Monday, February 18, 2013

Welcome to the classroom

It was the summer of 2011 when I sat down for another discussion session for my Teaching Film and Media Class. I fidgeted in my chair since today was the day we finally discussed a topic that I had been waiting for all semester, video games. After talking about new ways to incorporate movies, commercials and television shows for lessons in grades K-12, I was eager to discuss with my fellow classmates on how video games could be included as well. The excitement mostly stemming from my passion and what I had learned from the medium. However, once we started the discussion I was reminded of the general perception that most teachers in the educational community have on video games. The perception that while they can help kids with some levels of critical thinking, it is still more entertainment than education. Looking back, I understand that as an interactive medium, it is almost impossible to include video games in a class room curriculum (Although I hear that there are a few schools who are doing just that), yet at the same time I am still awestruck that even teachers that are more open to using media in their classroom are still unsure if video games can be defined as educational. I am here to tell you, they are. In more ways than you can imagine.
Now this does not include games that are designed exclusively for educational purposes such as Leapfrog and the like. Those games are great for kids and how they help get them excited about learning and reinforcing skills they need for school. What I want to talk about in this blog are the games that you wouldn’t expect to be educational and the knowledge kids, even adults can take away from them. Just because video games have gotten a bad reputation for violent content doesn’t mean they all should be denied their potential to share important knowledge.

Keep in mind that all that is written here is my opinion based on my past experiences with video games combined with all that I have learned from before and after college. I encourage discussion about each topic I present, but try to keep it constructive (No “I don’t agree with this. This is stupid!”). Also feel free to share your own experiences, everyone has a story to tell and I’m more than happy to listen. I also want to make it abundantly clear that I do not, repeat do not, consider video games to be substitutes for good teachers (Or even babysitters). I wouldn’t have even made the connection that video games could be educational without their guidance (I may have never gotten into video games period... but that is a story for another day). I am merely proposing that certain content that I have found in video games introduced topics that I would later learn about in school. However, due to the perception that I mentioned above, I was discourage to talk about these experiences since at the time it was considered, “non-educational.”

For more of my work, check out: Common Sense Media at
This is an amazing website for parents who are looking for advice on how to manage their kid’s media intake. Thousands of reviews of movies, TV, books, video games, apps and much more written by parents for parents to help out with what is age appropriate for your kids. My latest contribution to this site is a blog article about how I have shared my passion for video games with my parents over the years and how we have bonded through these experiences.

I also want to give a shout out to two individuals whose work has inspired me to write about my experiences of what I have learned through video games. James Paul Gee and Jane McGonigal. You guys helped me to find my voice and gave my undiscovered passion, words. I can only hope I inspire others as much as you both have inspired me about what video games can be a tool for learning instead of just entertainment.
For more info on these amazing individuals check out their websites.

Jane McGonigal:

Now with all that out of the way, let’s get to our first topic.

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