Digital games are “hard fun” (Seymour Papert)
There are many factors to be considered when using digital games in education. It is not a matter of sticking the student in front of a computer screen, loading the game and hoping for the best.
Not all games
- are good educational games.
- provoke higher order thinking, creativity and problem solving nor do they provide challenge.
- encourage active involvement, many are passive rote learning, single player games.
- are based on the desktop or laptop computer.
Digital games are also available anytime anywhere on Nintendo DS Lites, Sony Playstation Palms (PSP), mobile phones, Ipods and touch screen phones.
Digital games can also to be played on Sony Playstations 2 and 3, the X-Box or using the Nintendo Wii.
Digital Games on any of the above devices can be played alone, in a group or with the rest of the world.
Games can be used simply as rote learning tools these are not the sort of games we are discussing.
The digital games we work with are the kind which see the imagination soar, set challenges and problems to be thought about and solved, provide opportunities to create and share.
They can be games which simulate real life situations.
They can be games which allows students to create their own worlds for gamers to explore and learn about.
The most important aspect for us is these games can be played with safety on reliable inexpensive high quality equipment.
It is for this reason that our school has been diversifying our technology acquisitions during the past few years to include the above handheld and console devices. Digital games motivate the students through their world and can be safely incorporated into engaging curriculum based instruction.
To develop teachers expertise, interest and confidence we have Technology Fairs where teachers share their expertise or interest in a particular digital game or device with their colleagues. During these sessions they work in small groups and are asked to evaluate each game and device shared at these fairs as to how they might incorporate them into their class programs.
Most games used in our school are commercial off the shelf (COTS) available for anyone to purchase others can be accessed through the internet.
Many digital games are very good but some are dreadful. We apply very strict criteria to the digital games we use in our programmes.
Our criteria for a good digital game are:
1. It is fun to play
2. It is challenging for different levels of ability, therefore it needs to have different levels of difficulty built into the game play.
3. It is accessible for different types of players, ie, there has to be something in the game for everyone.
4. It provides a relevant learning context and content.
5. It provides the player with the opportunity to create.
As James Paul Gee, professor of educational learning sciences, at Phoenix University observed “a game that is too easy will be criticised . . . and will not be a success. A game should be challenging, fair and deep. If it’s not, it won’t sell.”
When used properly digital games serve to uniquely motivate, teach and encourage students; poor performing students or underachieving students can be motivated and capable students will ask both relevant and important questions concerning themselves and the world.
For digital games to be effective in an educational setting the teacher and students, need to be confident of the outcomes to be achieved when using the digital game/s. The games need to be age appropriate and highly engaging.
When using digital games in the learning environment the teacher has a responsibility to:
1. Determine if the game is the best type for her purpose.
2. Be clear about the learning outcomes to be achieved.
3. Plan lessons accordingly
4. Talk to the students about the game, ask questions to establish the appropriate setting and context before the game is played
5. Negotiate with the students how the work involving the game will be assessed and develop a rubric designed to measure learning.
6. Provide regular feedback and evaluation.