Serious games for serious learning

Posted by Senay on Mar 28, 2016

I found the subject matter of both the Ted Talk by Matthew Peterson and the article by James Paul Gee relatively straightforward. It is clear that visual learning is important. The pie chart shown by Peterson shows statistically that only a small percentage of learners prefer traditional word-based methods.

The computer game debate is an ongoing one in our household (and a subject very close to my heart as the mother of two young boys – and a husband in the same category!) It is clear that computer games have many of the components and provoke many of the reactions and thought processes which can be valuable to education and learning. However, I am not convinced that unlimited exposure to very addictive, adult-themed games is the best thing for young easily influenced minds. There does not seem to be much of a critique of computer games and this is a profound absence (particularly in the article). There is so much research and literature out there on the subject of how damaging computer games can be that it is almost criminal that this does not even get a mention in the article. Much of the content of the most popular games is violent and encourages attitudes (towards women, wealth, particular lifestyles etc.) that are damaging to the individual player and society as a whole. Computer games can be highly addictive; to the extent that a player may not be able to concentrate on anything else. This can lead to physical tiredness, poor engagement with others and other behavioural problems. I remember from my time as a teaching assistant that it was clear from such behavioural traits, which boys had been up playing computer games all night.

I am a visual learner and like the ideas that Peterson introduced. I have a slight reservation with the style of teaching he promotes which completely leaves out words. Words can carry a great deal of detail and are also important. The other problem is that, even if we move to completely visual learning in the education system the real word does not work like this and most people will be required to engage with language, both written and spoken, to some degree in the job or profession. To move away from textbooks and base all learning on visual experiences (presumably via computer screens) would involve a significant injection of money. Finally, (and I think I have said this before) the students are still required in the current system to sit a written exam and I cannot see how visual learning could be introduced across the board in this way without a fundamental change to the examination system.

I am not sure whether £1,000,000 is much of a budget for a computer game! (Isn’t this a multi-billion pound industry?) If I were to try and design a game clearly it would be beneficial to use a tried and tested platform (like a first-person shoot ‘em up) and include mathematical problems or subjects along the way. I am sure this would help engage a whole swath of young people who would otherwise not even consider these matters if served to them by traditional means.

1 Comment

  1. pepsmccrea
    8 April 2016

    Great response. You raise some very important issues that are absent from the debate, namely around the (mostly) hidden messaging that can often be communicated via games.

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