It seems to me that Classroom 2.0 participants seem to overlook the competition: video games. We try so hard to find innovative ways to incorporate technology into our classrooms while our students go home and plug in to Xbox, Wii, or whatever. Computer and video games are a mult-billion dollar industry that employs some of the best minds in technology. One game alone, Grand Theft Auto IV, reportedly cost around $100 million to make. Over a thousand people contributed to its creation. The Entertainment Software Industry reports 65% of American households play computer or video games and 63% of the parents believe games are important part of their children's lives.

What if we could get that kind of money and expertise to work towards education? How can we get parents to put some of the money they spend on entertainment into the classroom? How much time do kids spend on gaming vs. homework? You may suggest educational computer games, but they hardly compare to what the kids are playing. On the other hand, I don't think games need car chases or hand to hand combat to capture their attention. I just think the best game creators are following the money and that isn't in education. How can we bring the two together?

Here's a link to my blog on the topic if you'd like to read more.


Tags: administration, eduational technology, gaming, parents, technology in education

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My class did their first teacher guide to using SIM CITY over 10 years ago - so I have long studied and thought about this.

It was great for a the lessons where it added value, engaging, kids got it, BUT we also used maps, did fieldwork, made models.

We were careful to not just trust everything to the game world - a game world is only one viewpoint of reality - however sophistcated it is. Comparing and discussing game world reality with reality was a powerful part of "lessons though games"

We also need to be careful that we do not mistake game goals with real goals and learning objectives. Underneath you may find the goals that the students focus on in game are facile. Rescue Princess - Get The High Score - and children will circumvent all aspects of reflection and deep thinking to do get to the "game goal" faster or quicker.

Over years of doing this - one thing became massively clear to me. The point at which you "learn most" - is when you DESIGN the game... Not play it.... So when the children started making simulations, and games for others etc. it really took off as a learning experience. They do not even have to program or play it to learn - thinking about the learning, choices, content, decisions, dealing with potential player misconceptions and relating the real goals and avoiding distractions all become part of the learning experience.

Before you buy an off-the-shelf game - try making your own. It is FREE!!! Try things like:



The most engaging things are those that engage minds - not just the senses and fingers.

"Real goals" generate real pride in oneself and need to be meaningful.

In life it is suggested that it takes 10,000 hours to become expert at something and achive really important goals. This could be being a great sportsman, playing an instrument, reading for pleasure, being a an expert at anything....

Spend that ever so precious 10,000 hours playing a game and you are left with.......?

I love learning "through games" - but remain wary of Edutainment - potentially wrong type of "engagement"
I always find this thread to be an interesting one, though for me, frustrating. Video games can be highly individualized (even MMORPGs) yet no one has talked about the fact that we all operate in a system where the goal is certainly not individual learning, but is usually, instead, success of a class or group of kids in understanding or mastering concepts.

Why should kids learn at high levels using a game-based environment when our policies still say "Johnny, that's nice that you could understand and master [Algebra I, social studies, or any other "course"] in half the time, but you're still going to be in here until the end of the term. Wow, that's a real incentive for learning, isn't it?

In short, we have a system set up for determining success at being successfully "schooled", but not one that is set up to encourage or maximize "learning".

That is also one of two major reasons that no gaming companies are pouring money into this area. (We are the "slow learners" if we can't understand this.). 1.) There's no real market for games that would propel individual student learning. No school needs a highly engaging computer "game" that could be used to help kids learn what they would in a course. 2.) If it were successful -- if a game were designed to help kids master all the content for [Algebra I, for instance], it would be a threat to everything in the system, from teacher jobs to school master schedules, so who needs it?

Instead we do just enough to give the appearance of incorporating new learning tools without making the much needed deep-level changes. In effect we change learning-tools into school-reinforcing tools. I'm in awe of the teachers here who have described the valiant efforts they are making, and this is not in any way a criticism of their hard work or efforts. If anything, I would hope that my comment helps us all take a look at the deeper system issues that we must work together to overcome. It doesn't do us much good to change individual classroom practices when we run into the brick walls of the status quo.
Very interesting take on this, Tom. I'm always impressed by the Rashomon-like turns these threads can sometimes take. Usually the issue in these discussion topics turn to a broader perspective or questions the systemic challenges we face. You raised some good questions that got me looking at the side bar on the right. Isn't there a discussion thread on 21st century schools? It seems to me that we have a lot of good minds here that should take on the proverbial 900 pound elephant in the room.
I always told my sons that the people that design and develop video games, did not play them when they were kids!

Peter Reynolds ( uses graphics to teach kids about art and other things. His argument at a recent tech conference is that cell phones should be in class in order to teach tech responsibility. This beings said, as we move closer to all having 4g phones per student, having a ap may be the answer to the learning game budget question.

Imagine Oregon Trial on the I-Phone.
The National Science Foundation acknowledges that we will soon have a shortage of computer engineers because we are developing a generation of users who can do almost anything with our easy user interfaces. The beauty of developing games or iphone apps or whatever is that we are forcing them into the code, to go beyond the use of the machine into its mechanics and its desperately needed from a STEM standpoint.
I believe that this is a wonderful time to explore the convergence of entertainment and education. With this said, I think it's critical to engage through interaction and learning will be the outcome and "gaming" features give us unique opportunities to engage and train in a fun environment. It seems only a matter of imagination and innovation to create learning tools that utilise these features and create fantastic resources - we've spent some time doing just that and the game goes on!
You bring up a very valid point. So much money and time goes into video games and not enough into education. Technology and games embedded into kid's education really helps them, but even with what has been implemented into our classrooms, we are still falling behind the interest in video games. It is a great a idea to give our best game creators an incentive to become creative under the education sphere. Money will always be the best incentive and unfortunately education just does not receive what we would like.
I would imagine that kids spend considerably more time playing video games when compared to homework, and educational software does not necessarily get the child to think. The attempt may be there, but the result is terribly inadequate. The two can be merged, I think, but for the company developing the game, is it financially worth it? The ability to do it exists, but if it is not profitable, sadly, it likely will not happen.
I can understand the frustration a teacher must feel competeting with video games and other technology for a students attention outside of the classroom. One idea is to assign homework in the form of a video game. There are many educational websites that have fun games kids can play to help them learn. If the homework is more interesting to the child, they might be more inclinded to do it and pay close attention to it.
Agreed, it's up to us to ignite their imaginations and to use and adapt whatever "game" it takes. Then we can use that info/game/activity and apply it to their learning environment. The complexity of the software is governed by the budget and it's not always financially viable to produce what you'd like but with all the open source ware available now, it's getting easier.

Perhaps it might be fun to engage students in a class activity by asking them to divide into groups to design a game to achieve a pre-determined learning objective and have discussion/evaluation/moderation on their concept and design models and then get them then find open source ware to produce it. All activities/games get put up on school LMS for class use. A great learning activity!
Coming from someone who is a senior in college and still plays video games for 2 to 3 hours a day I would say that there really is no way around video games. Children are going to play video games and parents are going to buy them. I think the bigger picture here is students need to understand the importance of the bigger picture, which is their future. Students often don't put in perspective how important homework and school is and thus they waste their days away playing video games. The first step in the whole process of getting students to take time away from video games is getting them to understand how important school truly is.



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