Teaching games

Digital teaching games are taking off, reports Education Week.

Educators at Ocoee Middle School in Florida have built an online game lab to engage students and sharpen technology skills. Researchers at Rice University have created a virtual game to teach forensics to middle schoolers. North Carolina State University’s IntelliMedia Group has released a digital game to teach microbiology to 8th graders.

Digital games for learning academic skills change depending on each student’s ability and course of action. Such games provide personalized feedback in real time—something a traditional classroom often doesn’t offer.

CSI: Web Adventures lets middle schoolers identify shoe prints, test DNA, and interview suspects in order to crack the case.

James Lester, a computer science professor at the Raleigh-based North Carolina State University, has also noticed an uptick in enjoyment of STEM subjects through a digital game called Crystal Island, designed by the IntelliMedia Group at his university, a research initiative that studies human-computer interaction.

Crystal Island, which targets 8th grade science students, begins as the students virtually arrive on the island with their research teams. Soon after their arrival, people on the island begin to fall sick, and it is up to the student to determine the origin of the outbreak.

Ocoee Middle School outside Orlando offers digital art, digital media, and digital video-game design.

“They finally see a legitimate use for the [concepts] they learn in algebra,” says Principal Sharyn Gabriel.

A good video game “will provide good feedback to students and teachers, ramp up the challenge level appropriately, and free the teacher to facilitate learning,” says Bill Watson, director of the Purdue Center for Serious Games and Learning in Virtual Environments.  Students won’t connect the game to what they’re learning in class unless the teacher draws the connections through class discussions, he says.

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  1. Stephanie says:

    This is a great way to honor the current interests of school-age kids while promoting increased motivation to learn. I agree with Watson’s comment – the teacher will have to make explicit connections between what is on the screen and what is being learned in class. One has to wonder how these new games compare to those such as The Oregon Trail from my childhood. Certainly the graphics must be better, but are there also increased opportunities for interactions and for students to use what they are learning?