Monday, December 05, 2011

Birmingham Students Earn Game Time In School

A program called Kid's College, a national program created by Learning Through Sports, is starting a new trend in Alabama state schools. Kids can early up to 30 seconds of video game play time on a computer after answering 5 questions. And then it's back to 5 more questions, followed by more game time!

Confused? I am a bit too because I don't know what to make of this.

The program is focused on kindergarten through 8th grade in low performing schools. It's meant as an incentive to get kids to perform better on answering questions, such as the ones that mimic the state's standard math and reading exams. I see the pattern already, it's to get better scores on the state tests to get more money for the school. Anyway, after a set number of questions, which teachers can program, the student is sent to a sports game and can play up to 30 seconds. After which they are scored, can see their rank amongst their class, earn certificates, and the like.

The tools allow teachers to research and see what their students know or need to work on. And they allow them to tailor to each child's needs. So if a 5th grader has a 3rd grade reading level, they can select questions for their level. They can also be used at school or at home; the program is web based.

According to the article they have seen improvement in children's test scores as most recently as 2010, and hope to apply for more grant money to expand it out to other schools.

It's instant gratification for doing a good job on your math work. The games themselves don't have hidden problems to solve, or ask you to read complex sentences to determine the verb. They are easy to use flash games for entertainment purposes only.

I'm torn. It's nice to see results when a program works to help improve education in this country, something desperately needed. And I know one aspect I wish I could have received more as a child is someone telling me instantly if I was doing a good job or if I needed to correct my mistakes. Typically you don't know if you got a question right until one to two weeks later when the content is no longer needed.

On the other hand, it's helping reinforce short attention spans. Take a minute to answer a question, flip to a game for 30 seconds, back to a question, and then a game, and then a question again. If anything that is the exact opposite type of behavior we need to be teaching our children. No harm now, but 5 years down the road when they're in high school and taking the SAT's they won't be able to sit through the 2 hour session. Wait is it 2 hours? *looks it up* Oh sorry. It's 3 hours and 45 minutes. No breaks else people are concerned about cheating. Is it still no breaks? *looks up again* Well apparently it's a break after each section. Wow. Times have changed. No wonder it's a nearly 4 hour test.

Anyway, promoting this type of answer/game rhetoric surely can't improve a child's study skills. It might work as a temporary solution to answering questions and getting better test scores but I have to wonder about the results in the long run.

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