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One point of view, taking note of sundry "cool" things that affect-- or could affect-- the education business.

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Thursday, January 19, 2006

UK Study Links Games to Student Success

An interesting recent article on the BBC's site (here) shows that a third of surveyed teachers believe that video games can play a positive role in student learning, though some expressed concern about the usual "antisocial" and "stereotypical" nature of video games in general.

More interesting is the money behind the study ... none other than Entertainment Arts (EA), one of the leading game developers in the world.

A second phase of the study will focus on specific games-- including The Sims and Roller Coaster Tycoon-- and how principles at play in those game environments can translate to acquired knowledge of concepts such as economics, politics, and practical business applications.

Three paragraphs into this post, you're thinking "So what?" Sure, there have been other studies undertaken, and arguments made about visual acuity and manual dexterity and whatnot. But a key aspect of this study is the examination of gaming's effect on actual curricular skills and knowledge.

Business Education revolves around showing students the practical implications of theory and principle, building, in the process (we hope) critical thinking skills that can evaluate multifaceted scenarios and the interplay of various tangential aspects. Build a theme park with great rides, but lack sufficient maintenance personnel, and your expensive theme park sits idle, alienating customers. Build a career driven by ambition and avarice, and your social status plummets.

More and more, videogames are rich simulations of circumstances that are created by the user. Need For Speed, a popular auto racing game, may be all about the bling for the average fourteen-year-old, but he's also learning that it costs money to trick your ride, and that you have to "earn" your way up the social ladder.

Let's be clear: first-person shooters that have the gamer blissfully blasting bloody bodies probably aren't going to help his math score. However, there are nuanced and engaging games that will offer a realistic portrayal of cause and effect, supply and demand, product and packaging. That these simulations are virtual, and take place through the interface of a game controller rather than a keyboard should not diminish their value.

Games are a way to get students engaged in their education. Used carefully and creatively, games can play an important role in the development of cognitive and practical skills that will serve a student through his matriculation and beyond. It may be easy to dismiss The Sims as oversimplified, or a Roller Coaster Tycoon as irrelevant. But it may also be easy to get kids to invest themselves in the development of a virtual portfolio of skills and knowledge.

Cool, huh?

How will it shake out? Comment this blog, and let's see where the conversation leads.
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