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PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!

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Video Games As Teaching Instrument

by Rainier on Oct. 3, 2006 @ 2:51 a.m. PDT

A study, conducted in the UK by education innovator Futurelab, investigating how commercial computer games can be used in the classroom, came to the conclusion that commercial computer games have the potential to support learning in schools, without requiring teachers to be actual gamers.

A report from the study, which is released today, highlights that using games in lessons is motivating and engaging, and teachers believe that they improve students’ computer skills, strategic thinking and problem solving. The study further identifies areas that require consideration before deciding to use commercial games as part of school curriculum.

Teaching with Games also suggests that there are specific features of game play that could encourage student engagement, such as the opportunity to have autonomous control over a responsive environment, and the ability to use games familiar from home in which they can demonstrate expertise. In addition, findings from an Ipsos MORI survey into teachers’ attitudes to using mainstream computer games in the classroom, published in January 2006 as part of the Teaching with Games study, revealed that 59% of teachers want to use computer games for educational purposes and 53% say they would do so because they are an interactive way of motivating and engaging students.

Trialling the use of three off-the-shelf computer games in four schools revealed that games can be a very versatile medium for teaching and learning. The games were successfully used in both competency-based and traditional content-based curricula.

Teachers’ experience, teaching style, familiarity with the curriculum and the culture of the school, rather than gaming expertise, were identified as having the most impact on the successful integration of games into classroom learning. Furthermore, the study revealed that games used in the classroom environment do not have to be fully representative of reality to be useful in a lesson.

Teaching with Games also draws attention to a number of technical obstacles to the ultimate integration of games into daily lessons. Feedback from teachers highlights the need for new approaches to licensing and copy protection to allow easy installation and the running of games on school networks. The study further identified that technical support and flexibility around timetabling as well as more freedom to disaggregate the game for specific use in class could prove beneficial.

Claire Gemmell, a teacher at St John's School & Community College in Marlborough, commented: “I can definitely see the potential of using games in the classroom. It proved to be a great tool for motivating students and engaging their interest. I would like to use games for teaching in the future if the technical problems could be addressed.”

“We have long recognised the potential of interactive computer games to stimulate the learning process”, said Gerhard Florin, Executive Vice President and General Manager, International Publishing, EA. “The Teaching with Games study in collaboration with Futurelab has shown that commercial computer games have the potential to support education, which has raised the bar for ongoing collaboration between the industry and education sectors. We look forward to continued initiatives to help pave the way for meaningful integration of computer games into school curriculum.”

Teaching with Games was established in August 2005 to explore the practical issues surrounding the use of interactive, off-the-shelf computer games in schools and the changes needed to enable games to better support learning. The project was supported by three of the world’s leading interactive entertainment software companies: Electronic Arts; Microsoft; and Take-Two Interactive Software, as well as the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE). The project consisted of two Ipsos MORI surveys of students’ and teachers’ attitudes to the use of games, as well as case studies of 12 teachers in four secondary schools using The Sims 2 (EA), Knights of Honour (distributed by EA) and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3 (Atari) in formal classroom time.

Check the official website for further information and to view or download the project’s final report, which includes findings, case studies, the Ipsos MORI surveys and observations on the use of games in the classroom.

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