Video Games in the Classroom: The Future of College Education?

Imagine going to school and playing video games instead of reading a textbook or listening to a long lecture. Cool, right? Well, it just might be the future of higher education.

Communication has gone into the digital age, and eventually so will teaching and learning, as if it hasn't already. There are commercials all over television encouraging screen-based learning: ABCMouse.com for the little ones, K12.com (a K-12 alternative) as opposed to physically going to school, and things like KhanAcademy.com and Lumosity.com for those grown folks who need a little fine-tuning or help in certain areas like math or memory. Whatever happened to just taking a regular class at the local community college? It's the sign of the times: the technological times.

On KQED.org, writer Jordan Shapiro writes that "[while] digital games will certainly never replace a great teacher, they are tools that can help teachers do their jobs more effectively." Teachers bring so much to the table: mentorship, the ability to relate to their students, personality, and the list goes on.

Could video games teach the children of the future?

Shapiro's opening sentence leaves a lot to think about: "We often think about game-based learning as if video games can become robotic teachers." As much as some of us might like them to, they can't. Video games can't teach us about the world and its pros and cons. What it can do is teach us about one or two things in particular or show us how a good story unravels.

For example, The Last of Us is ideal for an English class or writing class. It has plenty of gameplay open to analysis and it's full of literary devices such as ambiguity, flashback, foreshadowing, tragedy, and it serves as a visual allegory. The game is long and difficult at times, unfortunately, so for the sake of time and frustration, a gameplay walk-through video on YouTube would suffice (minus commentary of course). It'd make a great project and an interesting one at that.

Other examples would be SimCity and Final Fantasy Tactics. SimCity would be ideal for a Civil Engineering class, while Final Fantasy Tactics would be great for teaching strategy, staying a couple of steps ahead of your opponent, learning to predict movements and act accordingly. Shapiro believes that social impact is key. Without social impact, this idea won't manifest itself into something greater.

Shapiro brings up a great point in her blog:

"In my undergraduate college classroom, I sometimes require all of my students to play a popular game in the weeks immediately following a unit on Freud. I challenge them to analyze the game like a dream. I ask them to identify the latent content. We identify gender biases, the subtle differences between games aimed at boys and games aimed at girls. What skills are these games teaching? What conceptions of reality are they privileging?"

These are very interesting concepts and questions that would be fantastic for Gender Studies classes! With video games and education, the possibilities are limitless - and lucrative, too.

According to phys.org, ASU Professor Elisabeth Hayes says: 

"Game players often develop sophisticated technical and language skills that can lead to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers.  It's a hidden opportunity for literacy that we could take advantage of as educators and parents."

What better way to reach college students than through something most of them enjoy? And the fact that it will lead to a successful career makes it so much more appealing to not only students, but parents as well.

Shapiro also writes:

"We need more video game studies departments that are not about game development and computer programming, but rather about critical thinking. Not video game classes that analyze game design and mechanics — video game classes that are about analyzing the literature of gaming. We have film studies, now it’s time for video game studies."

So instead of playing games that sometimes do end up numbing minds, play games that stimulate minds to think, and think well. 'Video Game Studies' would give Humanities a whole new perspective, as well as college. Imagine being a Video Game Studies major!

Contributor

I'm a wife, a mother, a video game enthusiast, a lover of video game journalism and music journalism, and overall just a big kid on the inside! Writing is my life!

Published Jul. 25th 2014

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