A recent blog posting on the New York Times website posed an interesting question, “Should computer games be used in classrooms”? The author, a self-professed child of the 80s, admits to being a fan of video games, but also admits to having learned very little of value from them. Having thrown the question open to the readers and asking for comments from the various readers of the blog, the answers are just as varied as the students who walk each day into the classrooms across the country. From middle and high school students to instructors in America, Europe and South America, people chimed in with their comments and thoughts on this subject and the consensus is that yes, video games do have a place in the classroom. But before students cheer at the thought of an Xbox in every classroom and luddites begin to bemoan the death of the education system, hear out what seems to also be the consensus.
Computer games most definitely have a place in the classroom. But the emphatic phrase in that statement is “a place.” Computer games are wonderful tools for reinforcing skills that have been taught in the classroom, giving a student the opportunity to hone his or her abilities with practice. But just as a mechanical tool cannot repair a car on its own, a computer game cannot teach on its own. They have to be used in conjunction with an academic curriculum that includes face-to-face instruction with a professional educator. Particularly when it comes to math or science classes, computer games can reinforce basic skills after they have been taught with what have previously been the old pencil-and-paper drill and practice problems. The games add a lively component that appeals to the relatively short attention span of today’s youth culture while also “tricking” them into learning with activities that they think are solely fun without realizing that they are also educational. But it is highly unlikely that these students would be able to utilize these games were it not for a trained teacher instructing them in the skills necessary to be able to “beat the game.”
Computers and video games are here to stay. Instead of running away from these technological advancements, teachers should embrace them and find ways to incorporate them into their classes and make them a part of their lessons. Many teachers have shunned the advent of educational games out of a sense of fear that they will be replaced by computers; but the reality is, the games are just a tool which cannot replace a skilled and competent educational professional.