Can Video Games Transform Learning?

A lot of really smart people believe that video games are the key to engaging children in school. The question is can video games really teach useful, transferable subjects?  The NY Times magazine just put out an issue discussing this very subject.  They profiled a school called Quest to Learn that has a curriculum around children designing and playing video games. These kids aren’t playing Halo however, these are games that were specifically made to teach.  Serious games they are now called, meaning games with an educational component.  The article didn’t really conclude anything although in the small print it did say that these children after one year in the program did no better or worse than other 6th graders in their district on federally mandated standardized tests.
So what’s the big deal?  Why is everyone so excited?  Well, video games are used successfully to teach how to shoot with drones in the military.  They have been used to teach laparoscopic surgery.  They develop cognitive skills such as spatial perception (Greenfield, 2009). Moreover, maybe there are skills that video games teach that are not measured by standardized tests — such as critical thinking or systems thinking.

On the other hand, does playing games really lead to learning how to critically think?  Doesn’t that require the time to really ponder something, while today’s frantic media world doesn’t really encourage that kind of time?

I honestly don’t know.  It’s an exciting world out there, but I would hate to put the cart before the horse.  In any case, one year is too soon to tell.  I will be eagerly watching Quest to Learn, we know education in our country needs innovation.  Maybe this is it.

Taken from blog written originally for parentinginthedigitalage.