Game-Based Learning: Friend or Foe?

The Popularity Contest

The notion of playing games is quite fair removed from the public opinion of what one might consider “teaching.” In fact, since their inception in 1947, video games have taken quite a great deal of flak. Over the years, concerned parents have referred to video games as brain-rotting, violent, and sexist. The fact remains that video games are extremely popular. Martha Irvine sums up a 2007 study in a review for the Huffington Post, stating that “ninety-seven percent of young respondents [12-17 year-olds] play video games” and “half of the respondents said they had played a video game the previous day.”


Good vs. Evil

Popularity, unfortunately, does little to prove that video games have content to disprove parental opinions. The question then becomes “do video games have the kind of merit that would not only convince parents of their worth but also of their place in the classroom?” The simple answer is that of many other age-old questions: “Yes…in moderation.” However, the simple answer does this issue justice.  Jordan Shapiro explains the pros of one video game that is being used in many classrooms already, called Gamestar Mechanic, stating that it “encourages social interaction. The ideas don’t stay isolated within a kid’s head. Instead, kid-game-designers create and share their learning experience with peers. In this way, they are motivated by relationships; kids are inspired to think of game creation as a way to articulate and express themselves. Likewise, they are motivated to interpret other people’s games and comment accordingly.”

games vs teachers

Idealism or Realism?

If used appropriately, it seems, that video games might soon find themselves as a staple of many English language arts classrooms. To that end, Terrell Heick goes so far in an article for Edutopia concerning the role of video games in classrooms to say that “video games not only have a role, but also demand a seat next to novels and poems, speeches and letters, essays and short stories.”  A bold statement, but perhaps there is some validity to Heick’s assertion. Given the right context, could video games be used as just another medium for education? Now, here, we finally might have a simple answer. With the right approach anything can be viewed as a text, and based on the popularity of video games, ELA educators are looking at a recipe for success in the digital age.

Teacher of the Future (1)


4 thoughts on “Game-Based Learning: Friend or Foe?

  1. Aaron, great job with laying out all the facts! I can’t believe that 97% of young respondents play video games! I mean, I knew they were popular, but WOW! Personally, I don’t think that promoting video games for educational use is going to be as good for children as people like to think. It’s interesting that in the article by Shapiro he is saying that video game creation is going to encourage social interaction. I strongly believe that children should stick to more out door and hands on activities. I know that when I have children someday I won’t want them glued to a screen. I guess we really won’t know if it will be educational or not until the ELA does further research. What is your opinion on video games? Thanks for sharing!

  2. Aaron; I enjoyed particularly the bold statement you incorporated from Heick. It made me want to read his article, which is a very smart move on your part as a blogger! Furthermore, I think the topic you chose was a great one, which managed to tie in so many of the concepts we’ve been discussing in our classes. Considering video games as a text adds legitimacy and value to game-based learning, especially in terms of multimodal learning. I also think it was a good move discussing the popular dissenting opinion amongst parents. The challenge that you point to, with incorporating such learning is the idea of vindicating it in our educational curriculum. With more advocates, and exposure (like your blog!) hopefully we can fight to give it it’s worthy ‘seat’.

  3. Aaron,
    I like the way you divided up your blog post. It made it easy to read and kept it organized. I never thought to use video games in an English classroom. I always thought that video games were for science classes or just for fun. Most video games for English are geared towards younger children, but I think making them for upper levels would be awesome. Though it is hard for me to see a use for them in upper high school. Video games would be better suited for grammar study and spelling, not novel and poem interpretation. But the thought is intriguing.

  4. As a long time gamer, I fully support this article. I have always believed that video games are given a bad wrap due to negativity in the media and over reacting parents. Like anything used in schools, some one, somewhere, will have a problem with it. We must fight this! Video games due much of what novels seek out to achieve. They tell stories, create new worlds and invoke thought. Most importantly, special communities are formed when people play a game together. They discuss the “tex they are “reading,” engage in a unique discourse centered around that particular game, and in addition, develop team work. Critical literacy can most certainly be taught through the use of a video game as a text.

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