I’m an education expert and video games could be the future of schools | The Sun
BEFORE I began writing about video games for a living, I worked in education for around 15 years.
Working with children from nursery school age all the way to 6th form, I have taught in countries all over the world, including England, Wales, Germany, India, Taiwan, and Japan.
I studied for my postgraduate degree in education at the University of Bristol and graduated with a distinction.
I mention all of this not as a sort of humble brag, but to establish that I know kids, and even more so that I understand how they best learn.
The other thing I know is video games, and I also know that they have a stigma attached to them as mindless rubbish.
Some games are mindless rubbish, of course, but I would say the overwhelming majority of them help people to develop skills that can carry over to people’s day-to-day lives.
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For young children there are the obvious connections to fine motor skills, and problem-solving, but video games develop skills up until adulthood.
Many games require patience and resilience, others can include information on culture and history, and if you’re brave, you can use them to 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 plenty of raised eyebrows if teachers wanted to incorporate video games into lessons.
However, the times are changing, and just like everyone else, people learn more when they are motivated and enjoy learning.
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The usual motivation for children to learn is the inevitable exams that come at the end, but exams themselves are pretty controversial.
Testing often leads teachers to teach skills based on how to take tests, which are skills that aren’t needed outside of the classroom.
And there are of course many ways to motivate students outside of the looming doom of poor results.
This is where we come back to video games. If you have children then you probably already know how popular Minecraft is.
The base game is mostly about gathering resources and building things, which is already a great base to build an educational platform on.
There are chemistry and physics systems in place that decide how each material can be used, and later parts of the game include knowledge of coding, arguably one of the most important skills that children should learn.
However, Microsoft has bigger plans for Minecraft that expand beyond what the game is already capable of doing.
That brings us to Minecraft Education, an add-on to the game that features standalone lessons.
I was invited to a class where ten children, armed with a laptop each, were given a lesson about wind farms and renewable energy.
The important thing here is that the whole lesson wasn’t just playing Minecraft.
A geography teacher was there to teach them the important vocabulary that they would need, and give them 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 things like that turbines can’t be built near areas with protected wildlife, or that there are different types of turbines for different depths, but they then learned more about this through trial and error.
While the different style of learners myth has long been debunked, there is weight in the fact that the more ways you do something, the more likely you are to remember it.
So, reading about how wind turbines work is one thing, but then applying that knowledge to building a farm is another completely.
The lesson was rounded off by reading people’s opinions on building wind farms, including the pros and cons.
This included a critical thinking component, where the students were allowed to consider their own opinions on whether more wind farms should be built.
Speaking to a number of the students following the lesson a couple of things became apparent.
Firstly, every single student had enjoyed the lesson, and they came away saying they wish more lessons could be taught in this interactive style.
The next was that even an hour after the lesson they had retained almost all of the information presented, which if you’ve ever taught children you’ll know is a miracle.
Memorable lessons lead to better retention of information, and if you look back to your most memorable lessons, they are likely those that had a practical and interactive element.
This of course was just one lesson, but it was easy to see how the same model could be applied to pretty much all subjects.
While it would be hard to get your laps in 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 in place to allow teachers to design their own worlds, and if a school purchases the license, students will be able to play the lessons again at home for free.
This opens up children to a world where they might look forward to revision, and playing games at home is almost as effective as sitting in a classroom.
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It’ll probably be a while before ideas like this gain widespread acceptance, but the sooner we can mix students’ interests with classic educational concepts, the easier it is to tap into the key to learning.
Written by Georgina Young on behalf of GLHF.
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