Shelly Blake-Plock over at TeachPaperless responded to the same question about whether educational games suck that I took on recently.
What I came away with was a feeling that we're approaching this whole matter of gaming and education from the wrong direction. As a longtime educator and gamer, I'm thinking we should go at this from a different angle.
Instead of trying to make better 'educational' games, why not take an educational approach to the classics of gaming as it exists today?
Think about it: we don't ask authors to write 'educational' books so that we have something to teach in school. Rather, we choose books to read and use in teaching. Likewise, we should choose games to 'read' and use in teaching.
In the same way that you can learn about American history from reading Huckleberry Finn, you can learn about economics and cooperative activity by 'reading' World of Warcraft. In fact, gaming -- especially that of the MMOG variety -- has come so far, we really shouldn't have much of a problem teaching all sorts of logic, learning, and abstract thinking via playing and analyzing games that were never originally meant to be 'educational'.
In all honesty, I really like this perspective of basically adding metacognition and reflection to the playing of industry games, and his analogy to novels is very poignant. Still, it doesn't address what Mark Prensky would advocate, that being to take all your learning objectives and deliver them through gaming instead of traditional instruction, because "gaming is where students learn best." It brings up an interesting way to frame the question; should games be used in school as textbooks are or novels are?
Also, (hat tip to Matt Townsley) Rick DuFour of PLC fame has weighed in on the issue of grading and homework in a well-written piece. He starts by pointing out the various definitions teachers have of what a grade represents, and even if teachers agree a grade represents the level of mastery of a student, often their grading practices don't follow their beliefs. Here are his suggestions:
Therefore, I submit the following propositions:
- Homework should be given only when the instructor feels it is essential to student learning. If, for example, the teacher believes that by practicing a skill and receiving prompt and specific feedback students will learn at higher levels, homework is very appropriate and should be assigned.
- The teacher then has an obligation to monitor the homework carefully and provide individual students with precise feedback based on their specific needs.
- If the work is deemed essential to a student’s learning, that student should not have the option of taking a zero but instead should be required to complete the work. This necessitates a coordinated, schoolwide approach to responding when students do not complete their work because there are limits as to what an individual teacher can require. The schoolwide response should be timely, directive (non-invitational), systematic (not left to the discretion of individual teachers), and should never require the student to be removed from new direct instruction.
Which I couldn't agree more with. And for kicks, he adds this anecdote:
My friend and colleague Bob Eaker elected to stop having all fifth graders in the school he was leading complete the annual homework project of building a replica of a frontier fort because, as he put it, “We discovered some Dads just built better forts than others.”