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Harnessing the Power of Computer Games to Teach

Gareth is a Secondary Teacher from Australia who is working in West London schools through Protocol Education

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Four young gentlemen stand at the front of the room navigating the class through the world of the Skylanders.
The Skylanders have joined forces with the Giants to defeat KAOS, and it is the Portal of Power that will unleash their powers in an “ultimate battle” to save Skylands.

The eleven year olds at the front of the class explain that the "Portal of Power" is a USB device that plugs into the Xbox. A more powerful device has not yet been witnessed within the walls of this Year Six classroom. As the Portal of Power is plugged into a USB hole the platform of the Portal of Power lights up fluorescent purple and gasps of awe resonate across the room.The crowd are hungry for more, and the boys deliver by placing one of their Giants onto the plastic platform to charge up. 

Of course, all this hoo-hah is often dismissed as ‘child’s play’ and ‘a waste of time’.  But the students’ enthusiasm on the subject is clearly displayed with a comprehensive knowledge of this fictional world. You can hear teachers and parents lamenting, “Why can’t they apply the same interest to their studies?”. The real question should be, “Why can’t teachers and parents harness the world of computers and gaming to teach?”.

Adults should embrace gaming and engage with gaming. Novels, newspapers, plays and poetry all include language that is studied in classrooms. Video games have plenty of language in them that is worth discussing.

English topics that could be explored include: instructions, questions, point of view, characterisation, setting and potentially plot. Fan fiction is another area that can be explored through study or writing tasks. Through a computer game students are able to witness how different decisions by characters can lead to different outcomes. Likewise students can use the characters and settings as a base to formulate their own stories.

The ease at which students play video games also begs the question of why computer literacy is so low in students. Educators (who themselves are unaware of a computer's capabilities) seem to presume that because students play games they can use word processors and other software. I’ve seen one-year-old children using iPads but does this mean they can create an Excel spreadsheet that calculates expenses? Not likely.

Harness their nimble handling of a console controller to garner the skills to touch type. And understand that they will still need scaffolding, explanation and instruction just like any other task in the classroom.

Video games are not to be feared. They will not lead our society to become a violence-filled cesspool. We used to play games on boards with counters and they would bring families together. Mario Cart and Wii Sports alone are evidence enough that video games can do the same.


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Tags: Gareth, Computer Games, Australian-trained teacher, Technology, Supply Teaching in London, Teach in UK, Secondary, Protocol Education

Category: Australian Teachers

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