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Doug Johnson's Tech Proof

Game On!


Game cultures feature participation in a collective intelligence, blur the distinction between the production and consumption of information, emphasize expertise rather than status, and promote international and cross-cultural media and communities.At the same time, game cultures promote various types of information literacy, develop information-seeking habits and production practices (like writing), and require good, old-fashioned research skills, albeit using a wide spectrum of content.
Meet the Gamers, Kurt Squire & Constance Steinkuehler -- Library Journal 4/15/2005.

The debate rages in our district, as I am sure it does in many, on the role of computer and online games in education. Do your classrooms and libraries support or ban games and gamers?


  1. Games keep busy kids who might otherwise be disturbing other kids.
  2. Playing games gives teeth to the threat, "If you don't follow the rules you will lose your computer privileges."
  3. Games give kids practice with social skills when they work in teams.
  4. Games give kids practice learning strategy and logic.
  5. Games teach content.
  6. Games build reading and math skills.
  7. Games build research skills when looking for information about game strategies or solutions to puzzles.
  8. Games build intergenerational conversations and relationships. (Four out of ten American adults turn to video games as their primary source of entertainment.)
  9. Games get kids into libraries who might not otherwise go there, increasing the likelihood of book check out.
  10. Games build a positive association with school that might not otherwise be there for a lot of kids.


  1. Kids playing games might be using resources (computers, bandwidth, chairs, oxygen) that other kids might need to do real school work.
  2. Kids playing games find school fun and we all know life isn't about fun.
  3. Playing games is against school rules.

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Lets be clear that there are games and there are games -- just like there are movies and there are movies; there are books and there are books. Games vary widely in type -- from first person shoot em ups to skill attainment tutors with complex management programs. Games vary in taste, rating, maturity level, and even factual accuracy.

The question shouldnt be Do we permit students to play games? but Which games should we allow our students to play?

What criteria might a teacher or librarian use when selecting games for the classroom or library?

In Complexity Matters, author/educator Marc Prensky differentiates between complex and simple games, arguing that most adults have a negative opinion of games because they associate the term game with those of their own childhoods -- card and board games; recreational pursuits meant to pass a rainy afternoon. Prensky surmises, Because of these formative game-playing experiences growing up, when todays teacher (or parent or educator) hears the word game, their first reaction is: trivial. And they dont want this trivial stuff to be part of their child'sserious education. So they reject games out of hand as a serious learning tool.

Instead, Prensky argues, we should be thinking about complex games, those that take 10-100 hours to complete. Those games require a player to learn a wide variety of often new and difficult skills and strategies, and to master these skills and strategies by advancing through dozens of ever-harder levels. Doing this often requires both outside research and collaboration with others while playing.

Complex game titles include Sim City, Civilization III, Rise of Nations, Age of Empires, Age of Kings, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Myst, Riven, EverQuest, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, all the Tycoon games, John Madden Football, Medal of Honor, Full Spectrum Warrior, and Americas Army.

Consider adding games as a resource in your classroom or library. Theyre not just good, theyre good for kids.

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