When I went to school as a youth, our teachers easily commanded attention in the classroom. This, sadly, is no longer the case in present day classrooms. As a teacher with ten years of teaching experience I am finding that the teacher must now earn the attention of the students. If not students turn their attention anywhere else. As an IT teacher in a middle school, I experience this push and pull for attentional control every day. The students I teach today are digital natives having grown up with technology at their fingertips. They multitask in ways I cannot even imagine doing myself often telling me they do homework while watching television, and listening to music or playing video games. I often wonder how their attention can be so parceled out without any serious negative consequences.
The articles all showcase video gaming as a template for education and for teachers to follow instead of a unimodal (text only) learning method. This type of edutainment makes me resentful. I often feel like I have to put on a dog-and-pony show to compete with the likes of video games or other flashy technologies. I wonder about what real quality learning does commercial gaming have to tell us about developing, gaining, and keeping our students both engaged and immersed. I admit that computer-based gaming feels threatening to the training and practice I have developed over a decade. But I also feel we cannot ignore or suppress commercial gaming’s effectiveness as a learning environment. How can we change our archaic ways of teaching to more engaging, quicker learning, and simple pleasure? Can that be taken seriously in an educational settings?
Noting the features of a good video game, I am most struck with game players’ motivation. How is it they are able to willingly focus so intently on playing games for hours at a time, while trying to solve complex problems along the way? At school, I can barely hold their attention for 15 minutes without a “break” of some sorts. Can the same level of motivation be present in a classroom or in a more academic video game? I wonder also about the role of failure. At school students often give up after a single try but in a video game they seem engrossed in attempt after attempt at finishing the game successfully. All in all I was struck with the article by Gee and the research question he poses in the article “The research question here is: how could we use video games to achieve a marriage of ‘in game’ goals (the goals that flow from an academic area of from the teacher) with students’ personal goals and learning styles, for use in school learning and for learning in other contexts?” What methods can we extract from video gaming that realistically can be applied in a formal school classroom? I find these questions very challenging but also very intriguing. I suppose one just needs to have an open mind.
The last article on alternate reality games is impressive with a teacher creating his own game for his English class. I have mixed feelings about this article. On the one hand I commend the teacher for coming up with such a creative way to engage his students. On the other hand I feel overwhelmed with such expectations from teachers. As busy as most of us teachers are with curricular pressures and administrative chores, I cannot help but wonder how many teachers would realistically go to all that trouble to create such an elaborate project. This teacher gets a gold star, no doubt about it but I cannot imagine doing the same in my class with what little I know about gaming technology. There are also questions of implementation once such a project is developed. The problem is that the school system does not change as fast as blue sky thinking comes up with new ideas to try in the classroom. I know of teachers at my school who still resist using email! After reading these articles, I believe that video gaming may have some potential to re-stimulate learning environments in this Digital Age and hope that implementation will include teacher training in the near future.