Game Education/Educational Games

"Game Education" needs a little make-over. Not only are we talking about teaching students how to make games, we need to start talking a bit more seriously about how games can teach students about other subjects. For example, what makes games a fertile ground for learning? What are the drawbacks of game-based learning?

The answer to either question could and probably should be the subject of an entire book if not an academic sub-discipline, so it would be hubris to attempt solutions in a mere blog entry. Nevertheless, I would like to draw our readers' attention to some of the trends that are developing in this arena.

First off, Universities around the country (and now around the world) are beginning to invest in research and implementation of new technology in the classroom and general curriculum. Much as game development programs have exploded in number and attention since 2000, "educational technology" is becoming a new buzzword in academic circles. A crucial focus of such efforts has not necessarily been to look for ways in which new forms of technology can change and improve both the process of student learning as well as our attitudes about what learning is itself. Indeed, the idea of knowledge transmission still holds firm in the minds of most educators. And notions of how best to inject a centralized authority's "knowledge" into the tabula rasa minds of the students has been the primary focus of educational training since before we were born. Long before, indeed.

Knowledge transmission is not the forte of games. Sure, we can draw on the motivational aspects of games to support such a claim, but still, the transmission of fact/event from one mind to another is generally accomplished much more efficiently through memorization coupled with the negative motivation of studying for a test.

So what is the educational forte of games? Read my next installment to find out my humble beginnings of an opinion.

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IEEE Spectrum’s gaming blog was retired in 2010, but it is preserved here for archival reference.