Over the past number of years, video games have become a big part of the culture for many of our learners. Students arrive with handheld devices and are told to put them away. They are forced to “Power Down”. I always wonder why more educators do not embrace the tools our kids are using to engage them with their learning.
Probably the most popular game right now in education is Minecraft. I have worked with a number of teachers who have used this game as part of their classroom program with great success. As I did the reading, different points reminded me of these teachers.
I know a Spec. Ed teacher who works with special needs students with incredible learning disabilities. They especially struggle with writing activities. To help motivate the students to write, this teacher brought in Minecraft with the understanding that students could play it - but they were required to write about their plans and the outcomes. These students, who in a regular classroom struggled to put down one word, rose to the challenge and actively wrote about what they wanted to do while playing the game. When they played, they were able to interact with their learning and see it appear in front of them. They could make mistakes and not feel foolish, in fact, by failing, they learned more about what they could do in the game, or the learning space.
At the end of their play, they were required to write about what worked, didn’t work, and what they would do differently the next time. The students enjoy going to this class because he has made it a very positive space for them to learn and take risks.
Another teacher at a Girls’ boutique school uses Minecraft to empower her girls and teaches them how to solve problems, make decisions, all while integrating it into her Social Studies curriculum. The young ladies create ancient civilizations, medieval cities and apply their problem solving strategies to design necessary parts of society such as aquaducts.These ladies are engaged as they see the value of using a game simulation environment as an authentic way to solve problems. While playing, they have lots of hands on opportunities, and their confidence grows as their gender, race etc…. are not part of the experience.
Finally, I worked with a teacher librarian who had a games club as an extra curricular program where students played Minecraft as a collaborative group. They engaged with other schools and worked together to build a community where they could all play together. It taught them how to collaborate and communicate and work together to create something they could all enjoy. The game experience provided them with opportunities to try things they would not usually get in a school setting.
Overall, video games, such as Minecraft, are incredible tools that can be used in so many ways to support student learning. They are learner centred, provide students with control over their decisions and the outcomes, allow them to develop their problem solving skills as well as their collaborative skills. This book was written back in 2008, yet, we are still nowhere near what we have to do to make video games part of the regular curriculum. More work needs to be done in this area.