"Bear in mind that the wonderful things you learn in your schools are the work of many generations, produced by enthusiastic effort and infinite labor in every country of the world. All this is put into your hands as your inheritance in order that you may receive it, honor it, add to it, and one day faithfully hand it to your children. Thus do we mortals achieve immortality in the permanent things which we create in common." - Albert Einstein

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Games for Learning

Technology in the classroom can truly make a difference if it enables something unique inside the classroom. One unique learning strategy with technology is the technology itself. A lot of children play computer or internet games. Games seem to be engaging, if not addictive. How can games help in learning is a key question in designing effective technology inside a classroom. Designing games, of course, takes technology into a real educational level. Writing one obviously requires introduction to a structure and a language that allows translation of ideas into a computer, tablet or phone screen. Constructing a computer game introduces a child into how systems work while probing concepts in the sciences and the arts. A game, after all, should make sense, and, at the same time, should be appealing to the senses. Imagining a game paves the way to anticipating and participating in social online interactions. Games can indeed serve as a gateway for most children to digital literacy. Designing a game truly takes technology into a classroom far beyond merely gluing a kid's eyes and fingers to a screen. There is an online community that tries to do this. It is called Gamestar Mechanic:


My son and I tried out one of the games (We are not the ready to write our own) to see what kind of games children have designed. The game we looked at is called "Dinosaur Sustanability". Except for the absence of walls, the game looks like the "pac-man". In this case, the player moves a dinosaur through a grid of vegetation. Sustainability (which is absent in "pac-man") requires the dinosaur to space out the feeding so that one survives throughout the period without starvation. There are additional levels. In the next level, the game is repeated but this time, in the presence of another dinosaur. There is now competition, but the allotted time and a limited amount of food remain as constraints. The next two levels introduce some sort of a chomper so the dinosaur not only has to space wisely its consumption and be aware of competition, but also worry about getting killed. My son and I made it to the highest level:





When I was in grade school, some of these concepts are introduced in stories. We learned, for example, from the story of an ant and a grasshopper the values of working hard and saving for a rainy day, instead of just wasting every sunny day away. Designing games certainly take learning to quite a different level. I do not know exactly how much time is needed for a child to imagine, design and write a game like "Dinosaur Sustanability". My guess is that it is a substantial amount, but it is probably better time spent on just playing the games themselves or watching television.






No comments:

Post a Comment