Sunday, February 11, 2007

Tirbune Article on Schools Using Video Games

Here's an interesting (though somewhat misleadingly headlined) article in today's Chicago Tribune: Skip the Schoolbook, Play the Video Game (Reg. req., get it while it lasts). The gist of it is very Steven Johnson-ish, and I am prompted to chide anyone who has not yet read Everything Bad Is Good for You to get with the program!

Excerpt: Hard data is scant so far--most of the MacArthur-funded research projects are just getting under way--but there's no shortage of anecdotes testifying to the educational benefits of video and computer games and new multimedia tools. Simulation games in particular have already been embraced by some educators, as well as many businesses and the U.S. military, as effective ways to introduce people to environments and situations that would otherwise be too expensive, dangerous or impossible to access. Kurt Squire, another University of Wisconsin researcher, has been observing students as they play Civilization, a simulation game in which players build historically realistic civilizations and interact with them as they evolve. "We've got middle-schoolers now who are going to their teachers and saying, `I've built this historical model of the American Revolution, which took about 40-50 hours--can I submit this with a paper about it?'" Squire said. "If you look at the crisis in American schools with low-achieving kids, many teachers would jump if there's a way to keep these kids engaged."

Of course, this is just an invitation for the spoilsports to get all upset: Other experts believe that the benefits of digital games are overhyped and could actually harm students' creativity and emotional development. "The only thing we know for sure is that video games are effective at desensitizing people to extreme violence," said Edward Miller, a senior researcher at the Alliance for Childhood, a non-profit child advocacy group. [They sound like a ton of fun.] "There is no evidence that video games are good at teaching problem-solving or collaboration or the other higher-order skills that these proponents are claiming." AfC report on computers here.

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