Chloe Robson, S@Y News
For many years, gamers have been categorized as individuals who play video games in their spare time, as a hobby. Video games are played on digital devices, and they’re everywhere we turn. They’re on our phones, consoles, and computers. But now, with the technological advances, gaming is so much more than just playing video games. It can become a career or a learning tool.
Given the substantial increase in gaming over recent years, there’s no surprise that many are examining how video games could be used as a tool for educational purposes. However not all video games are made equal. There are many types of games ranging from action, adventure, role-playing, strategy, sports, among others, allowing many to argue that not all games are educational.
17-year-old, Ty Banfield is an avid esports gamer who dropped out of high school to pursue his gaming passion. He says that video games provide individuals with just as much opportunity to learn as school does.
“You can learn a lot, a lot of life lessons, and you can learn most of the stuff, if not more from video games than regular sports,”said Banfield.
According to the Entertainment Software Association of Canada, 23 million Canadians consider themselves “gamers.” With gaming making up a large part of “mainstream entertainment” in Canada, it was only a matter of time until these games made their way into classrooms.
Online games are now being used to teach students and enhance their learning in the classroom. Kahoot, allows instructors to create multiple choice quizzes for students online, and Leapfrog, creates technology-based learning products and related content for the education of children from infancy through grade school.
Mark Saltzman, a journalist who has been covering the gaming industry for the past 25 years, says although games have made their way into the classroom, not all games have an educational benefit. And what helps to decipher if they have an education component, is their genre.
“There are games where you are tasked with building civilization and that obviously has a bit more of an education component, maybe a historical slant to it or geographical part to it where you’re learning about different parts of the world. But I think there are some games that are purely entertainment,”says Saltzman.
Although there are many games that have an educational component, some parents think that video games are solely for entertainment purposes and have no educational value.
Becky McManus, a mother of two teenage boys who are avid video game players, says that there’s little to no educational value in video games. Especially video games that are targeted at teenagers. “For little kids learning how to speak or developing motor skills, possibly there are video games for that. But as for teenagers I feel like all the video games they play don’t help them academically wise. If there were games that made them actually think about math, then I believe that would be a great educational tool, but I don’t think teenagers are looking to buy video games that are math related,” says McManus.
Banfield agrees that video games can’t teach children certain subjects like math or science but says that individuals can learn other aspects of life that are just as important. “There’s a lot of discipline you learn from gaming, there’s definitely educational values there. I think there’s something that you can learn from everything you do. Video games are no different,” says Banfield.
Saltzman says, that bringing interactive technology into the classroom can become an effective tool to not only enhance the learning experience and make it more engaging, but also for it to be a powerful way to educate students in a language that they understand. Although Saltzman thinks educational gaming can enhance learning, he doesn’t believe it’s being used as a main teaching form.
“I don’t think it’s become an essential learning tool in classrooms yet. But I think many teachers and boards and those who create the curriculum; educators, are looking more and more at interactive technology as a tool to not just enhance the learning experience and make it more engaging... but for it to be a powerful way to educate students.”
Saltzman believes educational gaming will continue to grow, however he believes there’s still a long way to come before gaming is used as an essential learning tool. Whether or not educational video games will continue to grow and become a main learning form will be up to teachers, school boards, and curriculum educators.
Saltzman explains why educational video games have not become an essential learning tool below.