant to what? Standards that are in place  to allow success on benchmark testing?

I hear all the time when walking into classrooms and breakrooms on campus that there is not time for the ‘fluffy’ stuff that I’m there to help teachers with. The stuff that the students need are all in the text books anyways. Who has time to create a wiki or blog? Where would I fit into my day the time to tape my students creating video books to share with other classes and grade levels? Heaven help us all if learning turned out to be fun in any way, shape or form!

What type of games are out there that would allow students to learn and *gulp* and have some fun? I’ve compiled a list of a few that might work.

  1. Webkinz – I’m not going to rehash this as I wrote about this earlier this week. Still find that it would be an invaluable tool in the classroom.
  2. Roller Coaster Tycoon (or any other Tycoon based game) – I love this series of games. I remember playing one of the first versions of RCT that came out years ago, and how addicting it was to try and get more and more people to show up to my theme park. Creating a roller coaster of your own can be interesting. Can’t get the cars to go back up the rise of tracks? Hrm….sounds like a physics issue there. Better get Newton’s Laws of Physics out for a lesson.
  3. Sim Tower Sim City or Sim Theme Park – Old school versions of RCT and that genre. I’ve found Sim Tower online through ebay and have contemplated buying it again. Between these 2 games and RCT, what better life and math lesson is there than to have to create your own parks/cities. I remember in Sim Tower creating shopping malls on the top floor of the tower (about floor 100 I think) and it not doing well. Then tasked my daughter with creating a tower similar but choosing to put the shopping area in the basement and she was quickly making money to create more types of shops and condo units.
  4. Sid Meier’s Gettysburg, Civilizations Series, etc – What a greatly cool thing to do to learn about historical events, then to recreate them via software. Don’t like the way General Robert E. Lee performed at Gettysburg? Just think of the possibilities that can be explored by allowing General John Bell Hood to perform a flanking maneuver on day 2 instead of the assaults on Little Round Top. Might have a different  result possibly.
  5. World of Warcraft or other MMORPGs – I know what might be going through your heads. Tom, you are a WoW-head of course you are going to espouse using such a thing. One thing that I’ve noticed in my lifetime of gaming (going back to Advanced Dungeon and Dragons days using pen/paper) that there is a THRIVING economy in these games. Since leaving San Antonio I’ve been enjoying the family vacation up here in Niagara Falls, NY, yet I’m still able to log into World of Warcraft and complete some minor tasks that does NOT involve any killing. Yet, I’ve still been able to make about 300 in gold by performing these tasks (usually creating food that other players consume and selling off items that other people can use to cook) Sounds like a math lesson in there somewhere to me.
  6. Fantasy Sports – I LOVE my fantasy football and baseball. Can’t go a football season without having at least 2 football leagues that I’m a part of. Dan Flockhart created a math curriculum to go with fantasy sports and mathematics. I saw this about a year and a half ago on ESPN and is definitely worth taking a look at if you are a math teacher.

Notice a trend there? Alot of math. In my most humble of opinions, alot of emphasis is placed on reading (rightly so) but sometimes I feel it’s to the detriment of mathematics. Right now the GLS conference going on in Madison, WI. (Gaming + Learning + Society) I’m hoping some literature or webcasts come from this conference to sink my teeth into. I know Kevin Jarrett and David Jakes are there. Here’s hoping they have something they can share with everyone.

Seeking the Wisdom of the Ages…

Tom.

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4 Responses to “Gaming/Play – A worthy part of Education Pt. Finale”

  1.   By Debby on Jul 11, 2008 | Reply

    I think games have a tremendous potential to enhance the learning experience. But I agree that there is a Puritanical undercurrent in education that espouses the belief that if it’s fun, it can’t be REAL learning and is therefore not worth funding

    At the core, computer programs like the ones you name cost money and school districts are often hesitant to fund them.

    When I was an English teacher, I was an early adopter of technology in the classroom. I had an electronic gradebook and was giving my classes weekly feedback on where they were grade wise and where that grade came from and how it could be improved, before anyone else did. I paid for the program myself. Of course most districts now fund electronic gradebooks but, as an early adopter, I was funding this out of my own pocket.

    I had this great Jeopardy program where I would review Latin prefixes and suffixes by competing as teams in a Jeopardy format. My SAT Prep classes loved it. They clamored to review their Latin prefixes and suffixes. I bought it myself and didn’t buy the full version, which would have been more useful, because the full program was expensive and I thought my teaching assignment would change (which it did, moving to full-time librarian).

    We have some teachers using an innovative approach to research. Rather than having their classes submit a paper on a topic, they submit a rap or poem incorporating what they learned in researching their topic. They came to the library, researched their topic and then created a rap. These students were actually excited about researching the chemical elements!

    I approached our Head of Technology about getting a microphone and ancillary equipment so these classes could create podcasts of their raps to share with other students and the community. I was told they could perform their raps, speaking into the microphone that is incorporated into our computer monitors. *sigh*

    But, the good news is I got a grant! So this fall our students will be able to perform their raps for their class and have them recorded and posted on our library webpage….research in action!! I also plan to sponsor some after school poetry slams in the library, which will also be recorded and the podcasts posted.

    Learning can be fun. Learning ought to be fun. Yeah, some of it is drill, but as my Jeopardy program demonstrated, even drill can be fun. Part of the key is to get funding for learning programs that are FUN.

  2.   By Kevin Jarrett on Jul 11, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for the mention! I am here at GLS but am pretty sure David Jakes is not … trying to pull together some reflective posts about the experience … I encourage ALL Pk-16 educators to apply for a scholarship to attend next year … it has been and incredible experience … and I plan to be back myself! Watch my blog for an update at some point! :) -kj-

  3.   By tnturner on Jul 11, 2008 | Reply

    Thanks for the comment Kevin. I was able to follow along with most of David Warlick’s liveblogging a session today. Having played games since elementary school I wish more people would see the true benefits this learning philosophy would bring. I look forward to seeing your recap on your experience.

  4.   By Jose Rodriguez on Aug 23, 2008 | Reply

    Hi Tom,

    My daughters have been playing club penguin all summer. I see how they are able to go in to these virtual worlds and go through different challenges either on their own or collaborating with buddies. They may not be learning a lot of “academic” skills but this they are learning how to navigate these online environments very easily. So, the verdict? There is a place for gaming both structured “teacher monitored” and unstructured “free exploration”. Play/Fun is learning too.

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