Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

5 Things Teachers Can Learn From Video Games

5 Things Teachers Can Learn From Video Games

Players of video games learn how to strategize and how to perform sometimes complex actions in order to achieve a goal. I believe we can all learn to engage students through studying video games. Here are 5 things we can learn from video games and adapt to the classroom.

1) Players Do Not Read Directions

In school we tend to give students the notes and then ask them to practice. Players of video games rarely read the directions first, they just jump in. The games themselves typically have some scaffolds to help the player learn the game; however, players typically dive in and probably die right away.

As teachers we can provide an opportunity for students to experiment with and explore what they need to learn before we tell them what they need to know. Sometimes students will take their learning much further than we had planned when we give them room to try things out first.

2) Failure is Expected

One of the first things a player does in a video game is die. They learn from this experience and try again. Games are about mastering skills and players are typically allowed to keep trying until they are successful.

Recording failure into the gradebook can stifle risk taking. For some students even trying on easy assignments is a risk that they will fail. Allowing students to keep trying until they are successful can help them to try things they would not have otherwise tried.

3) Games are Social

Even if the game is a one person game, players connect with each other around the game. They talk about it, create wiki’s and videos to share hints, and learn from each other. Collaboration in a video game is not cheating, it is encouraged.

As teachers we can redefine our expectations that students work alone. Students can learn more from sharing ideas and working together than they can working alone. Encourage students to publicly post their achievements in class, to discuss what they are doing, and to have other students share ideas to help another students work be better.

4) Players are Actively Involved

As soon as a player plugs in the controller to the video game or launches the app on their phone, they are actively doing something. Some games have short cinematic story lines shared, but these are short lived and the player is back to controlling the game.

The person doing the work is the person doing the learning. In examining my lesson plans I try to use the verbiage “students are” as much as possible, refraining from “teacher is” or “teacher says.” While I will be doing things during the class period I want to try to frame my lessons from the lens of the student and what they are doing. Just as players in a video game are constantly controlling their surroundings and making choices, I want to try to have this in my classroom as well.

5) Challenging is Fun

Games that are too easy or too hard are quickly abandoned. Games differentiate for the player by allowing them to play at their level and encourage the player to challenge themselves to reach higher levels. Games teach us to have a challenge that is just above our ability level but within our reach. What makes the game fun is that it is challenging, but not too challenging.

As teachers when we ask all students to perform the same task or learn the same things it can be too hard or too easy for some students. Providing students an interesting challenge that they feel they can be successful at can help students enjoy learning. Providing students some different choices, or challenges, that provide both struggling students and advanced students an opportunity to be challenged is one way we can learn from games.

5 thoughts on “5 Things Teachers Can Learn From Video Games

  1. Spot on! I especially love the point about how writing things down permanently in a gradebook turns failure–the most normal of events on the patg to mastery–into an obstacle to learning.

    I know you are into gamification so this is old news, but I would add #6: “Gamification works.” And I would go further with #4: gamers control *which* activities they do, at least in many games such as snowboarding or auto racing where one can take breaks doing low-pressure, fun activities between more intense “levelling up” missions.

    The best part of #5 is that the difficulty of algebra (my main interest) is now an asset! And I think its difficulty explains why it is worth learning: once mastered, students will get a confidence boost, know what it is like to struggle and succeed, and aim higher in all domains.

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