Most of my highschool life and now university life, although properly supplemented with social activities and schoolwork is mostly comprised of playing video games. What I have found interesting about this aspect of my life is how rewarding I find playing these games can be. I would not be lying if I said I had learned more through video games than anything else has taught me throughout growing up. Highschool was a breeze, I paid almost no attention in class, did the assignments when I got them and played video games all night. The same can almost be said for University, my degree is not easy, that I can attest to, but I do find the time to play at least a few hours of games on most nights. So one of the questions that I have always thought about is; Why do I play video games so much ? Despite being flashy and attention grabbing I knew that there had to be something more fundamental in my experience other than the gimmicks. Then it hit me, I learn. It was as simple as that, each time I played these games I would learn something new, something profound that I had not seen the day before. I could always adapt, recreate, and find new paths to goals I needed to reach. That’s when this hit me:
Why couldn’t I feel the same about school ?
This is where I hit a road block. I figured the element that was lacking was fun, but as I explored other people’s opinions on this matter it seems as if there is more complexity to this situation than I first thought. This is where my investigation begins. I have compiled my thoughts and analysis on technology, video games, and coding with specific attention to the classroom. Finally I have gained an appreciable grasp on what technology and video games can do to help people learn, and I hope that is also what you gain from reading this.
There are 2 games that I consider to be my learning spots. The first game being Counter Strike: Global Offensive (alongside it’s older versions) and DotA2. Although more recently I’ve spent more time on DotA2, the bulk of my experiences lies with Counter Strike. I believe that games such as these, especially when experienced in a competitive level helps to further yourself and it helps to teach you fundamental life skills.
I am a very quiet person, and because of that I have a hard time initiating conversations with people. One item I found most helpful was the constant need for communication in these sorts of video games. They are, at their roots, team games. To win you must be able to work well together. This doesn’t come easy either, in a competitive atmosphere you must be able to adapt on the fly, you must have the map you are playing memorized, you must understand how each of your teammates acts in certain situations, you must know your self well.
If we take this and turn it into a template, we can immediately see that this is exactly how you conduct yourself in the workforce; as a team with functioning members with different strengths who all have the ability to communicate with each other and who understand where they are coming from. This is something that you can’t usually teach someone in school. There are group projects but no one wants to work on those and that right there is the key to video games. People want to get better, and in doing so they end up wanting to improve on aspects they are lacking in. In essence one can become a well rounded person just by playing video games. Much better than doing a presentation on rocks with a bunch of people who want nothing do to with you.
Another element of gaming, to which is not explored as readily, is the community. If we take the idea of a community and now think of it as a technological tool we can then also link this to the disconnect between my idea of video games and technology in the classroom. Communities in competitive gaming are goal set on helping out new and existing members by providing resources. This is where the second key to video games comes in, it is not the games at all, but the resources you use to help improve yourself. Once again we can template this and apply it to life. Technology exists to benefit our learning and understanding , if we properly utilize this technology in education then we have only room to grow. Gamers for the most part also participate actively in teaching eachother and learning from others through mediums such as Twitch TV, teamliquid, joindota, Youtube, and even niche areas on Reddit.The video below demonstrates what is known in the Counter-Strike community as the “Behind the Play” series. This is a quick example of how intricate a community will go to help people understand actions in video games, in this case it is plays made in the game of counter strike and the presenter gives a detailed analysis of a teams play.
d0n’t w0rr13, 1 sp34k 1337
It’s nice to see where I come from in all of this, but to truly appreciate where I come from, one must also have a gander at what others have to say on the matter. Since video games and technology are both “different” I’ve presented this information separately in order to help one grasp how each contributes to the main focus of education and learning.
The journey starts with understanding the benefits of video games and technology on the learning habits and learning abilities of children. This article presented some very head turning facts. It was found that video games could help children obtain critical levels of thinking at an accelerated rate, that is to say, decision making without a loss in accuracy or mental process. It was found that games which were action based made these decisions at speed 25% faster than the average. It was also found that children also achieved 23% higher scores on creative tests.
A very interesting talk by Gabe Zichermann, talked about how video games are making kids smarter. He fortifies my opinion on the learning aspect of video games by presenting ideas such as the link between dopamine release in conjunction to having accomplished a task, in most cases these tasks will have also helped you to learn something as well. The talk is embedded below, and I highly suggest that you take the opportunity to watch it.
Lucy in the classroom with ipads
We often think of technology as a bad aspect in our lives, that it is distracting and that it takes away learning. I am sure some readers of my age or younger have be scolded by a teacher in highschool for having their phone out during class. I wanted to explore the other side of this argument, now that we understand how video games can help students, why not take a step further to understand how technology can also help to benefit people in their quest to learn.
A heartwarming tale brought to light another part of the technology enhancement that can help people learn. Within this article the author speaks of their child, how he struggled to learn in the traditional methods due to a disability to present information that he learned. The author later goes on to state that because of technology such as smart boards, voice recorders among other items the boy was eventually able to switch from being a “stupid” student to an “A” student. An article focused on an Alberta school who has embraced the usage of technology in their classrooms. They mention that the usage of laptops, smartphones, and Ipads is encouraged in their classrooms. The most fundamental attribute of this article is the statement made by a researcher who was studying their usage of technology. This statement read:
“It requires not just that a student have a comfort with the technology but that teachers themselves understand how to use it as an educational asset, as opposed to a neat gimmick.”
I found this statement so intriguing as it shows the willingness of the teachers to pursue the usage of technology in the classroom. Still yet, we want to understand why this is , and it is as simple as understanding that this technology helps to engage the minds of the students. An example of this is seen from an article posted by the Harvard news team. This article shows that teachers are willing and want to incorporate technology to supplement their educational practices. In a summed up truth, this shows that students would benefit from programs aimed at providing new technology based approaches to standard material and graduates from other Universities gathered at Harvard for a special project based seminar section dedicated to developing these programs.
So what should we do ?
I think we should take a step back and take a good look at how exactly we proceed to teach in the future. I think it is of benefit to future generations to take the technology we have developed and to find ways to fully and properly utilize each tool for educational usage. We have become a generation split on older ideas of learning with those who have become empowered enough to realize the benefits that arise from the usage of technology in their quest to learn. We must find ways to merge technological advancements with current ideas of teaching. We must also encourage learning through fun mediums like video games. Being able to learn without feeling like you are learning it incredibly rewarding and in itself empowers one to take their understanding into their own hands. Gamers have developed tools to help themselves learn, such as proper resource usage, learning from one-another, and producing educational material for the sake of fun and understanding. To take these ideas and apply them to everyday learning will allow youth among a multitude of those needing to learn to finally understand that learning and application of knowledge does not simply come from a book, that most problems in life cannot simply be solved through some standard cookie cutter recipe. Do we want our children to continue to be ingnorant of these benefits simply because of our inability to accept change or shall we take the risk and extend into a new realm of learning ?