In the increasingly digital classrooms of the 21st century, some educators are finding that the fantasy worlds of video games mesh well with the educational worlds inside their classrooms. Video game designers – much like teachers – are tasked with creating environments that engage players for long periods of time, present them with problems to solve, force them to confront failure, and teach them something along the way.
“Games are just one form of learning from experience,” John Paul Gee, an expert on video games and learning and literacy, wrote in the New York Times. “They give learners well-designed experiences that they cannot have in the real world (like being an electron or solving the crisis in the Middle East).”
At Quest To Learn, a public, non-charter school in New York City, the curriculum is designed with this philosophy in mind. Rote instruction is tossed out the door and kids learn by playing and designing games. The school is the creation of Katie Salen, a video game designer and the executive director of the Institute of Play, an organization of game designers working to bridge the gap between gaming and learning. (Read the in-depth New York Times profile of the school here.)
Of course, classroom games are nothing new and don’t have to be digital to be effective. Each year in John Hunter’s fourth grade class in Charlottesville, Va., for example, students play the World Peace Game, which Hunter describes as a “gigantic political science simulation,” during which his students “have to solve most of the world’s problems in about 10 weeks.” The class is divided into teams representing nations and each student is given a job, ranging from Prime Minister to Saboteur. (Watch our interview with John Hunter at the Aspen Ideas Festival in June above.)
This week on The Learning Curve, Katie Salen writes about the intersection of gaming and education, and Michael Levine, executive director of The Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, a research lab that investigates how digital technology can enhance children’s learning, explains how gaming can be used to improve on the STEM subjects.
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