Chapter 7 - Videogames as Educational Tools
Computer games, or videogames, designed for entertainment have been around for decades offering players lots of challenges, engagement and fun. Especially nowadays, playing videogames as leisure activity is mainstream habit for most children and youngsters in the world. On the other hand, educators state that the learning process itself should be challenging, engaging and pleasant. Eventually, one might think: "What if popular videogames were used for educational purposes in the classroom? Would they really have significant learning effect?"
This Chapter aims to explore the potential of using entertainment videogames for educational purposes and try to provide some answers to the aforementioned questions.
"Therefore don't use force in training the children in the studies, but rather play.
In that way you can also better discern what each is naturally directed toward"
Plato, The Republic, 380 BC
(Translation by Allan Bloom)
The origin of "playing" is placed at the beginning of the history of humans, mammals and birds, all of which have learning abilities (Crawford, 1982). Games, according to Crawford, are the authentic, "physical" educational activity; "The question of whether games can have educational value is unreasonable. It is not the game but the school that constitutes the new idea and the violator of tradition". According to Marc Prensky (2003), children, like all people, love learning when it is not enforced.
The aforementioned words refer to games of the physical world which indeed are effective means for children to acquaint their environment, develop their skills and socialize. The question is whether these positive effects of games are preserved when the gaming is transferred to the "digital" world and especially if digital games, or videogames, can become a constructive learning tool.
It is noteworthy that today entertainment videogames have an increasingly central role in the everyday life of both children and adults. In modern reality videogames are no longer just a successful way of entertainment, but powerful means of forming opinions, developing peoples' aesthetics and generate new ways of understanding the world. For these reasons, the prospect of using entertainment videogames in class to enhance learning has been widely researched during the last years. But how could videogames be exploited in the classroom?
This Chapter explores the possibility of integrating COTS videogames into the educational process. This prospect can be exploited if teachers take into account the content of the videogame, the curriculum as well as the stage of the course which the videogame will be integrated in.
Teachers can follow the instructions of the NTeQ model in order to better accomplish this integration. To this aim, it is advisable to let students have a key role in the selection of the appropriate videogame.