NEW YORK – Using video games in education is nothing new, and the practice is only going to ramp up in the near future. Whether through Minecraft, game-themed classrooms or clubs targeting at-risk kids, video games have the potential to help students tackle education in a fundamentally different way.
I attended a panel called Video Games and Education at New York Comic Con 2014 to learn from experts how video games factor into structured learning. As it turns out, students are absolutely chomping at the bit to learn game design and can apply their lessons to other parts of the classroom.
The first lecture was from Sue Parler, who teaches video-game design at DePaul High School in Wayne, New Jersey. Parler views video games as a pedagogical tool, and Minecraft EDU was her go-to example.
This special version of Minecraft is optimized for students, and can teach them everything from architecture to quantum physics to computer programming. Whereas education tends to penalize experimentation (something either works or it doesn't), gaming can help students try things that would never work in real life, such as mixing together volatile chemicals.
Brendan Trombley comes from the Institute of Play and is one of the minds behind Quest to Learn, a New York City public school where 700 students learn primarily through gaming methods. Video games play a role in classrooms (Trombley also referenced Minecraft), but so do board games, card games and a general philosophy that applies in all games.
In gaming, learning happens by doing, and failure is never permanent, but just an opportunity for iteration. Applying these techniques in the classroom, Trombley argues, bestows a skill set for a post-industrial society where creativity and adaptability reign supreme.
Finally, Justin DeVoe teaches students at the Newark Leadership Academy who might not fit into a traditional class. Pregnant teens, gang members and students who have been incarcerated flock to DeVoe's gaming club, where he teaches them statistics through Madden, mythology through God of War and romanticism through Super Mario Bros.
DeVoe warned that gaming is not a panacea for any troubled student, but in his experience, it has helped a great number of students who may have not succeeded otherwise.
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