While living in the 21st Century where video games successfully capture the attention of children and adults of both genders throughout the world, why is this element of play and entertainment absent from the classrooms? With this in mind, de Castell and Jenson, Gee and Darvasi all examine the educative possibilities that video games have and discuss the research findings the exhibit the high learning potentials that video games possess and how teachers have “played” with them amongst their students.
de Castell and Jenson (2004) elaborate on the importance of attention, which they deem the primary currency of education, and the new struggles that teachers are experiencing in maintaining their students’ attention amidst the globalization and distribution of new technologies.
"Whereas under earlier conditions students had to earn, to merit, to ‘‘deserve’’ their teachers’ attention, nowadays increasingly the tables are turning, and it is the teacher who must earn or deserve the attention of her students — or her students will turn it elsewhere."
In response to this “war for attention” where the new technologies afforded children with greater power by adding value to whom/what they pay attention, de Castell and Jenson (2004) highlight the need for educators to pay attention to what their students pay attention to in order to make the learning material relevant to the world the students live in.
“Lankshear and Knobel emphasize that schools ought to be paying more attention to attention’’ and take seriously into account a range of new literacies.”
Considering this, the main idea I will take away from this reading is the need for teachers like myself to actually pay attention my students—their hobbies, strengths, weaknesses and everything else that makes them special—in order to tailor my lessons to their needs and interests, exhibiting how the learning material can be applied to the real world. Equally important is how video gaming or serious play can be used to enhance one’s education in the sense that anyone and everyone is capable of learning how to play the video game.
"That everyone is equally intelligent (says Ranciere), and that each and every one of us ‘‘learn’’ at whatever rate we are able given shifting constraints is, in a way, precisely what video games do presume — that anyone who plays the game can learn to fight and so on, so that variation in ability is, more than any- thing, a by-product of time spent within the game’s structures."
Moreover, Darvasi (2014) focuses on how alternate reality games (ARGs) can be used as an immersive learning system that amalgamates narrative, digital technology and real-world game play using John Fallon’s model of transforming Homer’s Odyssey into an ARG as a case study. What I find meaningful about this reading is how Mr. Fallon was able to engage his high school students by relating this Greek classical epic to the students lives, individually researching how to use video games and computer programming appropriately to allow students to walk in Odysseus’ shoes and develop empathy and a better understanding of his character and circumstances. This example truly demonstrates the power that ARGs have in attaining the students’ attention, genuine engagement and creating meaning [digital or non-digital] artifacts of knowledge.
“Any motivated teacher can design and run their own ARG without programming skills, specialized technical knowledge or a big budget. This is assisted by the availability of free or inexpensive user-friendly, web-based tools, and digital software.”
Lastly, Gee (2007) deeply analyzes the question of whether or not video games are beneficial towards learning. He subsequently lists a variety of features that games have that possess high learning potential, such as empathy for a complex system, situated meaning, cross-functional teamwork and distributed intelligence through the creation of smart tools. In this section, one of the points that stood out for me was when Gee emphasizes how games create simulations of experience and preparations for action.
“If games could [let players prepare for actions from different perspectives or identities], they would speak to one of the deeper problems of education: that many students who can pass paper-and-pencil tests cannot apply their knowledge to solving real problems”
Similarly, Gee (2007)’s bold statement echoes the concluding thoughts of de Castell and Jenson (2004): “It is ever more important for teachers to make careful connections between ‘what is taught’ and ‘how that relates to the world’ and finding ways of better supporting the kind of active and playful engagement with what it is we want to ‘teach’” (p. 397). If students are unable to see how the learning material is related and used in the real world, then they are unable to see the larger picture and consequently will not apply it to the real world, rendering the learning material as useless.
Another point worth mentioning is the role of failure and how players learn through trial-and-error.
"These features of failure in games allow players to take risks and try out hypotheses that might be too costly in places such as classrooms where the cost of failure is higher or where no learning stems from failure.”
Failure is not viewed as the end, but a method of learning where players are encouraged to learn from their mistakes in order to succeed. If this element of gaming could be transferred into the classrooms, this notion that is similar to a growth mindset, then students will have a more positive attitude towards making mistakes in order to learn from them.