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Are Video Games the Future of Education?

Game developers all over the country are working to align some educational games to Common Core State Standards, while educators and video game makers are seeing benefits in using games in a classroom context, despite concerns from administrators. This could be the golden age of educational video games.


“You’re going to see teachers and students build games together,” said EdTech insider Garrett Fuller at New York’s 10th Annual Comic-Con.


Fuller, a former teacher, is a journalist, and game developer within software configuration management, at TenTonHammer and respectively. He lead off the panel Games and Education, a professional development session for educators, at this year’s New York Comic-Con. 


The panel, also featuring presenters Sue Parler, Justin DeVoe, and Beverly Decker, brought teachers and video game designers together to show how next-generation technology is being adapted in classrooms as it educates K-12 learners, and helps students in their college careers as well. 


“It’s a passion that drives you to learn and play, and it keeps pinging your brain in different ways. It’s the same thing that you’re going to see, the passion teachers have,  for kids to learn, and that’s really, really critical,” said Fuller. “Once you present the information in a way that kids are going to grab onto it and want to learn; forget it, you’re going to be working together the entire time.”


He discussed how to easily provide game developers crucial feedback as an educator through gaming services like Steam, and how they’re “harnessing their communities to help build better games.” 


“I think that’s the environment you’re going to start to see more and more,” he said. 


Fuller also currently coordinates more than 50 panels for New York Comic-Con, Penny Arcade Expo, and the Chicago Entertainment Expo as an industry relations manager, as has an invested stake in this industry like many other EdTech players, but his intentions seem pure in their foresight.  


“Getting the new technology into schools is critical. Making sure that students in places like north New Jersey have access to computers and have access to tablets, because that’s what everyone else is going to use,” said Fuller. 


Amidst an increase in video game use in classrooms, many educators are questioning whether or not video games can work within Common Core standards, as recently reported by the Hechinger Report


“With a game like Jeopardy, you are incentivized to be really fast on the buzzer, to memorize things and to think that memorization is important,” said Daniel O’Keefe, North Carolina Institute of Play regional director, to Hechinger Report. “In the best games, you are learning a subject like algebra in a way that you don’t really know you’re learning it. Students end up actually enjoying algebra because it’s like a puzzle. You’re untying a knot and there’s something pleasurable about it.”


O’Keefe noted that popular games used for learning like Minecraft are a perfect fit for Common Core, with a various dedicated resource sites available to teachers to apply the video game to lessons, even from owner Mojang. 


“Games are, for better or worse, the gateway for most students into computer programming, so let's embrace the STEM opportunities there and roll with it,“ wrote headmaster and lead teacher at Iowa’s project-based high school Project Big Shawn Cornally in a recent blogpost for Edutopia. 


Cornally uses gaming to teach physics, calculus, and more, and listed games that he’s used successfully in the classroom within the post. He’s used Portal 2, developer Valve’s physics bending puzzle game, to successfully teach physics, noting that the game is so popular with teachers that the developer produce a port specifically for educators. He also included Minecraft in the list, amongst others. 


Fuller describe his love for live sports during his panel presentation, and highlighted that eSports offer the same intensity in a live setting. He said that right now, scholarships are being offered to competitive gamers to pay for college and more. 


“There will be college eSports teams within the next five years, I think they already exist if I’m not mistaken,” said Fuller. “So it sounds shocking, but actually paying to go to college, you can actually play video games to go to college, and don’t think that’s going to change. That’s going to continue and get bigger, and bigger, and bigger over the next ten years.”


He noted that defining gaming as “educational” is faulty, as gaming uses so many functions, that often many games are inherently educational in their own right. To give the argument merit, Fuller cited that up to 55 different functions are processed by a gamer’s brain at one time with a story as the expansive as a role-playing game like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, by Bethesda. 


“After eSports, it’s really: ‘What challenges do we face, right?’ I know it’s been fifteen years since we’ve, kind of, flipped the millennium, but there are still gaps in education all the time…We do have, kind of an old, guarded administration that was still teaching back years and years ago that kind of don’t adhere to these new ideas, and that’s fine, I mean, everything worked perfectly fine [laughs] 30 or 40 years ago, but you can’t deny the growth of technology and how much it impacts people,” said Fuller. 


Almost three in four elementary and middle school teachers say they’re using video games in their classes, but some districts aren’t sure about games claiming to align to Common Core either. 


“The best games are all about solving problems and they can help move us away from just having kids know facts to pass tests,” professor at the Center for Games and Impact at Arizona State University's education school James Gee told Hechinger Report. “But games aren’t good for everything. Big publishers want to bring games to schools as a stand-alone product; just like that didn’t work for textbooks, games have to be just one part of a bigger learning system.”



Article by Jason Papallo, Education World Social Media Editor

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