Sunday, January 25, 2009

Games and Simulations in Education

Today was the first face to face session of the hybrid graduate class I am taking called Games and Simulations in Education. We will be reading, reflecting on blogs, collaborating on a wiki, playing video games, and connecting it all to education. I'm looking forward to it!

I am not a gamer. I don't really like video games. But wait. Stop. I think my view of what constitutes a video game is too narrow. I loved playing Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo. (My parents refused to buy us one, so we had to settle for only playing when visiting cousins.) I loved Oregon Trail and Where in the World is Carmen San Diego when I was younger. And, there was Strawberry Shortcake and Sneak 'n Peek for our Atari. Maybe I do like video games? I was excited to find out that we are required to play a game for this class. I have really wanted to play Spore since I heard about it on NPR. And the more I hear about some of these other games, the more I think I may just pick up another addiction. Uh oh.

I want to gain some exposure to more games in this class. I want to break the preconceived ideas I have about certain games. I want to learn about new games. I want to know how the design of games can be applied to an educational situation. Like mentioned earlier in class, gaming companies are not always interested in teaching anything, but they are interested in holding the attention of the players. Shouldn't we be interested in doing the same thing in education?

In Marc Prensky's "Don't Bother Me Mom - I'm Learning,", he says:
If you are game player today, all sorts of people are courting you, trying to get you to spend money for their game, and they know they have to work hard to do it.

As a game designer, you're focused on one question: How can I keep a maximum number of players on the edge of their seats for hours and hours?

If you publish games, you are always thinking about your audience. What do they like? What experiences can you give them that they haven't had or can't get elsewhere? What additional aspects of the players' lives can you relate to with a game? How fast can you incorporate the latest technologies? In short, what will sell your games to the player?
Aren't all of these things ideas we should be considering as educators? Maybe we need to do a bit more marketing for the learning we want to happen in our classrooms. I think we can learn a lot from digital games that we can apply to education. Digital games won't replace a teacher or a classroom, but why not learn what we can and make our classrooms a better learning environment.
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