When I present on the use of games in the classroom, I’m usually advocating for using COTS (commercial-off-the-shelf) games. These are games, not designed for education that you might pick up at your local WalMart or GameStop. Games like this were designed primarily to entertain, though many have some powerful embedded learning, too. This is the realm I really enjoy exploring.
What’s really great is that some of these companies are paying attention to the education community and even reaching out to them. Though I’m sure there are more, I really want to mention two: Mojang, the creators of Minecraft, and Valve, the creators of games like Half Life and Portal.
Mojang has partnered with MinecraftEDU to allow a deeply discounted rate on licenses of Minecraft to schools. According to Joel “TheMinecraftTeachr” Levin, who helped start MinecraftEDU, the company has been incredibly supportive of their efforts to bring Minecraft to schools.
Valve recently launched an education-outreach program called TeachWithPortals. Through this program, schools can get Portal 2 and its level editor for use in the classroom. In addition, they’ve provided a space in which educators can connect with each other sharing lessons and ideas for integration.
This is an encouraging trend. As game-based learning continues to evolve, we need more pioneering companies to see and foster connections to classroom teachers. Great job, Mojang and Valve! I know students in my district are experiencing engaging learning opportunities because of your work.
Games in Education 2012 is underway. Already, incredible ideas and resources are being shared by educators from across the country who are bringing game-based learning to their students! Today, I’m presenting on a new project, SAGA (Story and Game Academy). It’s always my goal to give teachers resources they can use to get started with games in their own schools when I present. All of the links and resources from today’s presentation can be found here: http://edurealms.com/?page_id=613.
A few months back, I blogged about “The Wall.” In the minds of many, play and work (or learning) are mutually exclusive ideas. This continues to haunt me as I filter through the comments on a video of students in my district sharing their Minecraft creations on YouTube. It’s not just adults who struggle with the idea that game play can be a fertile ground for learning. Even our youngest learners are conditioned to believe that school isn’t a place for play. Learning only comes from textbooks.
Sadly, many of us, in our efforts to pioneer game-based learning in our classrooms are reinforcing that wall. As I read about other educators’ game-based learning projects or have discussions with teachers who have well-meaning notions of bringing Minecraft or other games into their classroom, an all-too-common thread is emerging: ”After they’ve successfully completed their assignment, I’ll let them play ____.” I even see teachers using this approach with skill-and-drill “educational” games.
And so, another brick is added to the wall. This only widens the gap of relevancy between what happens in the classroom and what happens outside of school in the minds of our learners. Incentivizing play in learning relegates video games to a dessert tray that can only be sampled once you’ve eaten your spelling words and finished all of your algebra. We’re doing kids a long-term disservice in their thinking.
My plea to educators, especially those brave enough to explore game-based learning: make video game play a part of how you do business in the classroom. Don’t make it a reward. Good games can stand on their own pedagogical merit. We often talk about fostering lifelong learning in kids and we need to encourage them to be critical and thoughtful consumers of media, including video games.
Teachers! Looking for a great way to incorporate game-like elements into your curriculum? Lisa Dawley is hosting a completely online professional development program and access to the 3D Game Lab! I’m proud to say that I’ll be contributing to this program in August. It’s going to rock! The official website and information about signing up can be found here – http://www.3dgamelab.org. Check out the video and the flyer below.