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Using Video Games to Learn Makes Education Fun!
Using video games for learning in the classroom and at home can be challenging at first, but it can motivate reluctant students in surprising ways. If you’re a parent of kids these days, you know the draw of video games for kids. Girls or boys, old or young, you’ve probably heard the plea that comes awfully close to crossing over into unhealthy obsessive territory.
Unless you’re some kind of superhuman or have kids straight out of a 1950s sitcom, you’ve probably also stumbled upon perhaps the biggest obstacle to education: boredom. Uncontrollable yawning and an ugly black hole that swallows attention and motivation like a sinkhole. In my admittedly limited experience as a parent and school volunteer, I have found one thing and one thing only that consistently blocks boredom: using video games to learn.
Yes: Use kids’ love of video games to your advantage and banish their boredom. My son doesn’t really enjoy it when I sit him down to practice math with flash cards, but when I get in front of a computer or video game console, learning is the best thing in the world.
Using video games to learn takes some practice. The first time I tried to implement an educational video game session at my son’s school, classroom discipline deteriorated very quickly. Honestly, I think they knew something was up; there was an excited undercurrent from the moment they returned from recess. Can children smell high-quality plastic like dogs smell bacon? Be that as it may, when Mrs. Holmes called for an orderly grouping around the classroom television, something akin to a rugby scramble for the best seats broke out.
Despite this initial setback, the students settled in and have since learned to treat the use of video games for learning as just another part of their education, albeit a particularly fun one.
The format we’ve found works best is to set up a series of ‘stations’, to break the kids into small groups (definitely breaking up the troublemakers, thick as thieves they are), with each group spending about fifteen minutes. at each station. The key is to make as many of the stations as “authority independent” as possible: the less time you spend explaining rules, breaking up fights, or answering silly questions from stations One through Three, the more time you’ll have for a little bit. intense teacher-student (or teacher’s assistant) interaction. Using video games to learn, you’ll find, makes students very independent for those 15 minutes or so.
Perhaps the only tension that using video games to learn can create is also very common among younger students: no one wants to share. Most classrooms are limited in televisions and computers. I was able to relieve some of the tension in my son’s classroom by donating a nice CRT TV that wasn’t used much in my house. If you have TVs that are rarely used, donating them (and anything else of value!) is a great way to help your children’s education. If resources are limited in your child’s classroom, students will need to be motivated to share.
Motivating can be as simple as asking students who are waiting their turn at the console or computer to cheer on their peers while they play. Or, ask each student to analyze their “partner” to see if there are ways to improve their score, and sample collecting this data in a weekend analysis. Perhaps the easiest solution is to have them bring a book or lesson to help distract them while they wait. While you can always resort to taking away privileges, I’ve found that positive reinforcement is stronger than negative.
Many learning games include “teacher only” modes that break down each student’s performance, a perfect tool for seeing which areas of study each student may need particular help with. When you use video games to learn, you may find that some students do better in subjects they previously struggled with; too often, it is not a student’s intelligence or ability to understand a concept, but the way the concept is explained.
Making learning fun means students will feel good about their education. Using video games to learn can turn struggling students into lifelong learners. Sometimes all it takes is a small change like a learning video game to make them see the value of education.
And as always: get involved in your child’s education. The greatest teachers in the world who use video games to learn cannot motivate a student whose parents do not show them the value of learning.
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