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How mainstream video games are being used as teaching tools

Advocates say that good video games can be used as teaching tools to help students develop an array of skills—from writing and physics to teamwork and problem solving.

People who worried that the technology boom would lead to kids playing video games in class were right: In schools around the country, students are playing such games as “Minecraft,” “World of Warcraft,” and “Angry Birds”—and their teachers are encouraging it.

“Video games are not the great evil that people make them out to be,” says Trish Cloud, technology instructor at Torrence Creek Elementary School in Huntersville, N.C., where she created a popular “Minecraft” club.

Cloud is part of a community of educators who love gaming and want to share that passion to help students learn by introducing video games in class. Those educators say that good video games can be used as teaching tools to help students develop an array of skills—from writing and physics to teamwork and problem solving.

Lucas Gillispie, a former biology teacher in coastal Pender County, N.C., is a leader in this national movement. He helped to create a language-arts curriculum tied to “World of Warcraft,” and he launched a grant program for local teachers to incorporate “Minecraft” into their classes.

He notes that the fast-paced, globally connected world of digital learning lets educators create new career paths and emerge as leaders, no matter where they work or what their job titles are. And that is exactly the kind of versatility teachers are trying to spark in their students.

(Next page: Learning through ‘World of Warcraft’)

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  1. cnealon

    January 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    There is no doubt that video games do hone beneficial skills; however, schools must remain vigilant over the extent to which video games are used for instruction. Games certainly offer a greater incentive for many students to engage in the material, but none of the games listed in this article were specifically constructed to enhance learning. That is not to say that the mentioned games do not enhance learning, but there are a wide array of software providers who create engaging games and that are designed for the classroom.

    • tom454

      January 15, 2013 at 7:23 pm

      Wouldn’t it be more precise to say that none of the games listed were specically designed to help kids respond to instruction? I think part of the reason that video games hold such potential is precisely BECAUSE they are not used for instruction — they can be used for LEARNING. Classroom instruction is designed to produce a response to a specific set of instructions. The child has no control over any aspect. Much of the learning that occurs with video games has to do with long-term lessons that are much more valuable than most instructional sets — things like dealing with failure (an inherent part of any game), looking at alternate ways to a goal, practice at collaborating with others in the global community, etc. In other words, kids control all 4 elements that Dan Pink described as vital for motivation – autonomy over Time, Team, Task, and Technique. “Responding to instruction” provides none of those. I say “Game On!”

  2. deanjt

    January 14, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    We couldnt agree with you more. In fact we recently wrote a story about the ways 5 Ways Minecraft Can Help You Improve Your SAT Score

  3. snazzylady1

    January 15, 2013 at 9:12 pm

    I agree as well. Although some video games have been beneficial to students, they should be used in moderation. There are other games that can be used to promote learning such as Scrabble, Boggle, Chess, or Monopoly.

    Tonya Simmons