How mainstream video games are being used as teaching tools
The best games, whether digital or physical, motivate players to master skills, says Tim Chartier, an associate professor of math at Davidson College. Classroom math, on the other hand, can seem painfully abstract.
Chartier taught a session on math and pop culture for the Charlotte Teachers Institute, which brought together K-12 teachers from public and private schools. During one class, he mentioned that “Angry Birds,” a popular video game that involves catapulting cartoon birds at pigs, uses a parabola without air resistance for the red birds’ trajectory.
Kristianna Luce, a math teacher at North Mecklenburg High, seized that remark and started working “Angry Birds” into her algebra classes. Chartier built on her work to create teaching tools for using “Angry Birds” in algebra.
The dynamic nature of video games entices students in a way that simply working toward a grade might not, Chartier says. “Self-motivation does a lot to keep people moving forward,” he added.
As Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools works toward expanding digital access, the district has formal groups and central-office staff dedicated to sharing the best ideas about technology in the classroom. Cloud says a CMS technology specialist helped her develop the “Minecraft” club and ideas for linking the game to lessons.
But avid gamers are just as likely to be sharing ideas with online communities. Gillispie has a web page devoted to the use of “WoW,” “Minecraft,” and other games in education. Cloud ticks off a long list of websites and blogs she visits to check in with other educators using games. There’s even a “WoW” guild, called Cognitive Dissonance, made up of educators who share classroom tips while they play, she says.
Valerie Truesdale, who recently took CMS’ top technology job, says she’s fine with the array of alternatives to the traditional chain of communication.
“I think that digital learning and mobile devices are shaking up how everybody learns,” she said. “It’s all-the-time, everywhere learning. Everybody’s a teacher, and everybody’s a learner.”
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