Why is gaming still disregarded as an education tool?

I went to an event last month held by Nucco Brain about using VR technology for educational purposes. It was a really interesting talk with panelists Mark Kershaw, Client Engagement Director, Nucco Brain, Matthew Scott, Head of Immersive Product, Pearson, Joan Keevil, Chair of the Board of Directors, eLearning Network and Nikoleta Giannoutsou, Research Fellow, UCL Institute of Education. Some of the biggest problems they discussed were getting people to be immersed in the story and activity and as a result the potential risk of addiction. Throughout it all, I couldn’t help but wonder whether any of them had delved deeper into these questions but with games as the instrument instead of VR? Anyone who’s ever played a game knows how easy it is to get immersed into a game and its world and that’s without adding VR to the mix. There is also ample amounts of research into children’s safety and the risk of becoming addicted to games. With a family of teachers, I know the use of games is one of the most fundamental parts of learning. So why is gaming still disregarded as an education tool?

There have always been lots of negative stereotypes and misconceptions of gaming and gamers. These stereotypes typically include, being someone who is lazy, unsociable and obsessive. But why do we always hear about the negatives and not the positives of what being a gamer means? (And why do we feel the need to label them when someone who spends their life binge-watching TV is still just a regular person?)  As one of the biggest games for children right now, Minecraft can teach kids an abundance of skills; from creativity, collaboration, self-direction, problem solving and tenacity.  So, why do we shy away from this medium and refer to ‘gamers’ in such a negative way when these are clearly all valuable skills that we want our kids to learn?

I am always grateful for the time I spent playing Tetris to how well I can pack my suitcase. And after playing the same level of Bricks and Balls for a month, I don’t think anyone can disagree that I am tenacious. 

One of my biggest bug bears is the fact there is the term Gamers. Do serial series watchers have a negative label attached to them? Even though they are spending just as much time sat in the dark staring at a screen. The British army have used this label recently that created a bit of a stir in the media. Their campaign calling on millennials, snowflakes and phone zombies. But switching and reminding said millennials that they have patience, they’re slow and steady and they’re determined and looking for a purpose. It has recently been announced that since that campaign the rate of people applying to the Army has doubled.


British Army: Your Army Needs You, and Your Stamina

A geopolitics teacher, Eric Nelson used Fantasy football as inspiration for a Geopolitical game with the children each having their own country to watch succeed. He saw so much engagement from his students, them taking time out for the class to do research and learning more about politics and how the world was changing. Big Fish Games also has an incredible article naming 10 ways we learn from Games, which is well worth reading. 

I guess, all I’m trying to say is, don’t overlook gaming as a valuable tool for learning, how you have personally benefitted and developed skills from them and how they can be used as a tool to teach an abundance of skills that may not be so easily replicated and accessible in real life.

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