Video Games: Helpful or Hindrance?

Posted by Glen on Apr 8, 2016

It’s no secret that gaming on a social level is a huge market, with BAFTA’s for gaming, sales making billions yearly and with millions of young people globally engaging in multimedia gaming outside of the school environment on a daily basis, so it seems sensible for education providers to bridge the gap between the enjoyment of gaming and the enjoyment of learning.

I found the video by Peterson and the article by Gee incredibly interesting, and i feel the argument for the use of gaming in place of words is certainly convincing on the surface level. Peterson even goes as far as to claim a sharp increase in mathematical proficiency after prolonged exposure to the use of games to learn, however i feel the question is not whether these tools are successful, but instead should we be using them in a class INSTEAD of teaching students at the front of the classroom?

Lets attempt to address this question by unpicking Peterson’s argument first. Peterson claims that students can break down language and word barriers presented through learning difficulties such as dyslexia, language barriers posed by geographical issues and allow students to learn mathematical principles by successfully completing tasks and getting a penguin to cross the screen. Is this learning, or is this trial and error? Perhaps one of the biggest successes of teachers, is their ability to present students with the means to learn a concept in a multitude of different ways, but also honoring their obligation to prepare students to complete exams successfully. Video games cannot successfully complete this, if a student is learning fundamental mathematical principle without words to make sense of something, without the use of concept, but rather trial and error are the students truly learning or instead dealing with the situation presented to them?

Furthermore where Peterson claims students have successfully learnt what mathematical concepts, obviously this has to be done with reinforcement on a conceptual level, with words always retaining their meaning. In the video he shows a brief excerpt of a completing the square game, a game which if you told students to just do without any prior or after learning would seem incredibly challenging I’d wager.

So perhaps instead of approaching learning through video games the argument is better suited to supplement learning with another tool in an already large arsenal of techniques available to excellent teachers globally.

Gee argues that to an extent video game present students with a relational understanding, by identifying relationships between concepts. This is a strong argument to support the use of video game learning, but ultimately the determining of those links is somewhat left to the student to generate and then understand the relationships.

Ultimately i feel video game learning while supported by academics, should be a tool of the teachers, to be used for students where words fail, but not to replace the importance of face to face teaching, because without that students will be lost in their ability to understand and pose questions which is necessary to learning.

1 Comment

  1. marcus
    10 April 2016

    There are some interesting points made here, Glen. I completely agree with you that we shouldn’t be looking to replace face to face teaching with video games entirely… Do you think that we should use gaming at all? Or is it better to look at why people have more success with gaming, and then apply that to education? For example, can we transfer the structure of gaming to the teaching of mathematics?

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