The Power of Public Media

Published: 2 years ago

An Orc could teach you a thing or two…

“Where is the educational value in all of this silly game play?”

Winning in a video game can be measured in many ways. Kill all the zombies within a desolated dirty cityscape… Collect all the colorful candies you can match as quickly and diligently as you can. Find the princess in the Bubble Castle… Many parents may ask themselves, “Where is the educational value in all of this silly game play?” Well maybe there is some educational value after all.

In the past, games like Oregon Trail, Reader Rabbit, Carmen Sandiego used the game play medium to teach kids.

Today, many software and media companies are bringing back games for educational purposes. Amplify is a company focused on bring the medium of mobile digital to the classroom. Working with Schell Games, they have been building a transformational game called World of Lexica (USA Today Article). Their goal is to have students with tablets in the classroom learn about literary and non-fiction characters. Our own interactive group at WGBH is building games for preschoolers to learn math, Next Generation Preschool Math. By using mobile apps on tablets complemented with non-digital activities, kids are learning math in a social, collaborative environment. This program has received praise in a NYT article – Field-Testing the Math App.

There is also an on-going trend of game developers volunteering their skills to schools. Michael Hawker and Brett Wortzman are two developers on a quest to make games educational. In their session “You have Died of Dysentery: Games in Education Are Still Alive” at the Pax Dev conference, they talked about their initiative to teach kids in school about Computer Science. They use their knowledge of software development to create classroom sessions for high school students in Issaquah, WA. One of their students even published their game to mobile app stores. For more about programs like this, check out Tealsk12.org – Tech Ed literacy in schools.

Mainstream game companies could potentially incorporate education-based add-ons to enhance the longevity of their game while applying learning concepts. In fact, there are games that have a heavy emphasis in learning/self-learning.  Here are a few examples of mainstream and indie games that supply content for education and learning:

  • Angry Birds illustrates physics and parabolic motion
  • The Counting Kingdom uses math directly in its game
  • Portal 2 use physics and terminal velocity for cool game play
  • LightBot introduces computer science concepts (Techcrunch Article)
  • Minecraft has been used for education (MinecraftEdu)
  • Ctrl-Alt-Hack is focused on learning about key computer security (Educational Activity)
  • World of Warcraft has been used in the classroom (WoWinSchool)

Yes, Mom and Dad. Your kids could learn a few things by playing video games. Better yet, ask your kids what games they’re playing. You may learn a thing or two.

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