07 February 2010

How Social Gaming is Improving Education

In an article by Greg Ferenstein on Mashable.com, we are told that:

Audits of the U.S. educational system have revealed that the highest hurdle to adopting skills-based teaching practices is the lack of an easily implementable curriculum.

Enter social video games as a solution — immersive environments that simulate real-world problems. Today, technologically eager schools are replacing textbook learning with social video games, and improving learning outcomes in the process. Here’s how they’re doing it
: How Social Gaming is Improving Education

Especially interesting to me, personally, is the use of the virtual world Second Life as part of the curriculum where hands on training and role play can teach a critical skill set, as in this example Ferenstein mentions:

Loyalist College in Canada recently boasted “massive” test score improvements for its border officer training via simulation in the virtual world of Second Life. “No single technological addition has ever impacted grades at the college in such a positive way,” says Ken Hudson, their Managing Director of Virtual World Design. Indeed, the results speak for themselves. According to the report:

“The amazing results of the training and simulation program have led to significantly improved grades on students’ critical skills tests, taking scores from a 56% success in 2007, to 95% at the end of 2008 after the simulation was instituted.”

In another example, 6th graders learn geography from Google Earth, collaborate through an internal social networking platform, and present ideas through a podcast. Administrators hope that wrestling with the question of “How can a system function within a larger system?” will bolster critical thinking skills. Many experts contend that so-called “Scaffolded Problem-based learning” is known to improve academic skills and enhance motivation. With all these new toys, it’s no surprise that one student admits his least favorite part of the day is “dismissal.”

Having used social networking (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger), 3d technology (Second Life, Google Earth), as well as online texts (Project Gutenberg, NetLibrary, JSTOR and other online databases) and media (YouTube, TeacherTube, Ohiolink Digital Media, Hulu) in my classrooms, my personal take is that anything that enhances the learning experience, keeps the student's attention, and gives students tools they will need in the real world, is a plus! There is no reason to suppose that just because it is fun, technology can't also be eductional. As Ferenstein says:

Social gaming has a come a long way from the days when a dozen students would squint at a 10-inch screen of Oregon Trail. The 2000s seemed to be the decade of case studies: Bold educators willing to experiment with developing technologies. But now, the involvement of major funders, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, points to an industry that is on the cusp of freeing education from its 2D textbook prison.

Mashable link posted using ShareThis.

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