Game On! Getting Serious with Serious Gaming
Everyone knows that little Johnny loves going home after school and getting to spend some time playing video games. But what if Johnny could get his game on at school? And what if the game’s content actually furthers his education?
That idea is what researchers, tech-savvy parents, teachers and video game developers around the world are scrambling to figure out. Is it possible to use video games as teaching tools in school? And if so, how would it work?
Dr. James Lester, professor of computer science at NC State, and Dr. Hiller Spires, professor of curriculum and instruction at NC State, have devoted nearly 15 years to that very question. They’ve been awarded numerous grants over the years to research how gaming in the classroom could work.
“Creating video games for the classroom is on the rise,” Spires explains. “It’s an interesting design challenge – creating the games to be engaging while at the same time impacting student achievement. The question is such a challenge that some researchers have dropped the achievement goal – and are only focusing on engagement. Achievement is still a high priority for our research team.”
Spires and graduate students who are working on the projects spent last week in Karlstad , Sweden, presenting some of their recent work at the World Summit on Media for Children and Youth. Spires and Lester are in the middle of two major research projects – both funded with National Science Foundation grants. In one, a video game called “Crystal Island: Uncharted Discovery” helps fifth grade students learn and identify land forms and how to read maps – a key part of their fifth grade science curriculum. In another game, “Narrative Theatre,” sixth grade students create their own fables by selecting settings, characters, plots and more – and then get to see their fable actually come alive in the gaming environment.
They’re continuing to get feedback from students and teachers to make the games not only engaging – but also challenging enough to improve their classroom performance. After the final versions of the games are ready, the plan is to make them available as free teaching tools online. A step up from duck-duck-goose, huh?