BEFORE I started writing about video games professionally, I worked in education for about 15 years.
I work with children from Kindergarten to Year 6 and have taught in countries around the world including England, Wales, Germany, India, Taiwan and Japan.
I completed my postgraduate studies in education at the University of Bristol and graduated with honors.
I don’t mention all this out of humblebrag, but to prove that I know children and, above all, to understand how they learn best.
The other thing I know is video games, and I also know that there is a stigma attached to them as pointless garbage.
Some games are pointless nonsense, of course, but I would say that the vast majority of them help people develop skills that are transferable to everyday life.
For young children, there are obvious connections to fine motor skills and problem solving, but video games develop skills well into adulthood.
Many games require patience and resilience, others can contain information about culture and history, and if you’re brave, you can learn a second language.
While many parents are more open to the idea of allowing their children to play video games at home, I’m sure there would still be many frowns if teachers wanted to incorporate video games into the classroom.
However, times change and just like everyone else, people learn more when they are motivated and enjoy learning.
The usual motivation for children to study is the inevitable exams that come at the end, but exams themselves are quite controversial.
Testing often prompts teachers to teach skills based on test-taking. These are skills that are not needed outside of the classroom.
And of course there are many ways to motivate students even outside of the threat of poor results.
Here we come back to video games. If you have kids, you probably already know how popular Minecraft is.
The base game is mostly about collecting resources and building things, which is already an excellent foundation for building an educational platform.
There are chemical and physical systems that decide how each material can be used, and later parts of the game include knowledge of programming, arguably one of the most important skills for children to learn.
However, Microsoft has bigger plans for Minecraft that go beyond what the game is already capable of.
That brings us to Minecraft Education, an add-on to the game that offers standalone lessons.
I was invited to a class where ten children, each armed with a laptop, were given a lesson about wind farms and renewable energy.
What’s important here is that the entire lesson wasn’t just about playing Minecraft.
A geography teacher was on site to teach them important vocabulary and provide them with basic information about wind farms.
They then spent 25 minutes exploring an area where they could build their own wind farm.
This was important because not only were they taught that turbines cannot be built near protected wildlife areas or that there are different types of turbines for different depths, but they also learned more about it through trial and error.
While the myth about learner style differences has long been debunked, what is significant is the fact that the more you do something, the more likely you are to remember it.
So it’s one thing to read about how wind turbines work, but it’s quite another to apply that knowledge to building a farm.
The lesson was rounded off by reading the opinions on the construction of wind farms, including the advantages and disadvantages.
This included a critical thinking component where students could weigh up their own opinions on whether more wind farms should be built.
As I spoke with some students after class, a few things became clear.
First, every single student enjoyed the lesson and expressed at the end that they wished more lessons could be taught in this interactive style.
The next thing was that even an hour into the lesson they had retained almost all of the information presented, which is a miracle if you have ever taught children.
Memorable lessons lead to better information retention, and when you look back at your most memorable lessons, they are probably the ones that had a practical and interactive element.
Of course, this was just one lesson, but it was easy to see how the same model could be applied to virtually any subject.
While it will be difficult to do a few laps or cook a pizza while playing Minecraft, you can learn about nutrition or the effects of exercise on the body.
Minecraft Education already has a lesson builder that allows teachers to design their own worlds, and if a school purchases the license, students can replay the lessons at home for free.
This opens up a world for children to look forward to repetition in, and playing games at home is almost as effective as sitting in the classroom.
It will likely take a while for such ideas to gain widespread acceptance, but the sooner we can connect students’ interests with traditional educational concepts, the easier it will be to unlock the key to learning.
Read more at the Scottish Sun
Written by Georgina Young on behalf of GOOD LUCK AND HAVE FUN.
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