The above video shows an example of how my 6th graders are playing World of Warcraft during the WoWinSchools course I am teaching this year.
Slowly, especially in light of much research being done on the subject, people are starting to see that video games are not bad. They do not make kids violent and they are not a waste of time (well, anything done to excess can have negative consequences but when played in balance with other activities games are not a waste of time). Games can lead some kids to exciting career choices but even for those who play games just for fun there are many benefits. A lot of learning goes on when people play video games and the brain is very active during game play compared to a more passive activity such as watching television.
Many games are being designed specifically for education. That type of Game-Based Learning (GBL) is obvious. The less obvious type of GBL is using Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) games, such as World of Warcraft or Minecraft. COTS games were designed to sell, make money, and engage people in the game so they play and play and play. An added benefit of such games is their use in schools. COTS games are often more fun and exciting, and also better designed, than many educational games. Therefore, COTS games are very motivating for kids to play.
The level of focus, persistence, and engagement of kids playing COTS games is amazing and that is something teachers and parents want to see of our kids in school. For me to be able to bring a game that is so widely played and enjoyed to my school has been a positive experience. I have seen the two classes of 6th graders who have been participating in my WoWinSchools course thus far show exihilaration and exuberance at being able play such as game in school. They’ve been so excited that none of them have balked or complained at the work they’ve been required to do in order to play the game. It has been quite delightful and more than refreshing. Even kids who do not consider themselves gamers have enjoyed playing World of Warcraft and have rated the course quite highly. I am gathering data on my second class currently.
Being able to offer kids a chance to engage in GBL is wonderful and a worthwhile way to engage our kids in learning at school. Check out my Diigo Collection on GBL for more information and links to educational games.