This term I have been offering a MyTime slot known as Gamer’s Anonymous. Most Wednesdays I have the privilege of hosting this slot in our library and watching the students strategically and skilfully playing games such as DOTA, LOL, Minecraft and Neverwinter.
I never wanted the library to be a silent space where I peer over my horned glasses and meekly say”shhh”, and I have certainly got my wish. The addition of a PS4 and X-Box One console in the library last week means that we are inundated by gamers every lunchtime. The ohs and ahs as the boys verse one another at Fifa 14 and the background music to others attacking zombies with plants that they must cultivate in the game serenade me as I chat animatedly to other students. My sneaky plan was to make links between the games these students love to play and books that may interest them, to encourage the elusive male species into the library buzz.
We brought books that linked to ensure this could happen. We have Minecraft manuals, a large selection of graphic novels, manga and books about the graphics of popular games such as The Last of Us.
Some may wonder why I have bothered providing more opportunities for students to play “meaningless, anti-social and mindless games”, and use up our school data. But online gaming and (dear I say) most professionally produced games are anything but mindless.
In fact I believe strongly that there is huge power in the science behind these games that make them an ideal learning tool. Educators who choose to block rather than educate students about the power of these tools are merely confirming the belief that some students have, that schools are a space that has no meaning or relevance them and their lives.
I wonder whether the passion I see displayed in these students, could be transferred into other educational settings.
Cankayaa and Karameteb (2009) found that the aspects of games that make them enjoyable are also those that make effective learning enjoyable too. These aspects included a clear and measurable objective, easy and timely access to quality feedback and a sense of accomplishment. Online and multiplayer games provide the opportunity for students to develop new skills in communication, build relationships and strategically collaborate in order to solve problems.
The added benefit is that through every game the student is learning more about the way the game works, the different types of people they play with and are able to apply new knowledge across multiple situations. This transferring of learning is one of the keys to higher order thinking and the ability to create abstract conceptualisations. Furthermore many games are built with the explicit goal of differentiating the game play based on user actions, so that every player can feel a sense of achievement and work at their own pace to achieve the game’s goal.
For some of the students in schools around the world, gaming is the only time that they feel successful and build their self esteem. It is for many an escape or stress relief from awkward social situations or their daily life. What has not been necessarily realised, is the power of these games to build and encapsulate the habits of connectivity and collaboration.
This is not to say that students should not have limits set on the amount of games they can play.The learning that is occurring is higher order thinking and transferable skills, but they can also be highly addictive and detract from their ability to work at school, on non-web based tasks or to develop face-to-face relationships with their peers and community. The key is to educate them about how to led balanced digital lives.
There are certainly opportunities for educators to harness the power of gaming. This could take the form of making links to students’ prior knowledge and building reciprocal relationships or it could be as simple as being interested in what they are doing for 3+ hours a night online.
Remember the teacher who is willing to learn about something a student is interested in, has the most powerful tool there is for learning – a relationship.
Blog written with reference to:
Paraskeva F, Mysirlaki, S & Papagianni, A (2009) Multiplayer online games as educational tools: Facing new challenges in learning,
in Computers & Education, Volume 54, 2010, Pages 498–505
Çankayaa, S & Karamete, A (2008) The effects of educational computer games on students’ attitudes towards mathematics course and educational computer games in Procedia Social and Behavioral Sciences 1, 2009, Pages 145–149