Our most recent work explores the use of games and simulations in K-12 environments. The basic principals and cognitive rational for the use of this technology is first explained based on a new generation of “players” and students accustomed to dynamic learning. With the physical infrastructure of computer technology in place, simulations and games, become a viable source for training and development and are extremely valuable in the engagement of learners both as individual and collective interaction. Implications for both policy and classroom use of video games is explored. Practical considerations for repurposing COTS (Commercial off the shelf) games for P-12 will be explored with direct correlation to national standards in content areas.  



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What Children Can Learn From Video Games? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Yadi Ziaee   
Tuesday, 14 May 2013

What do we know about Video Games?


  1. What are two lessons that school-aged children can learn from video games and apply to their real lives?

There are many Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) and educational video games in which students are already engaged. Teachers don’t have to provide the motivation to play a video game as they do homework. In video games, students learn to engage in “meaningful learning” (Ziaeehezarjeribi, Graves, & Gentry, 2010) in which leaners become actors in a wide variety of inquiry-based and participatory venues where they learn tenacity, problem solving strategies, consensus building, and experiential learning, all components of the new “Common Core Standards.” Alternative learning, through video games allows students engaged in inquiry based problem solving by collaborating with peers


2.      What types of video games are the best at teaching these lessons?

Instead of answering the questions regarding “the best,” I would say the key to effective integration of video games into the general education classroom is the good fit between the teacher, the community, the student, the goals of the learning unit. In other words, the teacher must first determine what is to be learned and learn the game with students so they have a better understanding how of selecting good video games. “Learning” in video games is not always that obvious.  For example, some video games, through avatars, allow students to try on various identities, a characteristic need of most adolescents. For younger students, learning occurs when they are able to cognitively engage (play) with a concept. In much the same way a pilot can learn the basics of flying an airplane through the use of a simulator, students can become the protagonist is a story. Students can “learn” to safely become a firefighter and safely remove biohazard materials, or become a soldier for combat training without any injuries. As one of our participants stated, “when you fail in a video game, no one sends a note home to your parents.” In video games failure is a natural part of the learning process. The “best” type of video game is one where students feel confident they will be successful at some point. Good video games teach students to keep on trying until they succeed. Well-made video games “teaches” a player the skills needed to effectively navigate the game as players “level up.”

There are many video games teacher can choose from which are commercially available to students and schools [(Computer-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) games)]. Ziaeehezarjeribi et al. (2010) suggest seven Critical Conditions for Integrating Games in schools.

1.      Opportunities for Applicable Learning

2.      Full Participation

3.      Multiple Avenues for Learning

4.      Compelling Story Line

5.      Propel Students toward Inquiry and Discovery

6.      Provide Appropriate Levels of Challenge

7.      Support Students’ General Learning

The following video games can be played by students:

1.      Civilization 3-6 (strategy video game based on historical artifacts)

2.      Ever Quest [(3D fantasy-themed massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)]

3.      Making History, (the Calm and the Storm)

4.      Never Winter Night (Role-Playing-Video Game)

5.      Nancy Drew (Mystery Story Series)

6.      Reader Rabbit (Designed to teach schoolchildren basic reading and spelling skills)

7.      SimCity (An Open-ended City-building Simulation)

8.      Timz Attack (3D Math Games, From Big Brains)

9.      World of Goo (World of Goo is a physics based puzzle/construction game)


3.      What lessons have video games taught you personally?

It all depends on the video games genres. In strategy games you learn how to negotiate tactical moves and play the role of different characters in Civilizations Video Games. Playing video games has many benefits; I learned how to quickly respond to a given situation, and navigate very quickly through the terrains within the game. It also improved my level of dexterity, learned how to quickly switch tasks and become familiar with the games conventions.  Players develop the spatial awareness and the cognitive skills which are crucial to many computer applications and real world scenarios. For instance, some games foster strategic thinking, multitasking, and social competence; which are valued skills in real-world situation. My critical thinking skills improved as I negotiated various genres of video games. As I became an active observant of my own cognitive process, I came to the realization that in video games, you become an active participant as an avatar with full control of the environment able to overcome many challenging obstacles and learn from mistakes during play time. In each game there is obvious and peripheral information in which the player cognitively engages.

  1. What role do you think video games will have in schools in the future?

Video games have already had a major impact in neo-millennial schools through increased technically savvy students. It is no longer a question of if, but what role video games will play in schools. The question we should ask ourselves is, can educators afford not to use video games in schools. Video games have proven to support reading, writing, the social sciences (geography and history) math, and science. Video games scaffold schema providing students with a venue for negotiating real-world situations, and become creative, where students share common ideas, and contribute areas of expertise to shared goals. Simulated games can provide us early warning system monitoring, preventing disasters from happening, detect and prevent health issues, and have the capability of unlimited amount of benefit. Educators must be willing to move into the position of “coach” instead of purveyor of knowledge.  


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