You don’t even have to tell me twice to try and justify using videogames for education! I feel like this is where I have lived for the past 10 years! I realize, for some, and video games are a harsh reality. It’s difficult to see the usefulness. Tough to justify the cost. And kids just aren’t getting outside anymore! But one thing you cannot deny is that for children, video games are engaging!
As a parent, I can appreciate the difficulty in getting a child off of their games to go do something else. But I also see the value that is there to offer. I keep harping on this, but my brothers and I grew up with video games. We’re all fully functioning adults that are successful in our chosen careers. And taking it apart and analyzing it I realize that my mother did a lot of the right things in monitoring our game play. She allowed us to be engaged in what we were doing, but set time limits (sure, we’d mess with the timer when she’d set it, but she wasn’t a dummy). She was aware of what we were playing. We knew NEVER to try and bring a game like “Mortal Kombat” into the house. She never sat down and played with us, but she did let us tell her about the all the things in our games that made us excited—and she never squashed that excitement.
Of course, video games will never replace real life. It can, however, spark interests for students who might not otherwise be exposed to such interests. For example, I live on an island in Southeast Alaska. We don’t have cows, functioning farms, or other agricultural elements. However, should one of my students begin playing Farmville; or other games that emphasize farming, they might just want to try their hand at such an endeavor. That’s sparking a curiosity and interest; and that’s where real learning comes from.
I tend to utilize gaming with my students for reading practice. Regardless of what the students are playing, I tell them to turn the subtitles on. This helps with practicing speed-reading and understanding voicing. They’re going to be playing anyway—I might as well make it productive. My high school students also appreciate that they can connect with me on a common level. Sure, I’m their teacher; but I also don’t mind taking a moment to shoot the breeze and discuss the finer points of Final Fantasy 7. I ask them for tips on Minecraft. We discuss the new games coming out and debate about what is the better system. We’re building rapport, because I am respecting their interests and sharing in them.