Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Future of Education is...Video Games?

According to Mark Saltzman in USA Today, video games can be a force for good. He writes:

"Video games are not just about reaching high scores or blowing off steam after a long day at work or school. The $10 billion interactive entertainment industry is also finding that games can be a tool for good — from healing your mind and body to solving world problems.

The latest positive pursuits in games range from burning calories and fighting cancer to tackling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

This is cool, because it shows that people are beginning to catch on to the amazing possibilities for teaching history and social sciences (or propagandizing, depending on how you look at it) that video games represent. Just imagine how much students will retain from an hour immersed in the 14th century, working on an open-ended quest set by the teacher. Most of what I know about westward migration in the 19th century is based on an hour or so playing Oregon Trail (at a Univax terminal during a gifted summer camp program at our local university, which makes me prehistoric).

I just love the idea of dramatizing the Arab-Israeli conflict. Yes, it's a multisided story and whomever developed the game gets to spin things their way, but the same can be said about textbooks. By the way, Peacemaker, the game in question, sure looks like it has a pro-Israeli spin.

Programs like Food Force can harness the power of all those creative little brains, too. Perhaps some teen out there has a better idea for food distribution in combat zones? Now he or she can get "on the ground," so to speak, see what obstacles really exist, and figure out ways around them. Cool, huh?


Zany Mom said...

Very cool! I heard rumor that these 'educational' games would be competing with the rest of the gaming world, but they said no, not true, they're competing with the boring teacher in the front of the class.

You retain more by doing and immersing than by listening (or reading).

At least I do.

The Princess Mom said...

Any teacher will tell you the same thing. One of the mantras from teacher-training was "I hear, I forget. I see, I remember. I do, I understand." Of course, that was 20 years ago and lecture is still the primary mode of instruction in the classroom. But that's a matter of economics more than pedagogical theory.

joe stafura said...

Having close involvement with the PeaceMaker game I would like to comment on the statement that PeaceMaker has a "pro-Israeli spin. The designers of the game worked very hard, and will continue to do so leading up to the planned December release, to provide a balanced perspective.

We have worked with Palestinian and Israeli experts on the conflict to balance the information as fairly as possible. It is an understatement to say that there are many different opinions on the conflict, but the PeaceMaker team doesn't have an opinion, nor do we try to put one forth, nor "rig" the game to try to put one position above another.

The goal is understanding and the development of empathy for both positions, from that position we believe there will be new hope.

The Princess Mom said...

Joe, thanks for stopping by! I apologize if I mischaracterized your game. That was just the impression I got from clicking around the website. I think the concept is brilliant, and if you're looking for more beta testers, I eargerly volunteer my three little gamers. I think they'd get a lot out of it.

I do hope you'll contact me again when the game becomes available.