There is a growing trend in education that has been largely ignored by public education: Game Based Learning. This is something that has been developing over the past decade and its existence is a sure way to heat up any discussion in an educational environment. There are people out there who will tell you that game-based learning does not work, that it is a fad and that it will be gone before you know it. There are others who will swear by its educational value and tell you that game-based learning is the only way to go. Personally, I feel like the true value of game-based learning is somewhere in between.
First, I think that it is important to note that the modern student does not think, learn, or interact the way students did at the turn of the century. As a 2001 high school graduate myself, I feel that I have a pretty good take on this subject. I owned gaming systems, I had a personal computer, and I got a cell phone in college. These are all technologies that are a given when it comes to today’s students. Our students do not understand what it means not to have these things in their households. After all, what else would you do with your time at home? Students can be sitting at the same lunch table, sending text messages to each other, and never say a word. This is social interaction for them. Conversation without a digital medium is not as normal as it once was. Even when they have a one-on-one verbal conversation, it is carried over from or to the internet or a cell phone. Is it possible to deny the impacts these trends have on learning?
Students are multitaskers, they are problem solvers, and they are true thinkers, but not in the way traditional education can see or evaluate. Gone are the days of excellent test taking skills and rote memorization. Today’s student can carry on several conversations at once and keep them all straight while listening to the latest hit song and playing the latest hit video game, all at the same time. This is the ultimate in multitasking. They can figure their way around complex gaming problems and scenarios and tell you why their solutions are the best. These same students, however, cannot do this in a classroom setting. They cannot explain a complex word problem in mathematics and then explain how they would arrive about the answer. Why is this? There must be some truth in the idea that presentation has an effect on how students process and solve problems.
Game-based learning can be the solution. This platform allows students to take on complex academic issues and solve them in a variety of ways, depending on where their strengths lie. Students can work their way around math, literature, history, and science problems all at the same time; integrated curriculum at its finest. Universities and course designers everywhere are working diligently at making this work. There are even two middle grades social studies teachers that have created a history game for their students that is going viral.
There is no doubt that game-based learning has a long way to go, but there is little doubt that it is here to stay. If you ask this teacher, this is the technology to watch. This is the technology that will change the face of education forever.
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