Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Video Games and Education - Early Sunday Edition

With October here, just about every news station and morning television show is on a kick of having a series about the nation’s educational system. It always starts about this time of year because kids are back in school, and all of them are in October. What better time to freak out parents then to do it while their child is in school.

There’s even a documentary out entitled Waiting for Superman. Which, with its most recent buzz boost, will probably be in a theatre near you very soon. The film focuses on a series of children and their families doing whatever they can to help get their child a better education. And how screwed up the U.S. school system is.

As an adult looking back at my public school education, I can understand why people want to talk about making changes. My core classes did nothing to prepare me for the real world and college. The only classes that I was able to take and apply to my future were the film/television/radio and computer courses in the honors academic program that I was in. Everything else was a waste of time. And that’s not what school should be. I’m not surprised that the U.S. is one of the lowest in match and science education. My response was “I took math and science in high school?” I remember the teachers but I don’t remember the material. What I mostly remember was how crappy our football team was. That should not be the focus of a child’s education. Which is why I fully agree with Lewis Black’s comments during last nights The Daily Show (which happens once in a blue moon):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Back in Black - Education Crisis
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorRally to Restore Sanity

Yep, I’m joining the bash on education bandwagon with everyone else, but with good intent. This isn’t meant to scare parents about sending their children to school, as news stations would love to do right now. I’d like to argue for the good of video games in assisting children with learning.

There’s a member of my family who has a learning disability. Numbers would easily flip around, and sometimes letters within a word. The help he was receiving at school was non-existent. At one point in high school, the assistance center decided that his disability had magically been cured. A lot of help that was.

As a suggestion from a family doctor, he turned to video games. This was back before voices took over the soundtrack. Things were heavily text based. And it amazed me to see how much his reading improved by playing a video game. To the point where it was helping to improve his math skills. He was able to better focus on words and problems in a manner that worked best for him. It’s something that still works for him to this day, nearly 10 years later. He reads books for fun now. He’s never done that before. All thanks to video games, when no one else was willing to help.

I bring this up as an alternative to parents with kids that are having trouble in school. Don’t discount video games as a means of learning. And I’m not talking about LeapFrog or any of those games that are intended to help children learn. I’m referring to traditional RPG’s and adventure games that were intended for fun, with learning as a hidden side affect. The problem that comes up time and time again is that children do not want to be forced into learning. A video game can’t force a child to learn. The learning aspect needs to be hidden. And that’s why it worked so well for our family.

That’s not to say that I don’t agree with learning games. Both the early development games as well as the range of DS titles such as Brain Age and My InsertLanguageHere Teacher games do benefit children and adults. Rather the traditional games shouldn’t be passed up because they are not outwardly educational. Even the new Rock Band game will help you learn how to play the guitar. What a perfect way to get a child to learn. Try thinking out of the box. It’ll help your child.

1 comment:

  1. Look... I'll be straight with you. Gaming is not as great for early education as is playtime with other kids (to foster strong social skills) and general computer use. Give them a netbook, let the kiddies mess it up and hopefully they learn something (and most importantly... learn not to be afraid of computers). Gaming will come naturally later on. :)


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